A Week In Los Angeles On A $56,000 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 biomedical research analyst who makes $56,000 per year and spends it on bike accessories and a sleeping bag.
Occupation: Biomedical Research Analyst
Industry: Biomedical Research
Age: 22
Location: Los Angeles
Salary: $56,000
Paycheck Amount (once a month): $3,400
Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $1,000. (The total is $1,550; I pay $1,000 and my partner pays $550.)
Loan Payments: $400 for student loans
All Other Monthly Expenses
Internet: $79
Netflix: $8
Utilities: My partner pays.
Phone Bill: My mom pays.
Unlimited Bus Pass: $30 deducted from my paycheck before taxes, roughly each week.
Savings: Anything that's leftover in my checking account at the end of the month is transferred to savings. Sometimes this is $600, sometimes it's $25.
Advertisement

Day One

8 a.m. — I haven't been sleeping well since the inauguration and feel like a zombie. I decide I need coffee, but instead of buying my favorite $5 dirty chai, I go to Trader Joe's for a free mini cup. I haven't eaten breakfast yet, so I pick up two Greek yogurts, a banana, and an orange. $2.76
11 a.m. — My dermatologist's office left me a voicemail yesterday and I finally get up the courage to call them back. I was on Accutane for six months last year and it was the best decision of my life, but the medication, copays, blood tests, and moisturizers were a hefty monthly expense. I don't want to call them just to find out that I owe more money. However, it turns out that my insurance covered it, and they're reimbursing me $150!
12 p.m. — My incredibly generous brother bought me a new touring bike for Christmas. Anyone into cycling knows that the bike is truly not the most expensive part of the hobby. I hop on Amazon, my one true love, to pick up a new rack, GPS holder, and a fancy sleeping pad on sale. I'm biking from Mexico to San Francisco then S.F. to Canada this summer, so lighter gear to go with my lighter bike seems like justified purchases. $88.52
1:30 p.m. — The banana, a yogurt, and a fiber bar from my desk quell my hunger until my afternoon meeting. Our director tries to entice staff to attend by providing goodies, so I grab a cup of coffee, some fruit, and a cookie the size of my head. Can't fight my freegan tendencies.
Advertisement
5 p.m. — I'm finally on the bus heading home. My partner and I determined it was financially responsible to downsize to one car when we moved here almost two years ago. We've been incredibly fortunate to have access to so many alternative methods of transportation, including my heavily employer-subsidized unlimited bus pass.
6 p.m. — I'm greeted at the door with my favorite smell: pizza and garlic knots. We haven't had time to grocery shop in over a week. Though my partner is an excellent cook, I can't say I'm disappointed in tonight's meal.
8 p.m. — I'm still on a high from ordering touring gear earlier. I browse Costco's website and find a lightweight, three-season, down sleeping bag for $140. My dad, ever the pragmatist, gave me a $100 Costco gift card for Christmas 2015, so I pay using that, with a small balance, including tax. $52.24
Daily Total: $143.52

Day Two

7 a.m. — The first of the month is always a painful day. This morning I handed my partner a rent check for $1,550. (He'll pay me back $550 later.) After getting to work, I find payment confirmations for both of my student loans. The minimum payments are about $150/month, but since I'd like to finish paying them back before I reach menopause, I set up automatic bill pay for $200/month per loan. Pro tip: I got a 0.5% reduction on the interest rate of my federal loans by setting up automatic payments.
8 a.m. — The hole in my bank account hasn't been plugged quite yet. Today is the last day to pay my tuition bill without penalty. My post-bach program has been far more rewarding and challenging than undergrad ever was. (Challenging in part because I'm paying for it with my own income rather than through loans and scholarships.) I think this $1,120 will be a great investment in my future. $1,120
Advertisement
8:15 a.m. — I quietly praise Past-Me for getting a second yogurt yesterday, and I round out breakfast with a fig bar from my desk.
12 p.m. — Time for another Trader Joe's run. My partner makes less than half of what I do, so typically he brings last night's leftovers for lunch and I buy something here. I pick up a salad, an orange, a protein shake, and a bottle of water. I hate plastic water bottles, but my sister stole my reusable one last week and I can't use my CamelBak during my workout. I vow to reuse this one until it's nonfunctional! $7.01
4:30 p.m. — I gulp half of my protein shake and bike over to my CrossFit class. One of the other huge perks of working here: My employer offers a free 12-week workout and nutrition program for staff. I'm terrible at motivating myself to hit the gym, so the accountability factor is just as attractive as the price tag.
6:30 p.m. — I shakily gulp the second half of my protein shake and hop on my bike. I'm concerned I no longer have the forearm strength to grip the brake.
7:30 p.m. — Thank god I'm home! I try to soothe my sore muscles with toppings from a leftover pizza slice (chicken and cheese are protein!) and then hit the shower.
Daily Total: $1,127.01

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I forgot my bus pass at the office and have to pay the (admittedly reduced) fare. $0.50
Advertisement
9 a.m. — Feeling run down, I grab a tall latte and protein bistro box from Starbucks using an old gift card. One of these days I'll get around to grocery shopping for all of these ingredients.
12:30 p.m. — I received some disappointing news: The summer language program I was accepted to in October is only offering me a half-ride in grants. With my current savings and theoretical tax return, I might still be short $1,000 - $2,000. I have two weeks to decide whether or not to enroll and risk needing a loan, or to decline. Decisions, decisions…
12:34 p.m. — I stress eat the remainder of my bistro box and a fig bar at my desk.
4:20 p.m. — I give up on work for the day and bike home. My partner picked up ingredients for quinoa jambalaya, so we enjoy our twist on Southern cuisine with hard cider and a few episodes of Justified before bed.
Daily Total: $0.50

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I am in a foul mood today, which means I want to spend money on unnecessary food and clothes. Must. Resist.
11 a.m. — I'm pretty hungry already, but there's going to be free lunch at the symposium I'm attending at 12:30. I'm sure there's a karma tally sheet somewhere that keeps track of how many lectures I go to because I'm interested in the topic, versus how many I go to because there's free food.
1 p.m. — OMG, free food! I grab a turkey sandwich meal box and settle in.
Advertisement
6:15 p.m. — CrossFit was surprisingly fun tonight. I hop on my bike and ride home to snack and sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — It's No-Spend Saturday! My partner and I start our morning with a “breakfast pile,” which entails taking any leftovers or small portions of food we have, combining it with eggs, and throwing it in a cast iron skillet. Today's breakfast pile: spinach, onion, avocado, bacon, chicken sausage, and mushrooms, plus some toast from last week's hamburger buns.
9 a.m. — I spend the rest of the day on homework and self-care. I dye my brows, shave, give myself a facial, and throw some laundry in the wash. Laundry costs $3 to wash and dry but my partner takes care of the quarters this week.
9 p.m. — After a day of munching on food and watching Justified, I go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

11 a.m. — My brother and his fiancé bike up to my place, and we bike another 15 miles to grab burgers. Their combined income is more than six times mine, so they happily pay.
3 p.m. — I'm less than a mile from my house when I clip some uneven pavement and go flying. Being a mature adult, I'm too afraid to check out my arm and figure out whether it requires stitches. (I'm honestly not sure if I'm more afraid of seeing my bones or of the impending doctor's bill.) My water bottle cage must have shattered on impact, so I grab the shards and my bottle and slowly peddle home.
Advertisement
3:30 p.m. — Somehow, we get back home in time for kickoff — we're huge Falcons fans! I pull my lucky jersey over my non-bloody side and settle in with buffalo chicken dip.
4 p.m. — I'm going to pretend I'm screaming at the game and not at my partner brushing debris out of what's left of my elbow. I'm glad my Doomsday kit has extra-large gauze pads.
8 p.m. — The emotional pain of the Falcons losing might be worse than my physical pain. I pop some Advil PM and crawl into bed angry.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Ow. It's definitely a day for riding the bus.
8 a.m. — My brother and I are biking down to San Diego this weekend and I genuinely can't go without a bottle cage. More money sacrificed to the Amazon gods. $8.49
12 p.m. — I get an email that CrossFit is canceled. In an effort to keep things healthy, I snack on an orange from my desk and plan out lunch.
1 p.m. — Just kidding! My boss dumps a ton of work on my desk that needs to be completed ASAP. I grab a mint from my secretary's desk and pretend it's filling.
6 p.m. — After a long bus ride, I stop at the grocer near my house and pick up a frozen lasagna, a blend of Italian cheeses, and frozen broccoli. $15.28
7:30 p.m. — My partner has a great group of friends and a few of them join us for dinner unexpectedly. (Glad I got the large lasagna!) Someone brings bread and wine, and we enjoy a nice “family” dinner.
Advertisement
10 p.m. — I dish out hugs and last-minute motherly advice. (I swear, twentysomething men wouldn't shower unless a woman incentivized it.) The dishes will be left for another time.
Daily Total: $23.77
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a money diary you'd like to share? Right now, we're looking for potential diarists around two topics:
Mothers: Are you a single mom, expecting your first, raising a toddler? We want to hear how you spend your money!
Women in Debt: Are you paying off credit cards, a big student loan bill, a monthly mortgage? Tell us how you make your money work for you!
Submit your diary to us here.
Advertisement