A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On An $80,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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: a production manager working in interior design who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on heirloom tomatoes.
Occupation: Production Manager
Industry: Interior Design
Age: 29
Location: Los Angeles
Salary: $80,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,400
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1325 ($2,650, split evenly with my boyfriend)
Health Insurance: $0 (My premium is $100, but my work covers it.)
Internet: $27
Renters Insurance: $12
Gas & Electricity: $50-80
Gym: $65
Aaptiv Fitness App: $10
Spotify & Hulu: $13
Play! By Sephora: $10.95
Savings: $2,000
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Annual Expenses
Bon Appétit: $4.99
Architectural Digest: $4.99
AFAR: $4.99
Elle Décor $4.99 (I get all of the above subscriptions through Discount Mags.)

Day One

8 a.m. — Every morning while I get ready for work I listen to a rotation of podcasts: NYT's The Daily, Call Your Girlfriend, and My Favorite Murder. I highly recommend this podcast combo for anyone who wants to never trust men and check every closet before bed. I eat the same apple with crunchy almond butter every morning. I'm trying to stick to Whole30 foods after completing the program a few months ago. (Whatever, I live in L.A. now, I can be like this.) But I hate eggs, and meat in the morning makes my nauseous, so my options are limited. I also make a latte using the Nespresso I received for my birthday last year, with an almond/cashew/macadamia nut milk thing from Trader Joe's.
2 p.m. — Homemade cauliflower falafel with lemon-tahini dressing for lunch. I bring lunch everyday. I work in West Hollywood and the restaurants around me are so overpriced that I don't even entertain the option of eating out. I do miss a lot of opportunities to watch Jaden Smith and/or Kanye West eat a grain bowl at the heinously sceney cafe next door, but somehow I survive.
3 p.m. — I see on Instagram that a former coworker is selling tiny art prints and donating the proceeds to the ACLU to support Keep Families Together. I purchase two. $30
7 p.m. — For dinner I toss a bunch of red potatoes, baby carrots, and diced onion in the bottom of my beloved Le Creueset dutch oven and top with a spatchcock chicken from TJ's. I also open a bottle of white wine from our latest Winc delivery. The subscription was an awesome Christmas gift from my boyfriend last year. While we wait for the chicken to cook, we finish the second half of L.A. Confidential. We moved to L.A. this year and have been watching classic L.A. movies ever since. This is one of my favorites so far, mostly because there's great L.A. house porn in it. We've decided we're going to buy a house in L.A., and I can't get enough of the quintessential architecture.
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Daily Total: $30

Day Two

8 a.m. — Same podcasts, same breakfast, same general uneasiness about my reproductive rights. Happy Friday! On my walk to work, I resist the urge to buy a $6 iced almond milk latte from Le Pain Quotidien.
1 p.m. — Same lunch as yesterday. I made a batch of these falafels on Monday and they've lasted me the entire week. I know what you're thinking — how does this girl eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day and is she dead inside?! The answer is, it's a strategy, and only partly. I keep my breakfasts and lunches simple so that I can ball out guilt-free on three to four restaurant meals every month. Some people know sports; I know restaurants. The Infatuation's Hit List, Eater's Heat Map and Bon Appétit's restaurant reviews are my bibles. I keep a Google calendar of reservations, often booked eight weeks out. I love dining out in a big way. But it's expensive, and I know I have to make a sacrifice somewhere. So I cook most of my meals and let my tastebuds get lit a few times a month. It works for me.
9 p.m. — Case in point: tonight's dinner is at Bavel, a new Mediterranean restaurant in DTLA I've been waiting weeks to try. We're seated at a counter that is shared with the open kitchen, so we get to watch the team cook all night, and even chat with them a bit. It's like dinner and a movie, minus the stale popcorn and plus pita hot from the wood fire oven. My boyfriend and I split the check. I recommend the hummus with duck ‘njuda and try the okra, even if you hate okra. $88
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Daily Total: $88

Day Three

8 a.m. — I realize we're out of dog food and my scheduled Amazon delivery isn't arriving for another week. The local pet store doesn't have my dog's regular food, so I end up buying the smallest bag of comparable food. It's more expensive, but it's the only option at the moment. $18.71
11 a.m. — I walk to my gym for a yoga class, and then stop at Trader Joe's to pick up dinner for the evening. We have leftover bacon and it's finally tomato season, so we're making BLTs. I buy seeded sourdough, gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, and butter lettuce because I'm still shook about romaine. I also get a spinach salad and a watermelon kombucha for lunch, and plantain chips and salsa for snacking. $23.89
3 p.m. — I settle in for a few hours of studying. I'm enrolled in a 10-week online business course at Harvard. The course cost $1,900, which is the most money I've ever spent on anything ever. I debated for weeks over whether I should do it. At the time, I was feeling so lost and unmotivated. I moved to L.A. for a job that wasn't challenging me in the way I thought it would, and I couldn't decide what my next step should be — a different job, business school, freelance? I had a feeling the intensity of the course would stir up motivation, so I decided to enroll. I'm still undecided about business school, but I was right about the motivation. I feel like my brain is awake again, and I'm taking the initiative at work to create projects for myself that make me feel challenged. Also I put the tuition charge on my travel rewards card, so at the very least I earned points towards our trip to Italy later this year.
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8 p.m. — After five hours of financial accounting, my brain is fried. I open a bottle of red wine and make BLTs with a killer basil-shallot-mayo spread. We finish watching Heat, another in our L.A. movie marathon. Does anyone else end up watching movies in two to three installments because you fall asleep so easily?
Daily Total: $42.60

Day Four

10 a.m. — My boyfriend and I have coffee with a potential real estate agent. We meet at Blue Bottle and I pay for my boyfriend's drip coffee and my iced almond milk latte. We met this agent at an open house a few weeks ago and liked that she didn't write us off for being newbs to home-buying. Over coffee she walks us through the basics of the buying process and recommends a few small mortgage lenders. We're still in the early stages — we've gone to a few open houses to get a feel of what we like, and done preliminary research about the L.A. market (expensive) and up-and-coming neighborhoods. We want this purchase to have a strong ROI in a few years, so we're trying to be strategic and not let too much emotion factor into the equation. (I'm a cancer, so this is difficult.) $11.79
4:30 — I meet a friend for a glass of rosé. He's moving to L.A. this summer and I couldn't be more thrilled. I've lived here for almost a year and haven't made many new friends. I'm used to meeting people through work or other friends, but my company is tiny and I don't know many other people here. My goal for my second year in L.A. is to volunteer and pick up a new hobby that'll help me meet new people. I'm thinking the L.A. Conservancy, and I'd like to get back into ceramics classes. $15.66
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6 p.m. — Back to TJ's to pick up supplies for dinner and a few staples for the week. My boyfriend is craving pasta and I've had three glasses of rosé, so we're making Bon Appetit's Best Macaroni and Cheese tonight. I buy rigatoni, gruyere, fontina, cheddar, parmesan, and butter. For the week I buy apples, a tray of strawberries for $5, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, celery, carrots, onions, bananas, sweet potatoes, sliced turkey, marinated chicken, and a bottle of Bulleit bourbon. We split the bill evenly. $44
Daily Total: $71.45

Day Five

8 a.m. — While I eat breakfast, my boyfriend and I catch up on a few outstanding Venmos. He charges me for two wedding gifts (honeyfund contributions) and two baby gifts (baby-sized Nikes, SO CUTE). I charge him half of the dog-sitting fee we're paying while we're at one of the out-of-town weddings. $180
10 a.m. — My credit card gets charged for magazine subscription renewals — Bon Appétit, Architectural Digest, AFAR, and Elle Décor. I'll support print media until my dying day.
6 p.m. — I walk to my local yoga studio and take my third class in a five-class package I purchased for $75 last month. I kinda hate this studio because they pack the classes sardine-style and I spend half the class making jokes to myself like: "Nama-stay-away from my yoga mat."
11 p.m. — I'm almost out of these fancy facial cotton pads that I use for removing makeup, so I purchase more on Amazon. I also buy a new yoga bag because the Amazon impulse purchase addiction is a real thing. I pick the non-rush shipping, which gives me a $10 credit to Prime Now. $26.82
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Daily Total: $206.82

Day Six

8 a.m. — I get wild with breakfast and use the last of our sourdough to make toast with jam. On the walk to work I almost buy an iced tea, but remember I have a hair appointment this evening and should save every dollar I can.
1 p.m. — Work has been insane, but I take 30 minutes to eat a salad and scroll through Open Listings. There are only a few new listings, and I notice most of them are in West Adams. I spend time researching the neighborhood. The crime rate is pretty high there compared to the rest of the city, but the listings in our price range are a good size and I love that they're Craftsman-style, so I make a note to spend some time there in the next few weekends and see how it feels.
5 p.m. — I spend two and a half hours getting my hair highlighted. Highlights are my only regular beauty expense, and I've been getting them since I was 15. There is nothing more fun than shocking someone you've known for years with the truth that you're not a natural blonde. They feel so deceived. I try to stretch my appointments out 12 to 14 weeks; I'd go longer, but my hair grows quickly. I do trims myself because spending an extra $150 on a cut would make me feel Lindsay Lohan-level financially irresponsible. And since I don't spend money on other beauty treatments like mani/pedis, facials, spray tans, eyelash extensions, microblading, cool sculpting (can you tell I live in L.A.?), I feel okay splurging every three months. $170
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Daily Total: $170

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I get an email alert that a pair of rainbow stud earrings I want from Local Eclectic are back in stock. I click on the link immediately and add them to the shopping cart, then stare at the $52 order for a minute before exiting the screen. I know I don't really need the earrings — I just want something to look forward to in this moment. I used to fully subscribe to the idea that I could buy away the sad. When I turned 27, I literally sat down, poured myself a large glass of whiskey, and really looked at my spending versus saving. I had to face the hard reality that I was kind of an asshole with my expenses, and I was only hurting myself. The longer I spent buying whatever, whenever, the longer it would take me to get the real things I wanted, like a home. So I've spent the past two years reforming my ways. I don't always succeed, but I take even the tiny wins as a step forward.
3 p.m. — My Amazon Subscribe & Save items ship, and my card is charged. In addition to dog food, I get hand soap, dish soap, paw wipes, body wash, and my ride or die L'Oreal Brow Stylist. They're on different schedules, but this month five things lined up, so I get a 15% discount. $44.99
6 p.m. — I give myself a manicure so that I can hand model two products my boyfriend needs to shoot this evening. He's a photographer and owns a design agency. In the past, I've used this as an opportunity to get a manicure and have him expense it, but I didn't have time this week. I spend an hour delicately holding boxes and sensually throwing shredded coconut in the air. As repayment, he takes a few headshots of me — I need to upgrade my LinkedIn photo from the fuzzy Photo Booth picture I've had for years.
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11 p.m. — I'm about to fall asleep when my best friend texts me a dress from Reformation that is literally made for me. Black linen, nipped in the waist, suitable for work — it's a unicorn in dress form. It's $250, and those wedding gifts and my highlights were a big splurge, so I make a mental note to check for it next month. If it's sold out by then, it's not meant to be.
Daily Total: $44.99
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.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.
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