A Week In Oakland, CA, On A $70,000 Salary

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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.
Today for Money Diaries Month: a research associate who makes $70,000 per year. This week, she buys peonies and pays for a yurt rental.
Occupation: Research Associate
Industry: Nonprofit Public Health Policy
Age: 31
Location: Oakland, CA
Salary: $70,000
Paycheck (Biweekly): $1,689.21 after taxes and deductions
Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $1,000 to rent a studio apartment with my girlfriend. She pays $500; the split is relative to our incomes.
Loan Payments: $400. I'm on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness plan and am about halfway through.
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All Other Monthly Expenses:
Cell Phone: $55
Gym Membership: $39
CSA Farm Share: $36. We receive a box of fresh, seasonal produce from a local organic farm every other week.
Savings: $400. I try to keep an emergency fund with a few thousand dollars in it.
Roth IRA: $406, matched up to 8% by my employer (already subtracted from my paycheck)
Health Insurance: $75. The remainder is covered by my employer.
Amazon Prime: $99/year
Netflix: $10. My family mooches off of me!
Internet: $50
Gas/Electric: $25 - $35
Laundry: $20. There are machines in our building and all tenants pay $20/month for unlimited laundry use.
Credit Card: $440 balance on a 0% APR card that I'm a few months away from paying off
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6:45 a.m. — Up for work. I work remotely for an organization that is based on the East Coast, so I more or less keep East Coast hours. The time difference means I work from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., California time. My supervisors aren't too picky about if I keep strict hours, as long as I get my work done. I appreciate the flexibility, but I try to stick to a schedule for the sake of my sanity and productivity.

7:30 a.m. — I am embarrassingly sore from a BodyPump class at the gym yesterday. I waddle across the living room and settle in at the kitchen table to work with a mug of black tea and soy creamer.

10 a.m. — Getting hungry. I'm a strong believer in savory breakfasts and don't distinguish between "breakfast foods" and "dinner foods." Who's to say that my cold sesame noodles with tofu, cucumber, romaine, radish, red pepper, scallions, and hot chile oil aren't a solid breakfast choice?

12 p.m. — My girlfriend is taking a class at UC Berkeley, so I've recently discovered that the campus is open to the public and has free Wi-Fi. She has a lecture this afternoon, and I tag along with her to do work in the gorgeous library there. The change of scenery is motivating, helping me power through a brief I need to write for work.

2 p.m. — Girlfriend is done with her class, and we're both hungry. We debate going out for lunch (she pushes HARD), but we resist the temptation and head back home.

2:30 p.m. — We make a quick lunch to stem our rapidly approaching hanger of polenta with spinach, topped with cherry tomatoes (that are pan fried until they burst), Swiss chard, and crispy chickpeas. Berry La Croix is the perfect accompaniment. I'm trying to break my exclusive relationship with Pamplemousse.

4 p.m. — Girlfriend heads to work at a restaurant, and I drive across town to the elementary school where I volunteer as a cooking instructor. On today's menu: squash gnocchi with kale. The kiddos rate it an A+. After volunteering, I head back home to work for a few more hours because I didn't quite get a full day in yet.

7 p.m. — Head to the grocery store. There is a Whole Foods on our block, which is a blessing and a curse. I pick up brussels sprouts, asparagus, fresh corn, spring mix, arugula, lemons, broccolini, sourdough bread, kimchi, cashew cheese, and laundry detergent. Girlfriend will give me cash for half later. $45.11

7:30 p.m. — Solo dinner time; I make pan-fried gigante beans with sun-dried tomato, roasted broccolini with lemon and chile flakes, and grilled sourdough with cashew cheese.

8:30 p.m. — I decide to take myself on an impromptu date. I walk to an awesome nearby lounge/bar that has free weekly comedy shows. I ask the bartender for a cocktail that isn't too sweet, and he brings me an outrageously delicious whiskey-based concoction. The comedy is surprisingly good, and I only wince from awkwardness a few times. $13

10:30 p.m. — Back home and cuddle up to read The Mothers by Brit Bennett in bed until my girlfriend gets home.

Daily Total: $58.11
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7 a.m. — Work time! I have a busy day ahead, but I'm feeling energized. I make black tea with soy creamer.

9 a.m. — Breakfast break: rice porridge with kale, shiitakes, soy sauce, sesame oil, a heap of kimchi, and scallions.

12 p.m. — Finally close my accounts at Wells Fargo because I've migrated my checking and savings to a local credit union. I'd been looking to do this for a while as part of a general effort to support smaller, more local businesses when possible, and also because the credit union has higher interest rates (APYs), and better customer service (apparently). I'm able to close my WF accounts online, which is easier than I expected.

1 p.m. — One of my favorite things about working from home is being able to cook my own lunch. Today, I roast carrots and serve them on top of French lentils, with skillet fried and roasted brussels sprouts and garlic. I top everything off with a vegan yogurt, tahini, and agave sauce. I'm vegan, and my girlfriend is omnivorous. I thought it might be an issue when we first got together, but we make it work.

3:45 p.m. — Finish up with work. My girlfriend and I go down the street to pick up our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share box. Pickups are every other week at a local wine bar close to our apartment. We intend to only pick up our produce but get distracted by the incredible selection at the wine bar. The shop is sampling two Greek wines today for $10. We decide to split a tasting. We also buy a couple of bottles to take home. We share the cost. $28

4:30 p.m. — Finish our tasting and finally do what we came to do: pick up our CSA box. The produce this week looks gorgeous: Swiss chard, beets, spring onions, potatoes, baby artichokes, carrots, and salad greens.

5 p.m. — Girlfriend takes our produce home, and I walk over to the gym. I wore my gym clothes to the wine bar for exactly this purpose. I go to a real no-frills gym down the street. It's super convenient and has classes that I love. I'm also finally getting over my fear of weight machines and free weights, and am trying to be better about asking people for help if I don't know how to use something.

6:30 p.m. — Back home again. The baby artichokes from the CSA box are calling my name. I make us steamed artichokes with two garlicky dipping sauces and pasta with a creamy cashew-based roasted red pepper sauce. I also start a batch of cold brew coffee and a sourdough starter. My girlfriend pours us generous glasses of wine.

7:30 p.m. — We finish dinner and walk to our neighborhood bar to meet a few friends for pub trivia. I buy a beer for myself and one for my friend who's got relationship drama to discuss. $20

9:30 p.m. — Well, we didn't win trivia. I guess there's always next week!

Daily Total: $48
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7 a.m. — Up and straight to work, accompanied by homemade cold brew and a piece of toast.

11:30 a.m. — Take a break and make a more elaborate breakfast/lunch than I planned. Home fries with potatoes and spring onion from the farm share box, plus bell pepper we have in the fridge. I also make a tofu scramble with garlicky Swiss chard (made by my girlfriend). I enjoy it with a second glass of cold brew and soy creamer.

1 p.m. — I take the plunge and decide to buy a domain with my name. I've been planning to buy a personal website to eventually set up space for a side gig and today's the day. I buy annual ownership of the domain plus Squarespace website hosting, which I'll now have to pay monthly. $36

4 p.m. — Done with work and ready for the gym. I usually walk to the gym, but today I take the long way and run instead so I can get cardio in before my weights routine.

5:15 p.m. — Pick up a gorgeous bunch of peonies on the way home. I think I read somewhere that you should never feel guilty spending money on flowers or books. $8

6 p.m. — It seems too early for dinner, but the gym session has made me hungry. I make an epic salad with mixed greens, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, sunflower seeds, tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice. I need to keep sweet potatoes on hand for this purpose.

7 p.m. — I meet a friend to walk around the neighborhood, chat about her upcoming wedding and new puppy, and to plan for summer camping trips.

8:30 p.m. — Make an Instagram account for my cat.

9 p.m. — A friend is coming from Singapore to stay with us in a few weeks. We want to go wine tasting and spend some overnights outside, so we decide to go glamping in Napa for two nights. I book our yurt online. It doesn't look excessively fancy, and the price isn't much more than plain ol' camping. She always spoils me when I visit her, so I'm happy to pay for the yurt. $110

9:30 p.m. — I throw some chia pudding in the fridge for breakfast tomorrow and tuck into bed with my girlfriend plus book.

Daily Total: $154
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7 a.m. — Up and werkin'.

8 a.m. — Chia pudding and berries from the fridge. It hits the spot!

12 p.m. — I was in the ER a few months ago and got my bill for nearly $1,000 last month. I stashed it in a pile of mail and forgot about it, but I know I need to deal with it. Despite my hatred of phone calls, I call the hospital's billing services office and see if I can set up a payment plan. I'm so glad I called because they say I can pay it off over a year instead of all at once. I make my first payment by phone. $76.55

4 p.m. — Finish up with work and jog to the gym to knock out a quick leg workout. Squats, squats, squats!

6 p.m. — My family is planning a weeklong trip to Wyoming this summer to view the total solar eclipse that's happening on August 21st. My girlfriend and I are going to visit Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons for a few days before the eclipse and then we're meeting my family. We've already booked our accommodations and flights, but still need to book a rental car. I do price comparisons and finally commit. $229

7 p.m. — A friend has just returned to the Bay Area after traveling in Southeast Asia for seven months. She's craving pizza and California wine. My girlfriend and I pick up a bottle of pinot and meet her at a casual BYOB pizza joint. Girlfriend buys the wine and I buy the pizza: fresh corn, spinach, pasilla peppers, and caramelized onions. $22

9 p.m. — Girlfriend and I are exhausted, but our friend is on a different time zone and talks us into buying another bottle of wine and heading to another friend's house to lounge around and continue catching up. $16

11:45 p.m. — After hours of being regaled with travel and torrid love affair stories, we head home and crash. Before falling asleep, we start to plot how we could live abroad for part of the year.

Daily Total: $343.55
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9 a.m. — Friday, and I have the day off! I wake up and make green tea, plus a chickpea flour omelet with arugula, sun-dried tomato, and cashew cheese.

10 a.m. — My girlfriend and I hit the road for the coast. We drive to Half Moon Bay, which is about a 90-minute drive down the gorgeous, rocky California coast. We stop to fill up the gas tank en route. We trade off who pays for gas, and this time it's my turn. $32.50

12 p.m. — We set up shop on the beach with giant bottles of water and books. We read a bit and then teeter on the tide pool's edge, excitedly pointing out starfish and sea anemones. I could do this for hours.

2 p.m. — Getting toasty and hungry, so we head to town for lunch. We stroll the town and stop at a café with a line out the door, which is always a good sign. A mushroom sandwich for me and a hamburger for the girlfriend, plus a salad and chips to share. A+ — we will return; we split the bill. $18

4 p.m. — Home for a shower and a sweet summer afternoon nap.

6 p.m. — A friend texts me to see if I want to help her paint her bedroom. I do! I am thrilled with the excuse to wear my authentically weathered painting jeans. I walk to her place for beers and shoddy painting.

10 p.m. — Home from painting and never really ate dinner, so I make avocado toast on sourdough with home-pickled red onions, cilantro, flaky sea salt, and local extra virgin olive oil. I join girlfriend and our kitties on the couch for an episode of Orange Is the New Black. I'm feeling conflicted about this season, but I'll power through.

Daily Total: $50.50
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10 a.m. — I've been using Mint to track my finances for years, but I want to switch over to an Excel chart, which will force me to manually enter all my spending and earning. At a basic level, I want to make sure that I spend less than I earn each month and I think that tracking it in Excel will help me do this. I set up a spreadsheet with color coded categories and a pie chart and am very proud of myself.

12 p.m. — The weather is beautiful, so I rally a bunch of friends to picnic at the lake by my apartment. We have cans of sparkly wine (thanks, Trader Joe's), a frisbee, and an impressive array of vegan snacks. I bring a lentil salad with red onion, capers, celery, and a turmeric-curry dressing, and vegan chocolate chip cookies with fleur de sel.

4 p.m. — Consult my to-do list, and decide I need to cross at least one thing off before the weekend ends. I head to Home Depot to purchase a larger pot and potting soil to repot my rubber tree at home. $19

6 p.m. — I need to book flights for my friend's Labor Day wedding across the country, so I browse the prices but then balk at the cost. I am going, no question about it (I'm a bridesmaid!), but I decide to put off the purchase a few more days. I hear flights are cheapest on Tuesdays.

7 p.m. — It's getting kind of cool outside, and I start craving soup. I make a smooth Thai curry soup thickened with roasted eggplant and potatoes. Top it off with crispy tofu, carrot ribbons, and baby kale. My girlfriend and I eat dinner while watching a new-ish Planet Earth episode. Did you know that river dolphins exist?! RIVER DOLPHINS.

Daily Total: $19
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10 a.m. — My girlfriend and I head out for a quick run. We end up walking 80% of it, but it's nice to get moving first thing in the morning and enjoy the sunshine.

11:30 a.m. — I make us a quick Sunday brunch of breakfast tacos with tofu scramble, avocado, pickled radish, and green salsa. I also blister padrón peppers to munch on and make iced coffee with soy creamer. We eat and work on the Sunday Times crossword puzzle together.

1 p.m. — We head to a local middle school to hear our congressperson speak about what's going on in Washington right now and how citizens can hold Congress and our president accountable for their actions. I feel at home among the Berkeley crowd but continue to be worried and outraged about what I perceive to be a not-so-slow chipping away of the foundation of democracy.

3:30 p.m. — We're riled up and need ice cream. We each get vegan cookies and cream on a cone, my treat. $9.50

5 p.m. — Girlfriend heads to work and I drive about 20 minutes to my parents' place in the suburbs. I go there pretty much every Sunday for family dinner. This week, my parents cook lamb, and I make roasted asparagus and crispy smashed potatoes with a vegan aioli. We eat outside with my brothers and enjoy a cool sauvignon blanc in the summer heat for a few hours before I head home.

9 p.m. — Back home and it's time for my Sunday night routine. I wash my face and do a sheet mask. (I don't think they make a difference for me, but I feel relaxed and glamorous.) Then I chill on the couch, do a bit of journaling, and plan for the week ahead. I make sure I've carved out time for family, social stuff, volunteering, physical activity, and some type of learning (Duolingo, a class, etc.). I've been doing this on Sundays for years and helps me combat that Sunday slump and get excited for the week.

Daily Total: $9.50
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