A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $26,300 Salary

Welcome to Money 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.

Last month, we looked at several Money Diaries from moms leading up to the beginning of the back-to-school season. One mother had older children who were increasingly independent, another mom was a graduate student on active duty in the military, and another diary featured a stay-at-home mom with twins starting preschool.

This week, we're taking another look at scholastic Money Diaries — this time from college and graduate students. First up: a planning assistant and student who makes $26,300 per year. She spends some of her paycheck this week on natural deodorant.

Occupation: Student, Planning Assistant (Full-Time), and Contract Naturalist
Industry: Parks & Outdoor Education
Age: 26
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $26,300 before taxes
Paycheck (Biweekly): $821.33 after taxes, plus a minimum of $100/month for contract work.

Monthly Expenses
Housing: $400. I lived on my own for over a year but it got too expensive. I decided to save and convert my parents garage into a teeny, tiny studio. (It's under 200-square-feet.) I still pay them "rent" to help with the bills since my dad has had some health problems over the last year.
Loan Payments: $0. I have $9,000 from my previous school. Currently my loans are in deferment since I decided to go back to school.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Health Insurance: $0; covered by my job
Retirement: $45 per paycheck into a 457 plan. My job matches.
Groceries: $150
Car Insurance: $67
Cell Phone: $88
Spotify: $4.99
Netflix: $0. I use my brother's girlfriend's account.
Amazon Prime: $0. I use my brother's student account.
Savings: About $50 - $100. It varies from month to month. (Not much, I know.)

6:30 a.m. — It's been so hot in L.A. lately but thankfully it cooled down last night. I slept through the night.

7 a.m. — I make myself a breakfast nice cream bowl using two frozen bananas, fruit, and nut granola (which I buy in bulk), hemp seeds (also bulk), chia seeds (bulk again), and fresh mango slices. After breakfast, I pack my things and ride my bike to work. I try to ride to work two or three times a week. Some weeks are better than others.

8:15 a.m. — I stop by a local coffee shop three blocks away from my office and get an iced latte with almond milk ($4) and a croissant ($2). The owner there is so cool. By this point, he knows my order, and I get a $0.25 discount for using my Hydro Flask. $6

12:15 p.m. — Lunch time! I ride to a local Mexican place and order a veggie burrito (beans, rice, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, and cheese) and ask the server to only wrap it in aluminum foil since I can wash it and recycle it. I'm weird, I know. $4.75

1:24 p.m. — I'm running out of ink for my fountain pen. I decide on a color and place an order for a new glass bottle of ink. $17.37

2:30 p.m. — My coworker notices a trail of ants all over her desk. We clean it up but they keep coming back. I tell her to get a lemon from a tree out in the parking lot and smear it all over. It seems to be working.

6:30 p.m. — I'm home! I make dinner. I fill a pot with water, red onion, garlic, green pepper, carrots, corn, tomatoes (our neighbor was kind enough to give us some from their garden), red lentils, pinto beans, cumin, pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and a bay leaf. It'll be a red lentil and bean chili. I eat it with rice my mom made earlier and veg out for a while and watch Moonlight.

8 p.m. — My guinea pig needs fresh veggies so I make my way to two grocery stores, Trader Joe's and Food 4 Less. While I'm at it, I get some things for myself. I buy two stalks of celery, two bunches of cilantro, two bunches of parsley, and bulk popcorn ($7.99). I also add a big box of organic blueberries, two avocados, a yellow onion, Everything But The Bagel seasoning, and almond milk ($17.85). $25.84

10:55 p.m. — I've been texting my BF, and I tell him I was reading about a woman named Erika Lust who makes cinematic adult films. This starts a whole other conversation, if you know what I mean. He jokes about coming over, and I tell him he can if wants. He happily obliges.

2:55 a.m. — He leaves, and I get the bed all to myself. I knock out immediately.

Daily Total: $53.96
7:15 a.m. — I only got four hours of sleep and part of me wants to regret it — but nope. It was totally worth it!

8:45 a.m. — I pack my leftover chili, white rice, and blueberries for lunch today. I drive today because I'm too tired to bike.

9:15 a.m. — Make my way to the coffee shop and order an iced Americano and a croissant. $4.75

9:30 a.m. — Get settled in at work for what feels like a long day.

10:45 a.m. — I get a notification that I've been enrolled in a class I was initially waitlisted for. I'm taking four classes and a lab this coming fall. I went straight into a four-year college after high school and did well my first two years, but then I lost myself along the way, and was also sexually abused. I lost all focus and flunked out. After dealing with all my issues, I finally decided to go back to school for nursing — my childhood goal — a few months ago. It's a complete 180 from the outdoor education and environmental work I love and have been doing since 2008, but I want to help people in a deeper sense. The future seems bright! I only pay for the student fees since my waiver was approved. $19

11:45 a.m. — Get a text from someone at the nonprofit I work for asking if I can help lead a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains for an assembly member from Los Angeles next weekend. I excitedly say yes!

12:35 p.m. — Leftover lunch. Yum.

6:35 p.m. — Home. This morning, I left out the homemade pasta sauce I made a month ago to defrost. It has tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, thyme, garlic, onion, coriander, and I cook up spaghetti to go with it. I also grill zucchini with garlic salt for a side. Since I haven't bought a hot plate or mini-fridge for my little studio, I still use my parents' kitchen and fridge to store and cook my food.

6:50 p.m. — My parents have a water cooler in the main house. They're running low, so I go refill the jugs for them at the grocery store. $3

7 p.m. — I decide to go to Target and ROSS to look for a clothing rack. Neither store has any that I like and I leave both stores empty-handed.

10:15 p.m. — I do some bedtime yoga before going to sleep. It helps me relax and get a little exercise into my day.

Daily Total: $26.75
7 a.m. — I wake up later than I wanted, especially since I wanted to bike to work today. Next time, I guess. Once again, I make a big bowl of banana nice cream with granola. I pack blueberries as a snack for work and get coffee my parents made in the morning. Out the door I go!

12 p.m. — You know those people you meet who make you think I want to be friends with you! — but you feel weird going up to them and asking? Well, that's my new coworker! I really like her and ask her if she wants to get lunch.

12:30 p.m. — We get lunch at a place called Spitz in Los Feliz. I get a good-sized falafel wrap with sweet potato fries. We bond over our love for bike riding and the fact that our dads are from the same tiny district in El Salvador! What are the odds? Oh, yeah; we're friends now. $15.02

4 p.m. — I decide to leave work a bit early and hit up the Goodwill $1 sale. I come out with a black off-the-shoulder top, a burnt orange short-sleeve denim button-up, a white satin skirt, a vintage top with buttons down the back, and a pair of clogs. $5

4:40 p.m. — The plans I had with one of my girlfriends falls through, so I decide to go to the Americana. I end up getting a pink top and a dress at & Other Stories. $44.75

7 p.m. — I get home and eat some leftover pasta and lentil chili. Weird combination, but I'm too lazy to cook tonight. I spend the rest of my night chatting with my mom and playing with my guinea pig.

Daily Total: $64.77
6:30 a.m. — Wake up at the perfect time! I cut up a watermelon and make two slices of avocado toast on sourdough, sprinkling TJ Everything But The Bagel seasoning over it. My taste buds are happy!

7:50 a.m. — I tell myself that if Blue Bottle Coffee in DTLA has parking out front (it never does), I'll get a cup. To my luck, there's parking after all — and it's free before 8 a.m. $6

8:15 a.m. — While waiting in line at the DMV, I receive an email from the coordinator at the hospital where I want to volunteer. I schedule an interview for next Wednesday. I'm very excited to get ANY kind of experience in a hospital setting.

8:30 a.m. — I'm in and out of the DMV in 20 minutes. $29

8:40 a.m. — I stop to get gas before work. $25

12 p.m. — I didn't pack a lunch, but I have a mango, a pear, blueberries, and a loaf of bread and a jar of almond butter inside my office fridge so I eat that.

5 p.m. — My coworkers invite me to a nearby bar for a drink. I want to say no, but I need to get in some friend-time and decide to say yes. I tend to spend a lot of time by myself because I let go of a lot of people in my life I thought were my friends a few years ago. I think it's very important to evaluate "friendships" that bring nothing but negativity into your life. I do have a few close friends, but many of them have moved out of L.A., or are married and have families now. Either way, I'm in a much better place and am very happy with the people I do have in my life. I have two cocktails and buy one for a coworker. $16

7:45 p.m. — I'm having a great time. My coworkers are the kind of women-friends I need in my life — strong, independent, fun, encouraging, and intelligent!

9:30 p.m. — I head home, and my BF calls to ask if I want to get dinner with him. He's been camping with his boss for work the past two days, and he says he misses me, so I agree. We go to Yellow House Café, where he orders the pineapple pork fried rice and a mango Italian soda, and I get a veggie kimchi fried rice with peach iced tea. This is the place we had our first date five months ago (we met on Tinder). We talk about how nervous we both were that day but how happy we are at that things worked out. He pays.

10:45 p.m. — We come back to my place, and he spends the night.

Daily Total: $76
6:30 a.m. — I wake up early for a Saturday and make a quick breakfast of almond butter and banana toast.

7 a.m. — I hate working out, but I love bike riding just for fun, so I try to fit in a couple miles on my bike here and there.

9:15 a.m. — Finally home; I rode about 15.3 miles this morning. I drink some coffee my parents made and make a big bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds, hemp seeds, blueberries, and coconut sugar. I also have a big bowl of watermelon and oranges. After, I go into the main house and clean the kitchen and my parents' bathroom.

11:30 a.m. — While cleaning my studio, I decide it's time to get rid of clothing I no longer wear. I don't shop often but when I do, I like to get rid of something I already own at the same time. I only want to keep items I truly love and wear. I make my way to Crossroads, where they take four piece. I get $31 back.

2:45 p.m. — Back home, I make white rice and fry up tofu and cauliflower with tamari, sriracha, coconut sugar, peanut butter, rice vinegar, and sesame seed oil. I also steam half a head of cabbage for tofu cups.

3:45 p.m. — My dad and mom get back from his cardiologist visit, and it's all good news! He had open-heart surgery two years ago and everything came out great, but a couple months ago, his blood became very thin and he started to bleed internally. Everything seems to be stable now.

4:15 p.m. — My dad and I go to the car dealership to pick up my mom's car. Dad drives my mom's car back home, and I decide to go to Cerritos Mall instead. I try to get an agua fresca from a juice stand I want to try, but they don't let use my own bottle. I walk away and buy an iced tea from Starbucks instead. $4.75

6 p.m. — I leave the mall with a few new pairs of earrings from Aldo. $23.25

6:45 p.m. — I make myself more tofu cabbage cups for dinner.

8 p.m. — I spend the night rearranging my studio and end up making a complete mess. It's time to wash my bed sheets, but by the time laundry is done, I'm too tired to finish tidying up. I end up knocking out around 9:30 p.m. with clothes on one side of the bed, and no bed sheets.

Daily Total: $28
8 a.m. — I actually slept in! My inner clock always wakes me up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. I stay in my messy bed scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest.

10 a.m. — Breakfast time: avocado toast with Everything But The Bagel seasoning. After, I finally clean up the mess I made in my studio last night.

1 p.m. — The BF picks me up, and we head over to Costa Mesa to try a new Mexican place that has vegan options.

2 p.m. — I order a vegan carne asada burrito and a vegan horchata, and both are BOMB! The BF orders a regular carne asada plate. I treat. $21.15

3:30 p.m. — We walk around a shopping area we love called The CAMP and The LAB. We cave and get donuts. He gets a maple pecan doughnut, and I get a vegan raspberry pistachio donut. He pays.

4:35 p.m. — We go to South Coast Plaza (we have a thing for malls) and visit the North Face store. He wants to get a bigger tent that will fit him, myself, and his 120-pound Irish Wolfhound, but the tent he wants is out of stock.

6:15 p.m. — We get back to my place, and he asks if I'm taking time off for my birthday, which is coming up in two week. He wants to take me on a little road trip. I can't decide whether to go to San Francisco or Portland since I want to do some city exploring but also be out in nature.

8:15 p.m. — The BF leaves, and I go to the main house and play Lotería with my family. I spend the rest of the night cleaning my mom's kitchen and going through my finances. I realize I need to cut back on my coffee spending, so I make cold brew in a mason jar to last the next few days.

Daily Total: $21.15
7:25 a.m. — I wake up and the first thing on my mind is my COLD BREW! I strain it and fill up my Hydro Flask with cold brew and almond milk. It's strong and delicious. I make myself a breakfast bagel sandwich with avocado, tomato, cucumber, vegan cream cheese, and an egg from my neighbor's chickens. I also pack a mango, blueberries, banana, and a container of rice, beans, grilled veggies, and cucumber salad for my work lunch. There is ALWAYS rice and beans in a Latino household.

11:23 a.m. — I feel something bite my leg. Upon further inspection, I see it's an ant — and that an ant trail has made its way into my food! I throw away the food in my container. Those damn ants have come back, and now I'm their target.

11:45 a.m. — My coworker asks if I want to go with her to 365 — it's the sister store of Whole Foods but much cheaper. I get two slices of pizza but the cashier only charges me for one. $3.28

3 p.m. — I snack away on my mango and blueberries.

5:45 p.m. — After work, I remember that I've run out of my favorite deodorant. I go to a little apothecary shop in Los Feliz that carries it and buy the grapefruit Meow Meow Tweet natural deodorant. It smells divine, and since it doesn't have baking soda, it doesn't irritate my pits. $14.75

6:55 p.m. — Back home, I decide to make Salvadoran pastelitos. I use masa, achiote powder, and water for the dough. For the filling, I use zucchini, red pepper, cauliflower, potatoes, and corn. I also make curtido (pickled cabbage). I make my dad try them since he's from El Salvador and my mom is from Mexico. My dad is pleasantly surprised how similar they taste to traditional meat pastelitos.

8:30 p.m. — I spend the rest of the night working on a public program about trees. I'm doing a campfire for the nonprofit in August. The last one was about nocturnal animals, and I want to change it up. I'm in bed by 9:30 because I'm determined to ride my bike to work.

Daily Total: $18.03
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