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A Week In Austin, TX, On A $45,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a content creator who makes $45,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Kewpie Mayo.
Trigger warning: This diary mentions gun violence on Day Seven.
Occupation: Content Creator + Model/Actor
Industry: Advertising, Marketing, Social Media, Entertainment
Age: 24
Location: Austin, TX
Salary: $45,000
Net Worth: $41,000 ($6,000 in retirement/investments, $31,000 in savings)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $900
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $700. I split rent down the middle with my boyfriend (our finances are separate). We live in a garage apartment that's fairly affordable.
Utilities: $40 (this is my half, our utilities are really high since our garage apartment is located in a neighbourhood and this includes all the street cleaning, water waste, trash fees, etc.)
Pole Membership: $100
Acting Class: $185
Adobe: $21.65 (split with my boyfriend)
Dropbox, Notion, Apple Storage: $18
Internet: $25 (my half)
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Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
There was definitely an expectation for me to attend college. My mom has her master's and two bachelor's degrees, and my dad has a bachelor's degree as well. They're both in tech and have always stressed the importance of education. I did very well in high school and actually got a scholarship that covered my tuition for the first year and a half of college, but after switching majors, I had to forfeit the scholarship money. My parents had college funds set up for each of my sisters, so we graduated (or will graduate, for my youngest sister) with no debt, which is the greatest and most thoughtful gift they've given us. I'm very lucky to not have had to worry about paying for college, and extremely grateful to not have any debt post-grad.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Money was kind of a sensitive topic at least on my mom's end. My dad has always been a bit more open about financial conversations, but growing up I really didn't have a good idea of how much my parents made. We never struggled to make ends meet, but my parents are very fiscally conservative and sometimes it felt like we would penny pinch a bit growing up. I picked up on my parents' habits and mannerisms and hoarded any cash I made, tucking it away as a kid. It wasn't until after I graduated high school that I actually realised how much they made, and it's definitely upper middle-class range. I've only recently started talking to my parents about finances more, but their main method of saving has just been a savings account and making a few smart investments in property. A lot of what I know now is self-taught.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was 16, I thought I wanted to eventually go to medical school and become a doctor, so I worked for a family friend's practice as a medical records assistant one summer. My parents gave me a small allowance (probably $30 a month), but since I was also driving at this point, I just wanted extra money to have to hang out with friends. I've worked ever since.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, but not because we didn't have it. My parents definitely had money but were very conservative about it. This made me very conscious about what I asked for and made me a big saver. In reality, we were really comfortable and had everything we needed. I remember one year I asked for one of those electronic piggy banks, just so I always had an accurate account of what I had in cash.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I'm doing pretty well as a freelancer (my rates and amount of work change) and I've been making a fair amount from commercial modeling. I worry about finances in the sense that as a freelancer, I don't have benefits and I will have to pay taxes later. I'm really making much more than I ever had and I'm trying to unlearn the ultra-conservative view of finances and learn that spending money on experiences and comfort is really important to me at this point in my life. I am still extremely conscious of my spending, but not afraid to splurge every once in a while. I never struggle to make ends meet.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Around 22, since that's when I graduated and moved to New York for my first job (right before the pandemic). I was able to pay my entire way in New York for as long as I lived there, but eventually moved to Austin because of COVID and have been paying for pretty much everything on my own. My car insurance and phone bill are still graciously covered by my parents, but I'm on my own for everything else. They insist on paying those things until I have an actual salaried job, but at the same time, they aren't pushing me to get one as they know I'm doing fine.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I do not receive any passive income.

Day One

10 a.m. — Gooood morning. Was really looking forward to starting the week off bright and early, but my boyfriend was pretty sick last night and the coughing kept us both up all night. I'm out of bed by 10. I head out to grab a chai latte with almond milk from one of my favourite coffee spots. It ends up being free because I realised I had racked up enough loyalty points over the past few visits. I do tip though, so that's $2. I get some work done at the coffee shop, but since I'm a content creator a lot of the work I shoot has to be done at home, so I head back to my apartment to film. I eat some leftover chickpea curry for lunch. $2
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5 p.m. — We decide to go on a little date on my boyfriend's moped to watch the sunset. We stop to watch the sunset at a cafe and I get some cheesecake, which is $10. $10
8 p.m. — After our sunset date, I go to my spin pole class, which is A LOT harder than I thought it would be but so much fun. It's such a great workout and has really helped me become more confident and comfortable in my own body and reclaim sexuality in a way that isn't through the lens of the male gaze.
9:30 p.m. — I eat some ramen while I FaceTime with a friend. I dress up the ramen with a fried egg and veggies. After eating and chatting for a while, I head to bed.
Daily Total: $12

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I'm a creature of habit so I wake up and go back to the same coffee shop with my boyfriend. I haven't gotten around to creating my weekly meal plan and shopping list, so I buy breakfast along with coffee. The total comes out to $20 for a chai, cappuccino, spinach quiche, and rosemary bagel + tip. YUM. We go back home and I get some work done for two of my clients. Then, I take a break to deep clean our little apartment, because I can't work with any clutter. I guess it's a mental block? An underwear company sent me a promo code a while ago and the package finally comes in. I'm not sure why underwear companies keep claiming to be changing the industry of intimates. Like, it's a cute set, but also... nothing special. At least it was discounted, and I don't have to post about it. $20
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4 p.m. — I've been considering a Soho House membership (LOL) because a new one popped up in Austin and I'm trying to figure out ways to meet people in the film/TV/creative industries. I debate back and forth, but I'm nervous the members will be the worst kind of rich people? Also, it's a lot of money. I realise I have to get approved first anyways so I guess we'll wait and see.
7 p.m. — My boyfriend's having a friend over to work on music in our apartment studio (it's a tiny room with just enough space for our piano and desk). Meanwhile, I keep working on some content and get ready for my acting class. I managed to scrounge up some leftovers for dinner before heading to my acting class later in the evening. After class, I head home and go to bed. Overall, a light spending day.
Daily Total: $20

Day Three

10 a.m. — My boyfriend and I sleep in a bit longer than usual. My boyfriend gets up and makes us the "perfect scrambled eggs" recipe he saw Gordon Ramsay talk about on TikTok. They are surprisingly great?? He's amazing at breakfast, so I usually leave that to him. I usually will take care of lunch and we cook dinner together. I skip coffee for the day. I'm not a huge coffee drinker anyway, I just like the routine of it. I film an audition my agent sends me and then sit and scroll on TikTok for a while. I explain what a Bones/No Bones day is to my friend, fulfilling my weekly duties as my friend group's resident Gen Z.
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12 p.m. — I buy a lavalier mic for filming TikToks. Maybe this will boost my performance. Or maybe I just suck! $12.86
4 p.m. — I get stuck in a social media hellhole spiral and when I look up it's suddenly 4. It rained last night and finally cooled down in Austin, so my boyfriend suggests we go outside and enjoy the weather. He treats us to lunch at our favourite Austin pizza place since I picked up breakfast and coffee on Monday. I neglect to buy groceries again today. Groceries tomorrow, promise.
9 p.m. — Wait, just kidding, I decide to go grocery shopping... I spend $16 for pasta ingredients and oat milk, and that'll be split evenly between my boyfriend and me. I check my bank account and see I got paid for a photoshoot I did a few months ago today. It was just stills and a small local project, but still a couple hundred bucks. Not bad. $8
Daily Total: $20.86

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — My boyfriend woke up earlier to go to a photo shoot, but I sleep in. Surprise! I clean the entire apartment once I'm up and fold all of our laundry. I'm waiting on a Glossier package and realise that I've run out of one of my other essentials. So, I re-up on sunscreen and their newer cleanser, which I love. I've loved Glossier for so long — their products just really do it for me. $48.71
11:30 a.m. — Time to do a big grocery shop. First, I stop at my local Japanese grocery store for kewpie mayo and a few other things (hello, Emily Mariko salmon rice recipe). I spend $28.14. Next, I do my regular grocery shopping at Whole Foods, which comes out to $65.38 and will last me through the end of the week! My boyfriend Venmos me for half. $46.76
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12:30 p.m. — Right after my grocery run, I have a friend come over to make some content. She's a stylist and we met at a panel we were invited to a few weeks back. We thought it'd be fun to do a segment on shopping your own closet/creating a capsule wardrobe with items you already have. She helps me style a few items that I've had sitting around in my closet for YEARS and that I haven't known how to wear/haven't touched. I'll help her edit the content for Reels and TikTok. People don't really seem to understand how much acting and modeling takes out of you. Being "on" all day is EXHAUSTING. But I'm really lucky to be able to do it and truly, truly enjoy it all. After my stylist friend leaves, my boyfriend gets home and brings in my Glossier package! I immediately film the unboxing process and throw on the sage green hoodie, which I love. Then, we take the greatest nap of all time.
5 p.m. — After our nap, we get up and go do a little bit of work at our local coffee shop. I buy us hot chocolate and an empanada since it's too late for actual caffeine. We head home and eat leftovers for dinner, then watch Edward Scissorhands. I do love '80s/'90s movies that are a vibe and a half but have hella plot holes. $12.02
Daily Total: $107.49

Day Five

10 a.m. — Another morning, another episode of me trying to get out of the WFH slump and relocating to a coffee shop. I pay for my boyfriend's and my coffee and a little chia pudding. At the coffee shop, I take my one and only work-related meeting of the month, and follow up on a few emails. IT'S BEEN A GOOD WEEK. I have been manifesting (cheesy, but it works) the chance to create content for a particular brand and they actually reach out to me this week!! Big things coming. $13.02
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2 p.m.— We relocate to a different cafe/restaurant to pick up some lunch. My boyfriend pays. I submit to a few casting calls in Austin and get a few emails from my agency about auditions I need to get done this weekend. I ALSO hear from another company asking if I'd want to work part-time for them on a notable brand?? Uhhh I can't give out any more details but I may have girlbossed a bit too close to the sun. I go home to finish my last few videos of the week and then take a walk around the neighbourhood with my boyfriend. It's finally chilly-ish in Austin, so I make sure to wear my new Glossier hoodie.
6 p.m. — My boyfriend makes dinner with the groceries I bought earlier this week while I upload my last few videos and send out my invoices. He's going to a movie screening tonight for a friend's new film and I'm going to just stay home and read one of the many books I've accumulated. A lovely night in.
Daily Total: $13.02

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — It's the weekend! And a busy one. The past few weeks my boyfriend and I have had a lot of rehearsals in preparation for a short film that we both got cast in as the leads. We're excited to work together and haven't acted together in any capacity besides sending in self-tapes for each other. I start the morning meeting up with the director at a coffee shop on the East Side. She buys coffee for us and we chat about life and her inspiration for the film and my character.
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12:30 p.m. — After coffee, we headed back to my apartment and run through a few of the scenes. It's kind of strange rehearsing in your own space, but since it's a coming-of-age film with a romance element, it's cool already having a connection with my co-star and having natural chemistry.
2:30 p.m. — My boyfriend and the director leave for their one-on-one for the week. I check the mail and I have a package! It's a pair of Steve Madden boots that are five inches tall and yes, I did buy them immediately after seeing them on TikTok. The site said they'd be back-ordered, so this is a GREAT surprise. I didn't buy them this week, but they were about $140 after the coupon I used. My big shoe purchase of the season.
3 p.m. — I celebrate this new arrival by wearing them in the house for a bit to feel tall (I don't usually wear shoes in the house, but these are new so they won't get the place dirty!!) and then promptly take a nap because being around people is DRAINING. I love making connections and chatting, but I'm truly an introvert.
5:30 p.m. — My boyfriend gets back home and we think about maybe going to a friend's party tonight. But that'll have to wait, since my two sisters are coming over to hang out first. I cook dinner for all of us and make a kimchi-jjigae recipe I found on, you guessed it, TikTok. It's pretty good! As much as I don't love cooking, I do love the presentation aspect of food and hosting people.
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8:30 p.m. — After dinner, my boyfriend and I drop my youngest sister back off at her place and then grab coffee so we can rally for the night. Time to hype myself up. $8.61
10 p.m. — We make an appearance at my friend's party. After having exactly one drink, taking a few obligatory pictures, and enjoying the small fire outside, we head out to get P. Terry's before going home. $15.70
11:30 p.m. — We get home and I immediately take off my makeup and clean up a bit (I'm so glad I did the dishes before we left). I'm asleep by midnight. Mission accomplished.
Daily Total: $24.31

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — My boyfriend wakes up early to go work and I laze around the apartment for a bit before hitting my sister up to get coffee. We decide to go to South Congress to try out this new place I've been wanting to go to, but it ends up being packed (Sunday brunch, should've thought this through). We snag coffee at another cute shop up the road and catch up about how we've been and our respective jobs. I'm really proud of her — she's been having a hard time post-grad figuring out what she wants to do, but she landed a new role this week and the job seems really fun and right up her alley! Since I'm older and have a jobby job (ish? lol), I pay for our coffees and we split a chocolate croissant. $18
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11 a.m. — We wander over to the nearest alley and take some photos of our outfits. I love spending time with my sister (she's also a photographer and we look similar so she knows my angles better than anyone else) and when she gets to be creative, she lights up a lot. I know she's going to figure things out and I've been trying my best to let her know that we've all been in that weird in-between stage of figuring stuff out.
4 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon is kind of a blur (did I literally just nap for two hours??). I eventually wake up and start to get ready for a friend's wedding. I throw on the same black dress I've worn to the past few weddings I've been to (look, I'm an outfit repeater and completely happy with it) and ask the group if I can wear my new five-inch boots. They hate fun, so they say no, but my Instagram Close Friends Story poll says yes. I am a coward and end up wearing other heels. I haven't really eaten anything besides my chocolate croissant today and I have a caffeine tummy ache from lack of nourishment, so we stop at a local deli and pick up some pasta and an empanada for me before heading to the wedding. $14
5 p.m. — The wedding is outside and fairly small, but super gorgeous. Looking around, I totally could've worn the boots. Also! Slight tangent but adults (wait I guess I'm an adult, so people over 45) at weddings are the WORST about phones. The wedding officiator definitely asked everyone to SILENCE their phones and put them away, but half the guests over the age of 40 pulled out a phone to snap pics. As the bride was walking down the middle of the aisle, SOMEONE'S PHONE RANG and it was like an awful loud old-timey phone ringer too. If it were my wedding, I would simply halt the ceremony and chuck that guy's phone deep into the forest. Luckily the bride is nicer than me, but I do feel really bad for her. Her dress is beautiful, and the groom is my boyfriend's good friend, so it's a really sweet evening.
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7 p.m. — The wedding goes on smoothly and dinner is great (unfortunately, there isn't a vegetarian option so I cheat and eat meat, but my boyfriend is Better Than Me and just eats sides). We dance and do all the wedding things, and then send the bride and groom off around 9:45. We stop for gas on the way to the after-party. $25.13
10:30 p.m. — We stop by the after-party for a bit and mingle with the smaller crowd there. After a while, my boyfriend and I gave each other The Look ("I'm tired, are you tired? Yes? Ok let's find a classy way to exit like right tf now") and made our way back home.
11:45 p.m. — It gets a bit dark here, so TW: gun violence, shooting. On the way home, we get a call from my younger sister, who is in college in Austin. There's an active shooter one block over and she has a bunch of friends over. I'm obviously stressed for her and want to help. We get home and I'm on the phone with my sister sporadically, sending her Citizen and Twitter updates and listening to the police scanner.
3 a.m. — I don't go to sleep until really late and wake up throughout the night to check for updates. I wish I had a better ending to this diary, but...that's life in Texas, I guess.
Daily Total: $57.13
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