A Week In Oakland, CA, On A $40,000 Salary

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This week: an after-school director who makes $40,000 per year and spends some of it on watermelons.
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Occupation: Elementary After-School Director
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 24
Location: Oakland, CA
Salary: $40,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,250
Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $650. I live in a huge house (for Bay Area standards) with two roommates, six blocks away from my job. My room is the smallest, so I pay the least in rent. We moved in a few months ago, and it is a big upgrade from my previous place.
Loan Payments: $125/month for student loans. I only have one interest-free loan left, so I just pay the minimum amount each month.
Gym Membership: $29.99/month (I get an educator's discount)
Donations: $300/month
Savings: $500-850/month
Spotify Family: $3/month
Transportation: Varies, but about $30 on Lyft. I don't own a car and usually get by on bike and mooching rides from friends
Netflix: $0; I mooch off a friend
Health: $0; covered by company
Phone Bill: $0; paid for by my parents
1 of 8
7 a.m. — I wake up at my parents' place in Los Angeles. I drove down from the Bay Area with a friend of mine and his sister last night to attend my sister's recital. (She's an organ performance major at UCLA and won a contest to solo with the UCLA orchestra; I'm so proud!) I'm taking the day off work, which is rare for me, and I'm looking forward to spending the time with my brother who also took the day off. I say hi to my parents before they leave for work and then attempt to wake up my friends so we can head to breakfast.

8:45 a.m. — After a fair amount of dawdling, we get to a Taiwanese breakfast spot to meet with my brother. I am admittedly an L.A. food snob, so I'm always excited to eat my way through the city when I visit. Taiwanese breakfast is the best. We get very full off soy milk four ways, egg crepe, fried turnip cake, fan tuan (sticky rice roll), and a breakfast sandwich. To thank my friend for driving me down, I pay for the meal, and we part ways. $30

10 a.m. — My brother and I decide to do some mall walking while we digest. He pays for an iced coffee that helps me wake up and stroll around. Kiehl's is having their annual Friends & Family sale, so I pick up my Holy Grail — Ultra Facial Cleanser — for 20% off. The Face Shop, a Korean beauty store, is right next door and has an amazing "buy 10, get 10 free" sheet masks sale, so I pick up 20 $2 masks and a $6 mascara (and get tons of free samples from their new sensitive skincare line). My brother is on the hunt for joggers and finds a nice pair at Zara. $45.95

1 p.m. — We stop by Target so that my brother can return something. Afterwards, we head to his place to change into running clothes. We have a lot more eating planned for the day and it seems worthwhile to get some movement in as well. We drive to and run around the Pasadena Rose Bowl, and then head back to his place to shower.

2:45 p.m. — After a lot of dawdling, we finally start walking to the Metro station. Our plan is to go to a gastropub in Culver City whose burgers are supposed to be great and that my brother wants to try. As the train pulls into Chinatown, he suddenly announces that we should get off. We walk to a tucked-away mall and eat at a trendy Korean-Mexican restaurant. We share a pork-belly rice bowl and loaded fries, for which my brother generously pays. $1.75

4 p.m. — My brother's still determined to try the burger so we hop back on the train. Apparently, the burger is made with dry-aged beef and is worth the extra 30-minute trek. We finally get there and order the signature burger to-go. My brother pays again. Last year, we both went through career changes. I went from a very comfortable sales job to working at a lower-paid nonprofit job, while my brother went from scraping by as a freelance graphic designer to working at a well-paying animation job. We joke that the tables have turned; while I used to cover the bill more often than not when we went out, he's now stepping up to the plate. I do however, pay for the Lyft to UCLA, where we will meet my sister to eat the burger together and cheer her on before the big performance. $10.96

12 a.m. — The performance is a huge success, and we cheer on my sister more wildly than might be appropriate at a classical music event. We stay to listen to the rest of the soloists perform, and later, instead of flowers, I give my sister a serum from The Ordinary that I purchased for her a few weeks ago. We're both skincare geeks, so I like to pick things up from her wish list to give her when I visit. After many photos and congratulations, we get into the car for the long ride home. Once there, I get into my childhood bed and promptly fall asleep.

Daily Total: $88.66
2 of 8
9:30 a.m. — I wake up late and miss saying goodbye to my parents. I'll be back in a week for Memorial Day, though, so I'm not too worried. I send them a quick text and wash the dishes to say thanks. Then I scrounge in the fridge for breakfast and find yogurt and granola.

11:30 a.m. — My friends and I have plans to meet up in Highland Park to drive back to Oakland. I walk to the Metro station, which is about a mile from my parent's house, and take it to the Highland Park station where my friend picks me up. We head back to his friend's place so that he can finish packing up, make one final stop for iced tea and sweet breads at a panaderia, and then we're on the road. $7.40

4:45 p.m. — Our plan was to drive up with as few stops as possible but we're all hungry, so we stop by In-N-Out. My friend pays for burgers and fries (I've been the recipient of a lot of generosity these past few days), but I'm craving a root beer float. I order one for all of us to share. $2.57

8:15 p.m. — After two philosophical podcasts, an audio recording of a Malcolm X speech, a lot of car karaoke, and one more gas stop, we finally get to Alameda, where we're meeting up with a friend for dinner. We get boba while we're waiting for a table, and I order some Pocky sticks to meet the $5 minimum. At the restaurant, my friend and I split a sushi roll special. $25.05

11 p.m. — After dinner, my friends head over to my place to watch Westworld. The friend who drove brings a few loads of laundry to do, which I'm okay with since he drove me down and up California. We also bust out the sheet masks that I bought in L.A. I try a goji berry one. After a harrowing TV episode, we say goodbye, and I crash for the night.

Daily Total: $35.02
3 of 8
8:30 a.m. — I wake up exhausted from the day before. I'm part of a faith-based program that meets monthly to discuss issues of race, justice, and equity. Breakfast and lunch are provided, so I don't eat beforehand. My friend picks me up, and we split parking. $3

1 p.m. — The meeting finishes, and I leave it feeling energized and full of weighty content to digest. A well-known journalist spoke at the meeting, and I recently purchased his book, but I buy another copy and get it signed for my friend whose birthday is tomorrow. She just graduated with a masters in social work, and this seems like a perfect gift. I get a special price for the book because they are being provided directly by the author. Afterwards, I meet up with some friends. We plan to get banh mi in Chinatown and then head to a jazz festival at a local park. I already ate so I don't buy any lunch, but I do see a deal for $1 iced milk green tea that sounds great. I get one for myself and two for my friends. $8

4 p.m. — The festival is a lot of fun and larger than I expected. We relax on the grass and listen to music. After, my friend drops me off at a farewell party for a good friend of mine that's near the park. There is a huge spread of food, which takes care of dinner, but I leave early to meet up with my roommate since we have evening plans. I hitch yet another ride with another friend back to my home, and my roommate and I have tea and a quiet night in.

Daily Total: $11
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4 of 8
8 a.m. — I wake up early to head to church where I play for the musical portion of the service a couple times a month. I've been using my sister's car for the last few weeks since my parents drove it up here, but I have to return it to her in a week. I'm still grateful for it because it means I'm able to drive the two miles to church rather than biking with my violin.

1:30 p.m. — I stay late for a meeting at church where a lunch of banh mi is provided. Afterwards, I drive a few blocks over to my old neighbor's house. While I was living at my old place, I got close to one of the families on my block. Today, I'm taking the kids, a brother and sister in elementary school, to the Maker Faire, a convention of STEAM organizations in South San Francisco. Entry to the Maker Faire is usually pretty pricy (between $25 to $45), but I get free admission as an educator. I stop in to say hi to the parents, and then the kids and I drive down to Millbrae. I pay toll to cross the bridge. $5

2:15 p.m. — We get to the Millbrae BART with time to spare. We're meeting my friend there, so I take the kids to In-N-Out to grab lunch and tease them for their predictably picky orders. Afterwards, we meet my friend back at the BART station where a shuttle is taking attendees to the fairgrounds. We spend the next few hours exploring the grounds. It's a learning playground with some wacky inventions, perfect for kids. The kids make a robot toy, play with glow-in-the-dark sticks, try carbonated iced tea, and much, much more. $9.46

5:30 p.m. — We are exhausted after a fun, sunny afternoon. I drop the kids off back at their home, and then take my friend home to Berkeley. Since I'm near Trader Joe's, I stop in to buy groceries for the week. I shop sparingly for food, partly because we already have a well-stocked freezer and pantry that I need to work my way through. Plus, most of my friends show love through home-cooked meals, and I end up eating quite a few dinners at friends' places. I do pick up bananas, cauliflower, spinach, cucumbers, dark chocolate, and a watermelon for a party tomorrow. $12.96

7:05 p.m. — While I'm at Trader Joe's, I text my friend whose birthday it is to see if I can say hi. She lives close by and miraculously is free, so I give her a big hug and the signed book, which she loves. In a wonderful turn of events, she also feeds me dinner: dumplings, kimchi, seaweed, rice, and lots of cookies.

Daily Total: $27.42
5 of 8
8 a.m. — It's hard to wake up this morning, but I manage it. I make myself coffee and oatmeal with frozen blueberries and peanut butter. I also eke out a paltry lunch of spinach, a cucumber, and a hardboiled egg. I cut up the watermelon (which was a very good deal at Trader Joe's) in preparation for the Warriors game viewing party I'm going to after work.

10 a.m. — I walk to work every day since it's only six blocks away from where I live and is a nice way to relax and reflect before the day kicks in. At work, there's plenty to catch up on after my day off. I spend most of the day prepping for the week's after-school programs and planning the upcoming summer camp program.

11:30 a.m. — I'm getting hungry and sneak over to our kitchen. We have a food provider that makes regulation-friendly suppers for our kids, but they often toss unfinished food in the "share bin." We typically save (and therefore have an abundance of) the packaged goods. I find some pita chips and bring them back to my office to snack on. I'm still hungry later, and decide it's best to eat my sad lunch rather than gorge on more chips. I usually pack better lunches than the one I'm eating today but sometimes slack off, knowing that if I'm desperate enough, I can always pick up a leftover supper from the share bin.

6:30 p.m. — The first day back at work is exhausting and I'm relieved to say goodbye to the kids and staff. However, just as I'm about to leave, a parent pulls up in a panic looking for her lost phone. We search for it for some time with no luck. Afterwards, I pick up the watermelon from my house and wait for my friends. We are carpooling to my other friend's house to watch the Warriors game since parking is terrible in her neighborhood. The Warriors game is not so exciting, as they've maintained a significant lead against the Spurs. I do, however, have a ton of fun playing with my friend's adorable sons (ages 2 and 4) and eating her homemade chicken wings.

Daily Total: $0
6 of 8
7 a.m. — I wake up early to run but lay in bed for much too long watching skincare videos on YouTube instead. I fill up an Amazon cart of products I want to try out, but can't make myself pull the trigger. Afterwards, I make myself a breakfast of cereal, frozen raspberries, almond milk and peanut butter. I also make cold brew that I'll be able to enjoy tomorrow. It's an amazingly easy recipe that mostly involves sticking coarsely-ground coffee beans (Philz. — so good) and water in a French press, and putting them in the fridge for 24 hours. I don't drink any coffee today because I try to take a few days off caffeine each week.

9:30 a.m. — I rush out of the house to go to my counseling session in Berkeley. I started going a few months ago to see if I could create a more sustainable rhythm for myself at and outside of my work, which can often be stressful. I like going to Berkeley, too. The counseling center is right next to a café that hires refugee workers and has the best cheddar-chive scones. I'm usually a few minutes late to the session. Today, I leave early, only to discover that I've left my wallet at home. I rush back to get it and end up being about 10 minutes late. At least I tried. $40

3:45 p.m. — I successfully pick up our students from their school and walked them to the after-school site. Half play outdoors, while the other half eats snacks inside. I float around to make sure everything's under control. I still haven't eaten lunch, so I once again eat a leftover supper from the share bin (a cheeseburger, apple, and carrot sticks).

6:15 — After work, I drive to Chinatown to meet up with a friend at the library for a reading date. We are both reading Asian American titles in honor of APAHM Chinatown. I leave pretty quickly to meet up with another friend at our gym for a yoga class. Beforehand, I stop by an amazing poke bowl place, where you can get a bowl of raw fish and general deliciousness for only $6 (plus tip). $8

8:55 p.m. — I just started going to this gym this month (I've never had a gym membership before) and have really only been using it for the yoga classes, which I love. I was referred by my friends and got a pretty good educator's discount plus no initiation fee! It's been a great experience, and I like staying accountable with my friends. Afterwards, we walk to Trader Joe's because I'm craving fruit. I pick up another watermelon, she buys groceries, and then I drive her home. $2.99

Daily Total: $50.99
7 of 8
7:30 a.m. — Since I didn't pack lunch yesterday, I'm determined to have something substantial today. I put together roasted cauliflower, spinach, cucumber, an egg, and a slice of my roommate's homemade sourdough bread. I also have some bread for breakfast with peanut butter and a banana, and pour myself some of the cold brew, throwing in a few ice cubes and adding a little heavy cream over the top.

6:30 p.m. — After work, I meet my friends at the gym again for a quick workout. I'm new to gym machines but I do a quick run on the treadmill, do a few kettlebell and barbell exercises, and even attempt the battle ropes with some help. I don't want to get too sweaty since I am going straight to my other friend's house for dinner.

7:50 p.m. — I drive over to my friend's place. I love visiting because she and her husband have the most adorable dog, and she's a serious gourmand. Today, we are trying a recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt's blog: lentils, sweet potatoes, eggplant with a tahini sauce, and lamb chops. We chat and drink wine while we cook, and I'm in charge of the sauce, which involves a pretty shocking amount of garlic (I don't mind) and lemon. It's the basic ingredients that go into hummus in very different proportions. The meal is delicious, and I devour it much too quickly. I stay to chat for a little longer before heading home so that we can all get to bed early before work.

Daily Total: $0
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