A Week In Berkeley, CA On An $18,000 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.
This week: a hostess and au pair who makes $18,000 per year and spends it on...a vibrator.
Photo: Getty Images.
Occupation: Hostess and au pair
Industry: Restaurant
Age: 22
Location: Berkeley, CA
Salary: $18,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $750. I work 25 hours a week at a popular restaurant in downtown Berkeley.
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $0. I nanny 20 hours a week for a family in exchange for free room and board. I live in a small in basement studio attached to their house with a private entrance, kitchen, and bathroom.
Loan Payments: $115/month for student loans. I'm on a 10-year repayment plan.
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All Other Monthly Expenses
Retirement Fund: $23/week. I deduct $23/week into a retirement fund, which is managed by Betterment, an online investment tool. The fees are 0.25% of yearly investments, and the online brokers I use take it automatically out of my savings account so I don't have to think about it.
YMCA Membership: $38/month. Based on your income and monthly expenses, the Y subsidizes the usual monthly membership, which is $68/month. I just filled out an application on its website.
Spotify Premium and Apple Music: $15/month, combined.
Groceries: ~$85/month for weekly organic produce delivery.
Phone bill: $0. (Paid for generously by my parents.)
Health and dental insurance: $0. Fully covered under my parents' plan.

Day One

7:15 a.m. — I wake up and go upstairs to take the child I nanny to school. (Most of my time and care is spent on the family's youngest child, but he has siblings.) The parents always have an extra cup of coffee waiting for me. Once he's dropped off, I go down to my apartment to have some fruit for breakfast.
11 a.m. — I'm trying to save money to move to New York, so I'm working as hard as I can to make meals at home. To save money, I try to spend $0 at least one day a week; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I have some sweet potatoes in the fridge, and I put those in the oven for lunch. I also make some lentil dal with coconut milk and a lot of veggies. This keeps well in the fridge and will be good for lunch this week.
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12 p.m. — About two months ago, I spent $99 for three months of unlimited classes at a yoga studio using an intro offer. I try to go two to three times a week. It's about a mile away, so I walk to the noon hot pilates class. It kicks my butt!
8 p.m. — A good friend of mine has moved from Washington, D.C. back to the Bay Area where we both went to college. I'm letting her stay with me while she finds housing (a difficult thing to do here right now). She generously treats us to dinner at a Himalayan restaurant near my place. I get a pea and potato curry with rice and naan, and take half of it home for lunch tomorrow.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — While getting the kids ready for school, I snag a cup of coffee. After my morning duties are done, I go back to my apartment and eat the leftover Himalayan food from last night for breakfast. It's so good!
11:15 a.m. — There's a bakery co-op two blocks from my house, so on my way to a hot yoga class, I pick up some baguette pieces, a loaf of bread, and some English muffins. They are still warm and I can't resist having one while I'm walking. $6
1:30 p.m. — My hot yoga class gets out late, so I have to rush home and quickly get ready before I pick the kiddo up from school. When we get home, I warm up the sweet potato/dal combo from yesterday and feed the kiddo a snack from the cabinet.
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6:30 p.m. — It's a really beautiful, warm day outside, and my friend who is staying with me suggests we go out for a drink after I'm off nanny duty. We meet at the restaurant where I work. I get 50% off food when I'm not working, and it's an expensive place. We sit outside on the patio and chat for a while over chips and guacamole, quesadillas, and margaritas. My coworker graciously comps our drinks so we only have to pay for the little food we ordered. $10
Daily Total: $16

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — I grab coffee at home while getting the kiddos ready for school. Once they're dropped off, I head home and eat some bread I bought from the co-op and drizzle olive oil on top.
9 a.m. — I work seven days a week, so I try to rest and relax as much as possible on my off-hours. I have a second breakfast of an English muffin with avocado, and make a giant kale smoothie with fresh-squeezed grapefruit, spinach, frozen mango, and banana. I do some reading while I'm eating.
12 p.m. — I usually volunteer at a grocery cooperative once a week for two hours, but my shift got canceled this week because the college where it's located is on spring break. With this extra time, I head to a bookstore near my job to try and sell some of my books. I've been inspired by the minimalist lifestyle and am slowly minimizing my own possessions. I get $17 from my books. I find a fairly recent book that I've been wanting to read, so I spend $12 of that and pocket $5. I still have a few hours before my shift starts at the restaurant, so I decide to walk around and read some.
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1 p.m. — I head to Blue Bottle with my new book, which I am really excited to start. (I was an English major in college, and I love when a book excites me!) The barista and I start a conversation about my plans to move to NYC in a few months, and he gives me my cold brew for free. I throw a little cash in the tip jar. I'm convinced the nice weather makes people nicer! $1
1:45 p.m. — A coworker of mine who is about to move to Mexico meets me at Blue Bottle. We walk over to meet an old coworker of ours for pizza and drinks. I get a slice and a vodka-St. Germain cocktail, throw my remaining cash from the bookstore into the tip jar, and the three of us talk about life in the restaurant industry. My job can be stressful at times, but the people are the best I've ever met. I say goodbye and walk into work a little tipsy. Oops. $12
8:30 p.m. — I get off of work a little bit early and decide to splurge and order some of our butternut squash and jalepeño soup for dinner. I also get a few servings of the black rice. We aren't a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, so when we have good vegan stuff on the menu, I splurge. They provide us with a free "family meal" before the restaurant opens — a buffet-style dinner — but I'm usually hungry when my shift is over. I head home and eat some rice and beans. $10
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Daily Total: $23

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — I start my day with coffee from the family I nanny for. They are very generous with their food and other household stuff, so I also grab some toilet paper and cotton pads from their stash since I'm out in my apartment downstairs. For breakfast I have a leftover English muffin from the bakery.
10 a.m. — Some family friends who I babysit and dog-sit for have just had a new baby. Their dog is having a rough time, so they ask me to come over and walk her. I take a Lyft over there. $5
11 a.m. — After walking the dog, I get to meet the new baby. She is precious! I take a Lyft back to my apartment. $4
11:30 a.m. — Once I get home, I eat some soup and rice left over from work last night and lie in bed and read my book. I can't put it down!
3 p.m. — I'm trying to get the kiddo out of the house after school. There's a new interactive exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum, so he and I walk together and meet our neighbors, who have kids the same age, there. We munch on hummus and crackers on our way over. I still have my student ID from a year ago, when I graduated, so I use that and get us in the museum for free.
7 p.m. — After my nanny shift is done, I head to a donation-based Vinyasa yoga class. It's just what I needed. I drop my last remaining cash in the donation jar on my way out. $2
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9:30 p.m. — When I get home from yoga, I shower and eat the rest of my lentil dal from earlier in the week for dinner. I finish my book, start listening to the new S-Town podcast (it's so good!), and head to bed.
Daily Total: $11

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — While I'm getting the kid ready for school, I snag a baguette and coffee from the kitchen for breakfast. I take the kiddo to school and walk the family dog.
9 a.m. — I have really bad anxiety, and I've found that acupuncture treatments really help alleviate it. I take a Lyft ($5) to my acupuncture appointment. It's communal acupuncture, meaning you're often in a room with other people who are receiving treatment, so the costs stay low. I only pay $25 per session. It's pure bliss. $30
12:30 p.m. — After my acupuncture appointment, I take a Lyft to the YMCA. I do some weights and stretching and then walk home. I eat some roasted potatoes for lunch, and make a kale smoothie after I've showered. $5
1:30 p.m. — I grab the last bunch of books I've wanted to sell and walk to the bookstore. I make $8 for my stash...and spend $8 on a book by Donna Tartt that someone recommended to me.
2 p.m. — I walk to the Blue Bottle by my job and grab a cold brew. I sit in the window and read before heading in for my shift. $4
4:30 p.m. — For family meal at the restaurant, they feed us a big salad and some rice. There's chicken, too, but I don't eat meat, for which all of my coworkers make fun of me.
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10 p.m. — I order some rice and beans, and chips and guacamole for my break snack. It's mellow for a Friday at the restaurant, but it's still nice to sit down and eat something. $5
11 p.m. — As I'm getting ready for bed, I read about this website that provides free vibrators for people who want or need one, in an attempt to close the orgasm gap. I'm all about that, so I head to the website to see if it's true. It is! I order one of their free vibrators, and another one that's $8. Even with shipping, it's still a really good deal. I'm excited for them to get here! $12
Daily Total: $56

Day Six

10 a.m. — I wake up late and make some coffee. My friend who is staying with me wants to go to San Francisco for the day. We stop at a café near the BART station for breakfast, and I order polenta with mushrooms and a cold brew. Despite my protests, my friend picks up the check.
12 p.m. — I load up my Clipper transportation card and we manage to just make the train to SF without having to wait. We transfer to the Muni (the cable cars in SF) and get off near Haight/Ashbury to do some shopping. $7
2 p.m. — After no luck in our favorite vintage store, we head to a nearby Whole Foods to use the bathroom (there are next to no public restrooms in SF) and get a snack. I get some raw sprouted cookies and an apple, and we sit in the sun outside and wait for a friend to join us. $5
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3 p.m. — We head to Crossroads on Haight, where I find a really nice lilac pleated skirt. It's perfect for a day like today. I say farewell to my friends and head back downtown toward East Bay to get to work on time. $14
4 p.m. — I reload my Clipper card and get off in downtown Berkeley just in time to make it to the "family meal" at work before my shift starts. I can only eat the salad today, unfortunately. My boss is mad because we all pranked him for April Fool's Day and told him we weren't coming into work, but I get a good laugh out of it. $5
11 p.m. — On my break, I eat some rice and beans and snack on leftover chips and guac. We get to buy any of the wines we sell at the restaurant for wholesale price, so before I leave, I get a nice bottle of red to take home. $13
Daily Total: $44

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up and make a cup of coffee to drink while I read in bed. I've been such a bookworm this week! Once I get up, I continue reading and meal prep for the week: rice and dahl with lentils, coconut milk, zucchini, kale, and tomatoes. My produce delivery came yesterday, so I want to use as many veggies as possible.
1 p.m. — I head downtown for another coffee before work. A friend calls me to chat about a writing project we're working on. I grab a seat in Blue Bottle and eat a pretzel with my cold brew before heading into work. $8
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4:30 p.m. — The family meal is good today: a cold bean-and-veggie salad with greens and rice. One of the restaurant's investors drops off some chocolate peanut butter bars, and I help myself to a tiny piece.
9 p.m. — I stop at the grocery store on my way home from work. I pick up some organic canned coconut milk, cans of tomatoes, and sesame oil for the week. $10
10 p.m. — After I get home, I watch an episode of Girls (this season has been so disappointing), and the season finale of Big Little Lies with a glass of wine. Then I head to bed.
Daily Total: $18
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