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A Week In San Francisco Bay Area On A $175,000 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 development officer who makes $175,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on red pumps.
All currency in USD.
Occupation: Development Officer
Industry: Global Nonprofit
Age: 35
Location: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Salary: $175,000
Net Worth: ~$287,000 (Cash Savings: $35,000, retirement: $181,000, brokerage accounts: $29,000, car: $2,000, pension: $40,000. As a caveat, a previous employer had a rare pension set-up which I contributed to over many years. The $40,000 is the lump sum I've chosen to leave in that account until I turn 65, as withdrawing from it prior to that would disqualify me from the lifetime pension payout. The pension will pay out $1,000/month once I retire. I live with my partner, A., and we keep our finances separate.)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,500-$3,000 depending on my retirement and transit deductions that month
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,475 (my half of a two-bed/two-bath apartment shared with my fiancé in a large apartment complex, including one parking spot)
Medical, Dental, Vision: $141 (pre-tax)
FSA Spending Account: $229.00 (pre-tax)
Transit Pass: $150-$200 (pre-tax)
Retirement: Ranges month to month as I don't do an even distribution across the year to my employer's retirement offerings. I plan to max out the allowable contribution amount pre-tax this year. I also have an after-tax Roth conversion set up within the plan.
Car Insurance: $70
Internet: A. covers this since I cover car insurance
Hulu: $6.99
HBO Max: A. covers
NYT: $7.50
Classpass: $199
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?
Yes, university was absolutely expected since education is very important to my parents. They both immigrated to the U.S. and came from poor backgrounds. They were both the first in their families to attend university and they credit their educations for allowing them to set up life and raise a family in the U.S. I am very grateful that they paid for my undergraduate tuition and school expenses and I graduated with no debt. I worked part-time jobs in the summer and during the year to have spending money, including saving up for the extra expenses that came up in college.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never talked directly with me about money, but their approach growing up was saving at all costs and avoiding debt, besides the mortgage. We rarely ate out and didn't go on fancy vacations, but did travel abroad to visit my extended family every other year. My grandmother was very generous and basically purchased all of the clothes my sister and I needed during our grade school years, which we picked up on those trips. It wasn't until much later that I realised how much her support helped out my parents financially during those years. My mother taught me to start saving by starting me on an allowance when I was in grade school, $1/week. If I wanted to buy toys or have fun things, I had to save for those.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
At a coffee shop when I was 16. I was very eager to start gaining work experience, even though my parents were firmly against it because they didn't want me to have any distractions from school. I worked most of the summer and after school and made minimum wage. I loved it and it felt empowering to make my own money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I always had my basic needs met and my parents never skimped on spending on school supplies. I couldn't partake in school sports or some school activities since we couldn't afford it, which I remembered sometimes feeling sad about. My father has an extreme scarcity mentality and trauma from going hungry as a kid. I always “felt” his anxiety around money at home even though we were doing fine. He also was laid off a couple of times during the '90s dot com bubble burst and great recession for stints that sometimes lasted up to two years. Money was tight during those times but we always made it work.
Do you worry about money now?
It's complicated. I'm amazed I bring in my current income working in nonprofit. Aside from the wedding costs, I have been putting a lot of my paychecks toward my employer's retirement plan since I feel very behind on those contributions. I couldn't put much toward retirement until approximately three years ago when I switched jobs and started making double my previous salary (and hit the six-figure mark for the first time). My partner, A., finished his doctorate and started working around the same time. My first job out of college was working for a global conglomerate making $29,000, and my income wobbled in the mid-five-figure range across different jobs from 2009-2019, with several stints of unemployment. Those experiences and roles stayed with me and I learned to never take a good job for granted. I was also one of the many impacted by 2020 pandemic layoffs. Fortunately, I landed the role I'm in now and negotiated a significant pay increase. A. and I are planning our big wedding celebration abroad this fall and are having a civil ceremony at City Hall prior. We're covering all the wedding expenses ourselves, split 50/50, so that's the big expense we're paying off this year. Our wedding expenses are higher than we expected, but still roughly in budget, due to the rising costs and supply chain issues.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Age 22, when I graduated from college. I suppose my partner is my financial safety net now and I'm the same for him. We keep our finances separate. Once we're officially married, we plan to combine everything. I've never counted my family as a safety net, although I'm sure if I were in a situation where I would be homeless, they'd allow me to stay with them.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No. My grandparents have all passed and weren't able to leave anything behind. I don't expect anything from my parents. I'm very proud of them for building their retirement and putting my sibling and me through college. We plan to support them financially if they run out of retirement funds.

Day One

9:30 a.m. — I wake up sweating, throbbing headache, and my throat is still killing me. At least I don't have a fever anymore. A. and I are both vaxxed and boosted, and are recovering from COVID breakthrough infections. We both always mask when we go out, but unfortunately couldn't outrun the virus forever. He's been recovering longer than me, and in spite of our best efforts to isolate from one another, I tested positive a couple of days later. His doctor has cleared him to leave the apartment after 10+ days of quarantine.
11 a.m. — I'm taking COVID sick time as I recover but am somewhat keeping an eye on email. Although my OOO message is up, I am still getting some antsy coworker pings. I forward them to my boss and give her a call to give her the context and do some of hand-offs for the ones that are higher priority. My boss is fantastic and very supportive.
11:30 a.m. — I text a bit with my friend, M., who is also wedding planning and just got back from a trip to take care of wedding tasks. A. and I did a similar trip a couple of weeks back to do the same for our own wedding. I get a couple of text messages from coworkers come through with well wishes for my recovery.
12:30 p.m. — I ordered ramen from my favourite place yesterday and got two extra orders of broth, pork, and veggies to repurpose for several meals. I grew up having soup at the end of every dinner, so I crave it constantly, even when I'm not sick. We sit down to eat and each take Trader Joe's booster shots, ginger for me, acerola vitamin C for him. I go back to sleep after lunch.
3:30 p.m. — I had a facial originally scheduled for later this week that I need to reschedule. I explain the COVID situation to the receptionist and she luckily slots me in for the week after. I've been diligent about getting laser treatments every month or so in the last year leading up to the wedding. I feel like my face has aged a decade over the pandemic and I want to feel like I've done everything I can to look my best.
4:30 p.m. — A. and I have a brief discussion about our upcoming wedding expenses. We're gearing up to pay the rest of the payments for the venue, decorations, and photography which are due in two months. I'm bracing myself a bit because it's over $10,000. Oof. I also recently paid for the photography deposit for our City Hall ceremony ($650) and purchased my veil ($101). I Venmo requested him for half.
10:30 p.m. — We wind down and go to bed after another day of not doing very much.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — My mind feels clearer and more alert, which is great. However, the cough and raspy voice are still there. Another COVID Sick Day. I switch on my regular NPR podcasts and lie in bed listening.
10 a.m. — A. bounces in with a cup of coffee. He's definitely fully back to his pre-COVID energy levels. He'll be able to go out starting tomorrow and asks me to write down a grocery list. He makes me a blueberry and yoghurt mix for breakfast, hands me a coffee, and goes back to work.
11 a.m. — I scroll through some work emails. Looks like everything is under control. I exchange a couple of messages with the bridal makeup artist I did a makeup trial with recently and have decided to sign. Wedding makeup and hair can be so pricey! She plans to send over the contract later today and I'll review later with A.
2 p.m. — I look at the stack of mail and pull out my primary election ballot envelope and booklet. I starting looking up each of the candidates and reading about the measures. I finish voting and stick my ballot into the envelope.
5:30 p.m. — I open up the link to the new rental contract our leasing consultant sent us. We have less than two months on our current lease and recently started chatting with the leasing office about their renewal offer. The rental market has completely recovered to pre-pandemic levels and we moved in at a very good rate in 2021. Their renewal offer is 30% more, which is still just below the current market rate for a comparable unit locally. It hurts but we plan to bite the bullet. I read through all the documents, mark some final questions for our leasing consultant, and send them off.
6:30 p.m. — I'm starting to get munchy and remember that I need to write a grocery list. I want chicken broth, orange juice, green onion, peppers, tomatoes, hummus, pita chips, avocados, iceberg lettuce, and sparkling water. I feel well enough to cook and open a frozen package of Trader Joe's tteokbokki, heat up the sauce, and stir in the rice cakes. I also take out some impossible meat, add some seasoning, and stir fry that too.
8 p.m. — A. and I munch on dinner in front of the TV watching more My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — Wake up with a headache. My voice is better today but I still don't feel 100%. I text my boss to let her know that I'm still out but will see how I feel tomorrow.
10 a.m. — I take a rapid test since it's after day five and test negative… surprising. I still plan to quarantine today but will test again tomorrow.
2 p.m. — A. gets back from Trader Joe's with five bags of groceries. I'm excited for the orange juice and immediately start chugging it down.
4 p.m. — My energy is waning again. I go to sleep.
9 p.m. — I'm craving boba and haven't had it in a couple of weeks. We have a fantastic boba shop just downstairs that I try to only indulge in once in a while since it's pricey. Tonight is the night. I ask A. if he can go downstairs and pick it up for me if I call in the order and Venmo him back. Done. $7
10:30 p.m. — I've been scouting shoes for my civil ceremony outfit and look again at some glossy red pumps. I originally wasn't going to put too much effort into this outfit but as more time has passed, I have felt more inspired to do so since it's still an incredibly important moment. I decide to purchase them. $152.08
Daily Total: $159.08

Day Four

8 a.m. — I feel like I'm well enough to go back online today, but will just need to monitor my energy level throughout the day. I take a COVID test and it's negative again. I'll test again in a couple of days to just check, but two negative tests is a good sign and follows the CDC guidelines to go out masked moving forward.
8:30 a.m. — I look at the emails as there are a couple of situations that have already snowballed... oh boy. Leave a couple of voicemails and craft a few emails. My boss and I agree to check in early next week to let me settle in a bit.
10 a.m. — I get an alert that the silicone rings I've ordered have arrived. A. is hesitant about wearing wedding bands since wearing jewellery "feels weird" to him. To ease him into it, I bought these silicone wedding bands for us to try. I pick up the package from our mailbox and as soon as A. comes out of the bathroom, I clumsily get down on one knee and ask him to marry me with the squishy ring. He's both delighted and amused, says yes, and says he'll try it out.
11 a.m. — A very large gift I've been working on for over a year at work finally closes. I send the executed agreement over to the donor and alert the internal program leads who are receiving the donation. They'll be thrilled.
12:30 p.m. — My work BFF and I jump on the phone to catch up. We're working on some projects together but also want to take the time to fill each other in on her recent vacation. It's so nice when you have coworkers you can truly be yourself with. We both plan to be back in the office on the same day a couple of weeks out and make a plan to grab lunch then.
3:30 p.m. — I start to feel fatigued and take a breather. The headache is back and I want to keep my energy up as I have an evening class tonight. I've been taking a data presentation class for several weeks. It's been pretty interesting so far.
7 p.m. — I turn on my computer ready to start class promptly at 7 p.m. and then see an email coming through. The teacher has cancelled the class last minute. The class will go an extra week instead.
8 p.m. — My therapist texts me asking about setting up another appointment. I have mixed feelings since our last couple of sessions haven't been very helpful, but they're covered under my insurance and it's so hard to find a therapist with availability these days. I tell myself I'll get back to her next week about continuing sessions.
9 p.m. — We spend the rest of the evening watching the new season of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. The Venice episode tickles my wanderlust.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — I'm looking forward to the weekend ahead. I hear A. stirring and give him a squeeze. I check my emails and see that the donor updates are ready. I double check the language and send it off. It'd be great if we could get this funding closed by next week.
9:30 a.m. — My car needs a smog test so we head to the smog test shop. A. and I share my car, which I purchased over a decade ago. The guy is friendly and tells us it'll only take 20 minutes and recommends a coffee shop a block away while we wait. I order a cappuccino and A. gets a pour-over. A. pays for this round of coffee. We sip our drinks outdoors and then walk back to the shop.
10:15 a.m. — Smog test is done. With the yelp coupon I found, it's $50 total including the certificate. I pay now and A. will split the cost later. $50
1 p.m. — I stop for a lunch break, eat some latkes, and bake another batch of green beans. A. and I also have a video call with our wedding DJ for the first time. We go over general music and vibe preferences. I can follow most of what he's saying although A. has to do some intermittent translating. We both go back to work after the call.
3:30 p.m. — My organisation has a culture of signing off early on Fridays so I know I won't have any more urgent requests coming through for the rest of the day. I decide to go to the framing store to frame a cute sketch I bought a couple of months back. I take the Muni (San Francisco's public transportation system) with a pass and pick out a thin rose gold aluminum frame at the shop. With my Groupon (I bought a voucher worth $100), the total comes out to $24.36. I'll be back in two weeks to pick it up. $24.36
4:30 p.m. — I stop by a dessert shop and buy two cheese pies, original and coconut. They're my guilty pleasure. $7.87
6 p.m. — A. and I go for a walk. I am craving outside food for dinner after eating Trader Joe's all week and I buy myself a poke bowl. I pick a salad and brown rice mix with spicy tuna and hamachi (extra $3) plus cucumber, seaweed salad, furikake, and spicy mayo. With tax and tip, it's $17.33. $17.33
6:30 p.m. — We get home and A. makes himself a salad. We decide to do a date night dinner delivery tomorrow and order from our favourite sushi spot. A. needs to pick up some new running shoes he bought from REI so we eat quickly to go there before it closes.
7:15 p.m. — We drive to REI and it's packed! I stay near the doorway while A. browses and picks up the shoes. We spend the rest of the evening watching Searching for Italy and then head to bed.
Daily Total: $99.56

Day Six

10 a.m. — I wake up not feeling great. Maybe I pushed myself too hard yesterday with the minimal errands that I did. A. and I putter around the apartment, him with his video games, me napping and reading.
2 p.m. — I've been getting into LEGO building the last couple of years and recently purchased one of their Ideas sets — the typewriter. It's awesome and will make a great display piece once I'm done. I put on Parenthood in the background as I work through a lot of the build before hitting a wall at package 10. It's missing a critical piece so I jump onto the LEGO site and submit a “missing piece” order. It should arrive in a week or two. I finish another episode of Parenthood. I know this family is made up, but serious #familygoals when A. and I start a family.
7 p.m. — It's time to order some sushi! I'm excited. A. offers to treat and orders a sushi boat plus seaweed salad for pick-up. We head to the restaurant and I chill in the car while A. goes in to pick it up. We go home and enjoy it together. I'm a little bummed when I receive an event reminder that some mutual friends are having a going away shindig tonight. I can't wait to be able to go to social events again soon.
9 p.m. — We review the engagement photoshoot proofs that our wedding photographers sent over and pick our favourites. I'm relieved that the photos turned out better than expected. A. and I are usually very awkward in front of the camera but the photographers captured some great moments.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I wake up and have a lot more energy today so I decide to get up and go outside.
11 a.m. — We walk toward Chinatown and I stop by a boba place on the way. I try their new dragon fruit beverage with chia seeds. I usually order their dirty banana milk (coffee with banana jam and oat milk), but I am always down to try a new beverage. $7.24
11:45 a.m. — We stop by an Italian deli and I order a sandwich. A. and I walk to the park to sit and eat the sandwich, which is so delicious. $16.26
12:45 p.m. — I have a free sundae voucher from Ghirardelli [chocolate shop] that I'd like to use. We get to the Ghirardelli shop and I buy the classic sundae for us to share. There are of happy tourists roaming the streets and taking photos. We try to take the trolley back but the line is too long. As a Bay Area native, I find it weird that I've never taken the trolley but I've always chalked it up as something I'd do one day if the line isn't too long. I've been waiting a long time.
2:30 p.m. — We decide to take the bus toward Union Square. $2.50
3:15 p.m. — We stop by Tiffany's to look at wedding bands. We were settled on buying rings abroad to save money, but I want to do a comparison with some of the styles here just for kicks. I gravitate toward a simple rose gold band and he tries on the companion band. The sales associate tries to close the sale and not so gently reminds us that with all the weddings happening this year, stock is low. We thank her for her time, jot down the names of the bands we like, and let her know that we're not ready to drop $2,000 on rings. But they're so pretty and we will definitely need to discuss. We walk home.
9 p.m. — I'm hungry so I pan fry some scallops I defrosted last night. I tear into some mint chip ice cream and Ben & Jerry's cookie dough. The Sunday Scaries settle in and I look over some work emails to prime my brain for the next morning.
Daily Total: $26
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