A Week At Electric Forest Music Festival On A $47,500 Salary

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Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a qualitative research analyst who makes $47,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on doughnuts at Electric Forest Music Festival.

Occupation: Qualitative Research Analyst
Industry: Market Research
Age: 23
Location: Electric Forest Music Festival
Salary: $47,500
Paycheck Amount (Bi-weekly): $1,425
Gender Identity: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000 (studio in Chicago)
401(k) Contribution: $277 (deducted pre-tax)
Transit Pass: $105 (deducted pre-tax)
Health Insurance/HSA: $150 (deducted pre-tax)
Roth IRA Contribution: $500
Internet/Utilities: ~$100, depends on month
Gym: $80
Cell Phone: $55 (split family plan with mom and sister)
Spotify: $5 (split with mom and sister)
Netflix: $0 (on my mom’s account)
Apple iCloud Storage: $0.99
Renter’s Insurance: $12.50
Amazon Prime: $0 (Mom pays for it)
AAA: $60/year

6:45 a.m. — Turns out I slept through my 6:15 alarm, which has literally never happened to me before. I usually wake up immediately to the sound of my phone alarm going off. Luckily, I only wake up 30 minutes late, not two hours late. Unfortunately, this means I don’t have time to shower, so I guess I’m going to look semi-gross all day.

8:10 a.m. — I get to work only 10 minutes late, which isn’t bad, considering. I start off the day with the usual emails. I also look into some Airbnbs and hotels for tomorrow night. My boyfriend, M., and I are leaving tomorrow night for Electric Forest, a music festival in Rothbury, Michigan (aka the middle of nowhere). We can’t arrive at the festival until Thursday morning, but we don’t want to make the four-hour trip from Chicago all on Thursday. We book a hotel about 45 minutes away from the festival, so we can drive most of the way Wednesday night and then get there early Thursday morning. We end up getting a mystery deal from Priceline, which we split. $33.49

4 p.m. — For the rest of the day, I work on a project that just launched today. Turns out it is way more time-consuming than I anticipated. I definitely could do more work on this project tonight — I’m all about work-life balance, so I prefer not to stay in the office late.

5 p.m. — When I get to the gym, it just starts to sprinkle outside. Fifteen minutes later, I look outside to find it pouring rain. After two more minutes, it looks like near-hurricane wind and rain. Another two minutes later, it starts to hail. This morning, today’s forecast showed it to be 80 degrees and sunny all day with no chance of rain — so much for that. The rain stops after half an hour, and it goes back to being sunny. Remind me again why I live in the Midwest…?

6:30 p.m. — After my workout, I stop at Lululemon on my walk home. It’s only a block from my house, and they just opened last week. Of course, the store is big and beautiful, and I want to buy everything even though I can’t afford it. I have a $100 gift card to burn through, so I take a little browse. I don’t find anything I like and leave empty-handed.

7 p.m. — I stop by the store again to pick up some more things for this weekend. I buy a case of water and a little box of Franzia White Zinfandel wine. I feel like I’m back in college buying a box of Franzia, but I’m also super cheap and don’t want to spend double or triple to get a nicer brand. $10.60

8:30 p.m. — I spent most of my night packing for this weekend and talking to M. on the phone. He lives about two and a half hours away in Madison, WI, and we’ve been dating long-distance for about 10 months now. It’s not ideal, but we visit each other and talk on the phone whenever we can. He moves to Chicago in six months, which I can’t wait for!!

10 p.m. — As much as I want to do or think about anything except work, I force myself to do a little work before going to bed. I work for about a half hour and call it good. Not going to lose sleep (literally) over this project.

6:55 a.m. — Somehow, it happens a second day in a row. My alarm does not go off again today —totally unheard of. I wake up 30 minutes late this time, but I rush as fast as possible and make it to work only five minutes late. Very stressful start to this long day!

11 a.m. — Work is pretty busy today. I’m finishing a bunch of things up before I’m off on vacation. I have to get as much of a project done as possible, since I will hand it off to a coworker starting tomorrow.

4 p.m. — At the very end of the day, I’m running around trying to wrap everything up in time. I almost forget to set an out-of-office automatic email reply, which would’ve been bad!

5 p.m. — There is a Cubs game going on, which means Cubs fans are flooding the trains trying to get to the stadium. It takes me about 50 minutes to make a 25-minute commute back to my neighborhood and finally to the gym. I planned on going to a 5 p.m. yoga class and do some cardio beforehand, but I change my mind last minute because of the commute. I do a back and biceps lifting workout instead.

6:30 p.m. — I head to the store for some last-minute essentials that I’ve forgotten about. I buy bananas, apples, some jalapeño cheddar, everything bagels, and a sandwich for M. $14.50

7 p.m. — We are on the road a little later than expected, but the rush-hour traffic is manageable.

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11:30 p.m. — It takes us about three and a half hours to drive to the hotel we are staying at tonight, and we get there about an hour later than expected because of the time-zone change. We check in and immediately head to bed.

Daily Total: $14.50

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — We wake up early to get going. We re-pack up the car, steal some hotel ice to fill the cooler, and have some free breakfast. The free breakfast is pretty sad, but there are waffles, so I make myself a peanut butter banana waffle to start my day.

7:30 a.m. — We also forgot to buy beer, so we stop at a local grocery store. We pick up a 30-rack of PBR, some gum, and a poncho (because there’s rain in the forecast). I pay for the beer. $19.75

9 a.m. — The festival is easy to find, and there is no line to get through security, which is completely unheard of! Security lightly checks our car — I’m hoping they don’t find our contraband vodka we brought (for some reason, liquor is not allowed). Luckily, they are nice and don’t care much, so we fly on through.

9:15 a.m. — We get placed in “Camp Sonny” with a parking spot on the end of a row, which means about an extra 10 feet that no one else has. We set up our canopy, tent, air mattress, chairs, and cooler. After meeting our neighbors, we plop down and open some beers.

11 a.m. — After hanging out for a bit, we decide to go exploring. We are about a 10-minute walk to the festival’s “Main Street” and another five minutes from the festival entrance. There are a few dozen food vendors and a few dozen other vendors, selling everything from clothes to art to water packs. We wander around and check them all out before heading back to start getting ready for the day.

1 p.m. — We pop open a few more beers and get dressed for the night. A few weeks ago, I bought a new light blue long silk skirt that looks like it’s from the ’90s. I wear this and a colorful sports bra and throw my hair in high pigtails to start, since it’s so damn hot out. I have a long-sleeve sparkly crop top in my water backpack for later, when it cools down.

2 p.m. — I have some friends who are also here for the festival, but they got here yesterday after driving 20+ hours from Denver. We head over to their campsite to hang out for a bit. We have some beers before making our way to the grounds.

4 p.m. — As we start to walk toward the festival, we run into a giant line waiting to go through security and get in, and I mean giant. Checking the festival Reddit page, people posted that they waited over three hours just to get in!! This makes us pretty mad. We paid $375+ to get tickets, and we can’t even get in to see the music we want because of this line — awesome.

5 p.m. — Instead of waiting for hours in line, we head back to our campsite for more beer and to get out of the sun. After waiting an hour or so, we go back to try our luck again. This time the line is slightly shorter, but we still end up waiting an hour and a half. While we were waiting, I grab some Island Noodles, which I had been waiting to have again since the festival I went to last year! $12

7 p.m. — By the time we get to the front of the line, they aren’t even doing security anymore. They shuffle us through the metal detectors without asking to check bags or anything. Clearly, they utterly gave up on any security measures after the line got super long. This is slightly concerning, but it beats waiting for even a minute longer.

7:15 p.m. — The first thing we walk by is an artist named Whipped Cream on the nearest stage. We don’t stay, though, because we’re headed to see Whethan at another stage and we want to get good spots. On the way, we all fill up our water packs at the water fill station. The water tastes horrible but is our only option, and we need to stay hydrated.

9 p.m. — Whethan was awesome, as expected. The next two artists we want to see are also on this same stage, so we stay put and claim our territory for the night. After a 45-minute break, Gramatik plays for a little over an hour — also awesome!

11:15 p.m. — During the break before the last artist of the night, we run into a group of people and make friends. Turns out they all went to UW-Madison, like us, and we end up hanging out with them for the rest of the night. Crazy coincidence!

11:45 p.m. — This is the moment I’ve been waiting for for six months — my favorite artist, Odesza, is headlining tonight! As expected, they don’t disappoint and put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Their music, lights, videos, and live drum line leave me in awe by the end. It even started lightly raining during the set, but nothing could’ve ruined it. Absolutely incredible.

1:30 a.m. — After the show, our newfound friends invite us back to hang out and go to the RV campsite parties, but we’re super tired already after the long day and turn in “early” around 2:30.

Daily Total: $31.75

Day Four

8 a.m. — We get woken up early by the rain on our tent. There was a pretty bad thunderstorm last night apparently, but I slept right through it. Lots of people’s campsites and tents got flooded from the rain, but we pulled our tent under our canopy and were prepared, so we were just fine. We make bagels and cream cheese for breakfast and just sit around for a while.

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12 p.m. — We decide to finally go into the grounds and explore, since we didn’t do it much yesterday. In the Forest we find a lot! There are mini fairy houses, hammock areas, a swapping store called the Trading Post, art installations, an art bar where you can color, themed stages, and so much more! We also visit a doughnut stand that we tried last year at Bonnaroo and each get a doughnut. They are some of the world’s best doughnuts!! $5

4 p.m. — After going back to our camp, changing clothes, and eating some food, we head to my friends’ campsite. We drink some mimosas and beer before heading in.

5:45 p.m. — We head to the grounds only to find out that the line is over an hour again!

7 p.m. — Once we finally get in, it’s after 7 and we missed the Quinn XCII concert, which we all really wanted to see. Instead, we head to an area called the Hangar, which is a ’60s-themed building with various “shops.” There is a pool hall, bowling alley, mini golf course, travel agency, temporary tattoo shop, free massage parlor, a barber shop with free haircuts, and a free hair-braiding salon. My friend L. knows one of the actors in the building, and he takes us through the back door of one of the shops….

7:30 p.m. — We walk down a set of stairs, when suddenly all the lights go out and the room starts spinning. After a minute, we see a light and someone guiding us to a giant slide, where we slide on blankets down into a secret room. This room is called the Poetry Brothel and features women in lingerie walking around on stage reading poetry instead of dancing. Then we go to a private room with a giant bed, where we all sit and listen to a woman read more poetry. It’s crazy cool.

8:30 p.m. — We all grab some food at a food truck and listen to Daya at a stage nearby. I get a delicious arepa. $8

9 p.m. — My friends go off to see a show, but M. and I don’t have anyone we want to see for a while, so we sit and people-watch for a few hours. The people-watching here is endless — I could have sat here all weekend.

10 p.m. — We go back to camp to change into warmer clothes, since it’s getting chilly out. We grab some vodka to sneak in with us, so we don’t have to pay for $13+ drinks. Unfortunately, they decide to start up security again and take it from us. Boo.

12 a.m. — Kygo is the headliner of the night, so we go watch that for a while. Then we see some of Black Tiger Sex Machine on our way out of the grounds.

3 a.m. — Still awake, we head to the RV park for some late-night music and partying. We go to a stage called the Struggle Bus, which is an old-school bus turned into a stage. We stay out until almost 5, and I am dead by the end of the night.

Daily Total: $13

Day Five

10:45 a.m. — Last night’s marathon meant we sleep in late today. We wake up as it gets hot out and our tent turns into a sauna. We crawl out of the tent and head to Main Street to get some food. M. gets a “Big Ass Breakfast Burrito,” and I wait until we get back to have a bagel instead.

11:45 a.m. — After we eat, we are still dead tired, so we lay a sheet down on the hard ground and take a two-hour nap. I wake up just as tired nonetheless.

3:30 p.m. — We head to my friends’ camp again first. We drink some beer, per usual, and head out. The line is actually manageable, and we make it in time to see T-Pain. Throwback to middle-school jams!

8 p.m. — Hungry as hell, M. and I go to a Vietnamese noodle stand for dinner. It’s pretty expensive, but it looks like a lot of food. We wait 45 minutes in line, which is not ideal. When I order, they don’t have the mushrooms cooked for my bowl, so they give me a discount and we wait another 15 minutes. M. and I each pay for our own bowls. $13

11:30 p.m. — After going back to change into warm clothes, we explore the Forest some more and get more doughnuts. We split one this time. We also see some of the Claude VonStroke show. $2.50

12:30 a.m. — Bassnectar is the headliner for tonight, and it is packed! Big Bassnectar fans call themselves “Bass Heads” and have been camped out all day at the stage to get spots. We stay way in the back, because Bass Heads have a bad rep of being out of control and mean during shows — no, thank you! The show ends up being okay.

2 a.m. — Despite being sober and tired at this point, we force ourselves to stay until the end of the show and then head to Alison Wonderland afterward at another stage. We were going to skip it, since we’ve seen her twice before already, but it ends up being one of the best shows of the weekend. Worth it!

3:30 a.m. — Bedtime finally. I pass out immediately.

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Daily Total: $15.50

Day Six

10:15 a.m. — We try to sleep in as late as possible again, but wake up in the heat of our tent. This morning we switch it up for breakfast, eating a peanut butter, Nutella, and honey sandwich — so good!

12:30 p.m. — We head into the grounds to do some more exploring on our last day. There is an area that has some trampoline-hammock-hybrid type of thing that we lay down on for a bit. I fall asleep and apparently snore for a good 30 minutes.

1:30 p.m. — We go back to the food carts and grab some greasy, wonderfully cheesy cheese sticks with ranch dipping sauce. I’ve been wanting to get this all weekend, but there’s always been a line until now. M. and I split it. $5

2 p.m. — Next, we grab another doughnut, of course, and head to the art bar to color for a bit. We wander around the Forest a bit more. Every time we walk around we find new things, which is fascinating. $5

3 p.m. — After a while, we head back and start packing up our car in preparation to leave tomorrow morning. Once we pack up a bit, we head over to my friends’ campsite for the last time.

5:30 p.m. — We head into the festival for a special event going on tonight — Forest Prom. I never went to prom in high school, so I figured better late than never! We sneak in vodka, take stereotypical prom pictures, and dance a bit.

7 p.m. — M. wants to go see a smaller artist called the Funk Hunters. It’s not too busy, so we actually get to stand at the very front by the fence. It ends up being a great show!

9 p.m. — We head back to our camp to grab a little more vodka to tide us over the rest of the night, but it gets taken going through security again. Security has easily been the most frustrating part of the weekend. Nonetheless, we go see Snails perform, followed by the last headliner, Zeds Dead.

11 p.m. — Since our vodka got taken, M. ends up buying three beers (at $11 each!), but he pays for those. I skip the beer because I’m cheap.

1:30 a.m. — On our way out of the festival, we catch the end of Seven Lions and head to Main Street for some food. M. gets a grilled cheese, and I sit around talking with my friends before we have to head our separate ways. Finally, we say our goodbyes and head back to camp for the last time.

Daily Total: $10

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — We set an alarm to get us up early, so we can get out before the big rush. We begrudgingly get out of our tent and start to pack up the final pieces of our campsite. We pick up all the trash in our area, pack up the canopy tent, wrap up the tent and air mattress, and rearrange the car so it’s all packed in.

9:30 a.m. — Right before we’re ready to head out, I head to the porta-potties to go to the bathroom one last time before we head out. On the 100-foot walk back to the car, I pass a few overflowing trash cans with other people’s trash piled up. Among the trash, I see two very nice reclining long chairs. I take a peek at them, and they look virtually unused. I grab them and throw them in the car — ours now! This good find prompted us to look at other nearby trash cans. We end up finding three brand-new folding camping chairs and a folding table. SCORE!

10:30 a.m. — We make it out of the grounds pretty easily. We are on the road and immediately decide we need some breakfast. We drive for half an hour and stop at a small diner in a strip mall right off the highway. I order loaded hash browns and Oreo pancakes. It’s amazing, and I take home half of the hash browns for later. It’s also the first time we’ve gotten to use a real bathroom in four days. Heavenly! $13.89

12 p.m. — What’s supposed to be a three-hour car ride home quickly becomes longer when we run into two car crashes and construction. This adds over an hour to the trip.

1 p.m. — After we get through the stop-and-go traffic ordeal, I am dead tired from driving and we decide to switch, so M. is driving. To wake us both up, we stop at Culver’s to grab some custard. I get a Chocolate Custard Concrete Mixer with cookie dough and Reese’s peanut butter cups (a.k.a. the ultimate combination). $3.95

3:30 p.m. — We get home earlier than expected because we forgot that we gained an hour switching time zones. We unpack the car and go for a short walk before M. keeps driving back to Madison.

4 p.m. — I go to the grocery store since I have no food at home. I get peaches, bananas, broccoli, carrots, cheese, yogurt, Halo Top ice cream, veggie burgers, eggs, and some cookies that are on sale (I’m a sucker for cookies). I also donate a dollar to Special Olympics at checkout. $43.71

6 p.m. — To end the long weekend, I meal-prep some food for the week. I try to unpack but end up just taking everything out of my bags and putting it on the ground instead.

9 p.m. — I spend the rest of my night watching Parks and Recreation in bed, still in recovery mode. My Fitbit says that we walked almost 65 miles over our five days at Electric Forest — rest time for sure!!

Daily Total: $61.55

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