Money Diaries logo

A Week In San Bernardino County, CA, On A $43,800 Salary

Photo: Shutterstock
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: an administrative coordinator who makes $43,800 per year and spends some of her money this week on fireworks.
Occupation: Administrative Coordinator
Industry: Commercial Maintenance
Age: 40
Location: San Bernardino County, CA
Salary: $43,800
Net Worth: -$16,828 ($438 in savings minus debt)
Debt: Car loan: $17,266
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $640
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $975
Car Loan: $413
Renters/Car Insurance: $215
Utilities: $150
Cable/Internet/Phone: $230
Hulu/Netlfix/Amazon Prime: $33.97
Disney+/HBO Max/Apple TV: $0 (swap with a friend)
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, I was the first one in my family to graduate high school and just always figured I would. I went to a community college and paid for it through financial aid, no loans. I then attended a university for two semesters and paid out of pocket. I never finished my degree as my money situation changed and I could no longer afford to continue.
Advertisement
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I never received any financial education, I just always knew we didn't have any money. My mom was a single mother of three and received aid/food stamps when she first left my abusive father. Once she started working, things were easier but we were never very comfortable.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I always did random work like cleaning, caretaking, babysitting, etc. for spending money, but my first real job was working in a record store at 17.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not at all actually. I knew we didn't have any but I was on my own before I actually knew why we needed it. My mom did a wonderful job of making sure we had what we needed and did her best to see that we had what we wanted when we earned it. I think when you live like we did, you just know what you can and can't have and learn to be grateful for what you do have. We didn't get to do a lot of things other kids may have done like amusement park trips, vacations, and whatnot, but we always had a dollar for the ice-cream man and took trips to the beach when we could.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, but not as much as I should. I am grown and have worked for two decades with nothing to show for it. No savings, no retirement plan. I have a terrible habit of thinking only about the present when it comes to money.
Advertisement
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
18 years old. I graduated high school at 17 and moved out of state to live with my grandfather. I went to work immediately and got my first apartment a week after I turned 18. I was hellbent on being independent and on my own. My mom did not want me to leave. She told me if I left I could never come back. I remember telling her, "Yes, that's the plan!" I don't know why I was like that, but I never did go back...even though I always knew I could have.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

7 a.m. — Look, it's not that I'm not a morning person. I wake up just fine, it's the whole getting out of my comfy bed that I struggle with. But I have my first kickboxing class tonight and I need to make sure I have everything I need for it before I head to work. I am up and out of the house before 8 a.m. Class fee has been auto-paid this morning. $10.76
2 p.m. — The end of the month is always my busiest time so I am finally taking a break from invoices and audits and schedules, oh my! I work in the boonies and there's nothing around here but a corner market, so I escape and grab a cup of ice and a banana. I do this every day, and because of COVID, I can no longer just refill my cup, I have to buy a new one each time. I hate the waste, but I don't have a freezer in my office and I NEED ICE WATER to live. Also, I need to get out of the office and spread my wings a little. $1.56
Advertisement
8 p.m. — I end up working later than usual and make it to class in the nick of time. Man, kickboxing is no joke. Have I ever sweat that much in my life? That hurt like hell and I loved it. After the class, I make a quick stop to get some missing ingredients for my niece's slumber party (pepperoni, olives, onions, bell pepper). There are no less than one million 14-year-old girls running around my sister's house when I get there. There's a lot of screeching, giggling, yelling, laughing, and everything is a blur. I get to be the fun auntie for a bit, and we make homemade pizza and play a word game. I gotta get out of here before these girls find out I'm not that cool and it's past my bedtime. $13.04
Daily Total: $25.36

Day Two

6 a.m. — I'm up extra early today because my friend, F., and I are heading to Arizona for a quick weekend trip and I want to get out of work as soon as possible since this is last minute and I have EVERYTHING to do. As I am rushing out the door, I realize something is amiss...could it be that my entire house, yard, driveway, and truck are covered in shaving cream and toilet paper?!?!?!?! I've said it before and I'll say it again: teenage girls are the worst. I spend the next 20 minutes cleaning up the truck enough to be able to drive to work. As I'm driving, toilet paper is flowing out of the truck bed like ribbons so I just pretend I meant to do that. I already had a mobile wash scheduled at my office this morning and when I show up my car wash guy just laughs and lets me know he'll take care of it. $20 for the cleaning, $15 for the tip. $35
Advertisement
11 a.m. — Bust through my work like a champ and now it's off to get ready for the trip. Quick trip through Valvoline for an oil change and to get all my fluids topped off and tires checked. $77.82
11:30 a.m. — Stop at the grocery store to fill the cooler with road snacks. I get water for me, soda pop for F., bread, and tomatoes. I'm going to make BLTs and cut up some fruit, cheese, and crackers for the drive. F. works long days, so I want him to be able to fill his belly and rest while I drive tonight. As I leave the store, F. calls to tell me he was able to get off work early and will be ready by 2 p.m. WHAT?!?!? This man has never been early to anything in his life. I gotta get moving. $16.79
1:30 p.m. — Time to fill up the beast with gas. While it's pumping, I remember I need ice so I grab my wallet, lock up the truck, and head inside for water and a couple of beers for F. after work. Get back to the truck and realize my keys are in the ignition, my purse with my phone is on the seat and I'm a super idiot. Everyone present offers me their phone which is so kind, but I realize I don't know any numbers by heart. A couple of customers rig some wire and help each other navigate unlocking my door through the tiniest of cracks in my window and are able to snatch up my keys with their handy contraption. I thank them profusely and hand them $10 each. $50 gas, $12.50 ice and beers, $20 to my heroes. $82.50
Advertisement
4:30 p.m. — As I said, F. has never been early to anything in life so we don't actually hit the road until 4:30. I had plenty of time to pack my bag, cut up fruit and cheese, pack the cooler, and get everything loaded. I skipped on the BLTs as I decided we will be stopping in La Quinta for dinner with my bestie, B. and her hubby, S...whether F. wants to or not. Stop for a cup of ice on our way out. $0.56
9:30 p.m. — I knew F. wouldn't mind my impromptu dinner plans. We end up staying way longer at the restaurant than we planned because we always have such a good time together. Also, we got a free show. Our server quit right in the middle of taking our order, after an altercation with a drunk customer, middle fingers up and everything. Then our busboy became our server. It was his first time so we cheered him on and did our best to make life easy for him. B. and S. pay for dinner and F. and I way over-tip. $40 each. $40
Daily Total: $252.67

Day Three

3:30 a.m. — Holiday traffic, man. My brilliant idea to drive through the night wasn't so brilliant after all. Finally drop F. off with his family and make it to my cousin's by 3:30 a.m.
7 a.m. — Our plans to drive out to Sedona are squashed because fires have the roads closed, so I get to sleep in a little. All contained and no injuries, thankfully. I get up and get ready for the day. We decide to head to a water park in Phoenix for the day instead. My cousin pays for my ticket.
Advertisement
12 p.m. — Welp, my first time at a water park...and my last. Even with limited capacity, the wait times for EVERYTHING were extraordinary. They had to close two different attractions at the same time because kids are gross and that was it for me. I spend the rest of the time day drinking and making friends. I can have a good time in a port-a-potty with the right people so it wasn't a total bust, but I wouldn't opt for this again. ($50 drinks, $15.09 snacks, $16 locker). $81.09
9:30 p.m. — My little cousin and I head to Wally World because I don't know how to actually pack for things I need and fireworks are legal in Arizona so we go crazy buying up sparklers, poppers, and other oddly named explosives. We're all too tired from the sun and everyone is knocked out. $44.45
10 p.m. — Every night, no matter what, I wash my feet in the tub. Then I wash my face with dove white bar soap. I use hot water to clean and cold water to rinse. This has been my jam since I was in middle school. I roll my face with a jade roller. Does it do anything for me? I don't know, but it feels cooling and wonderful. Slap on some retinol serum and Olay micro-sculpting cream and get in bed.
Daily Total: $125.54

Day Four

8 a.m. — Everyone sleeps in and I plan to make a breakfast of chorizo, egg, and potato burritos to have ready when they all rise. I run to the market to get some serranos and also find handmade corn tortillas. Score. F. and I are heading home today, so I also get ice for the cooler for the drive. Once I get home, I cook breakfast until everybody is up. We all eat and F. and I continue to text our adventures. His brother has a no technology rule in the house as he doesn't want his young son to be distracted. So anytime we're out here I make it a point to text F. random, unnecessary things as much as possible while he's there. It makes me laugh because I know he's trying not to answer but can't help it. I promise I am otherwise very respectful. $7.62
Advertisement
1 p.m. — On my way to F.'s brother's house, I stop to see my cousin at work. He is a tattoo artist and we chat while he works on a design for a customer. I bring him a tea and a cookie because I love him. We make plans for a future visit when it's not so hot, and I head over to F. $3.29
3 p.m. — Get to F. and spend some time with the family before we hit the road. He drives this time. We stop to fill up the beast and get road snacks, beef jerky, nuts, and drinks. F. pays.
6:30 p.m. — All I want to do is see a fireworks show, I have been jilted twice already this year. F. learns that Agua Caliente Casino has a show that is synced up to a local radio station that starts at 9. We have time to kill so we go to B. and S.'s house nearby and visit for a bit. Works out perfectly because B. bought a new sofa and I want her old one. F. and S. load the sofa into the truck. S. makes a yummy pasta dinner for us and then we say our goodbyes.
9 p.m. — We park on a bridge overlooking the casino and set up the radio. The show is spectacular and we light our sparklers and dance along to the music. F. fills up the beast again and I watch a wonderful display of lights in the sky out of my window as he drives us home. We arrive at my house around 11. The day was perfect and there's no one else I would have rather spent it with. We're knocked out by 11:30.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $10.91

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — Wake up, take a shower, put on clean jammies, and crawl back into bed for the day with my dog. My niece brings me some pancakes. We eat in my bed and watch Skater Girl on Netflix. I owed her $10 and I finally have the cash on me so I give it to her. $10
6:30 p.m. — Wow! I have spent the whole entire day laying down or napping. I have a bunch of missed calls and I return them. Grab some watermelon and some ice water and sit outside for a bit. Decide to take my dog to the park. I love it when he's cool being lazy with me but I also know he needs to run. This dog is made of electricity and it's just not like us to spend the entire day doing nothing at all. My niece was with him all weekend and I know he missed me by the way he shadows my every move.
7 p.m. — Take my dog for a run and then head to the grocery store for tomato juice, beer, avocado, bread, cilantro, bananas, and breath treats for the dog. When we get home, I put laundry in the washing machine, water the house plants, water my grass, and clean up the yard a bit. I sit outside for a while and then get back in bed around 10. $50.12

Daily Total: $60.12

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Too much rest is a terrible thing. I am so tired today from doing nothing all day yesterday. I grab an avocado and ice water and I'm out the door with wet hair.
Advertisement
12 p.m. — After catching up with work stuff all morning, I head to the batting cages for a break. F. is trying to make me a Dodger's fan, and throughout COVID, he has taught me a lot about the game so he is succeeding a bit. I learn by doing, so I've been coming to the cages for a couple of months and I love it. I have really improved my swing and hitting average. I know it's not the real thing, but it keeps me interested. $20
6 p.m. — On my way back to the office, I grab my daily cup of ice and an apple. I eat oatmeal when I get back to the office. I have another kickboxing class tonight so I snack on my apple while killing time before it starts. $1.56
8 p.m. — Kickboxing is hard! I feel like a noodle and my body is not my own. I stop by the market for fresh green beans, heavy cream, and cinnamon lollipops. My niece passed her driving test today and I promised to make her favorite dinner to celebrate — BBQ chicken thighs, macaroni and cheese, and charred green beans. My arms don't even work, why oh why did I agree to this? Oh yes, because I love her and I love celebrating my loved ones' accomplishments. I should have mentioned by now that my niece has been living with me since she graduated high school in May. I forget because, with our work schedules, I barely see her. She loves her meal. We catch up and then I do my nighttime jam and am out like a light by 10:30. $9.72
Advertisement
Daily Total: $31.28

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Dude. What is wrong with me this week? I start work at 8 a.m. every day and yet I haven't left my house yet. Luckily I work alone and no one is paying attention to what time I get in. I could do my job remotely, but I choose not to. I'm the only one in the office every day, but I need the structure. I'm late so, of course, the beast needs to be fed. I stop at the corner market and fill up with gas. I also grab a coffee and a cup of ice. $51.85
1:30 p.m. — I run to the corner market and grab a protein box. It's just cheese, crackers, peanut butter, grapes, and carrots. $6.15
5:30 p.m. — I head home to make dinner since F. is coming over. There's a flower vendor on the corner as I drive home, so I swoop up some sunflowers. $5
11 p.m. — F. comes over and we have BLTs for dinner. He wants me to watch Workaholics so we put on some episodes and laugh a bunch and swap ridiculous stories from our own youth. He's drinking micheladas and I'm drinking beers with tomato juice and tabasco. Same but different. He's fancier than me. It's not usual for us to drink during the week like this, but I think we both just need to decompress. My niece gets home and I make her a plate and we all chit-chat until it's time for nightly jam and off to bed.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $63
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience 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.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series

Advertisement