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A Week In Bay Area, CA, On A $72,000 Salary

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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 associate art director who makes $72,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a beauty blender.
Occupation: Associate Art Director
Industry: Art
Age: 29
Location: Bay Area, CA
Salary: $72,000 (this shakes out to $48,724.56 after tax, ouch).
Net Worth: $25,342 ($16,677 in checkings, $1,076 in savings, $7,589.73 in my 401(k). My partner and I maintain separate accounts and venmo each other 50/50 for our joint purchases).
Debt: $0 (I paid the last of my $32,000 of student loans last month and my car is paid off as well).
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,030
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600 (my partner and I live with a couple who owns the house so we have a sweetheart deal. I know it won't last forever so I'm doing my best to save while I can).
401(k): $207
Car Insurance: $210
Health Insurance: $128.48
Utilities/Internet: $50-$100
Spotify Premium: $10
Streaming Services: I mooch off of friends.
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 good at school and my mom was a first-generation college student. I'm originally from a very small town and most people went into trades or became stay-at-home parents. I have always loved to draw and decided to go to art school, choosing one associated with a public university that offered me the most scholarships. I paid for university by taking out loans and working full time while in school. I am very proud of pushing my way through school but it was very stressful and I worried about money the whole time. My parents are lower middle class and would pitch in for groceries when they could but otherwise I was on my own.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't discuss money often, though it was kind of the elephant in the room. My mom did show me how to balance a checkbook and taught me I should save more than I spend. Our family vacations consisted of camping and doing a lot of free activities so I didn't feel deprived of experiences growing up.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job working in an ice cream store when I was 16 and worked there until I left for college. This allowed me to afford the required technology and tools for art school. I've always been employed since then.
Did you worry about money growing up?
My dad was an alcoholic who didn't work and coasted off disability so I was always stressed about money. I could tell that whatever cash my mom brought in was quickly depleted. My dad would impulse-buy cars and other expenses that would freak my mom out. My father started asking my siblings and me for money by the time I was 12. I hoarded money for this reason, usually having around $100 always hidden in my room.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, sometimes. The Bay Area is so, so expensive but I'm in a specific field and would lose my job if I moved away. Living here, it seems that on my salary I will never be able to afford a home or have children, which I want to do. I have been promoted three times since I started at the company I'm with now but even with negotiation I feel that I'm underpaid for the area I live in. I'm trying my best to be able to retire one day but if I need to help take care of my mom when she's older or an emergency expense comes up, I know that I'll be in for a struggle.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent at 18 when I went away to college. If I were to lose my job, my boyfriend has said he'd help take care of expenses until I get back on my feet. I could also stay with family if need be but that would mean returning to the Midwest, which I don't want to do.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No passive or inherited income. I did receive around $1,000 cumulatively at my high school graduation party as gifts, which I used to buy college supplies.

Day One

5 a.m. — My partner, V., wakes up and gets ready for work. I give him a sleepy smooch goodbye and go back to sleep.
7:15 a.m. — I slowly wake up, then check my phone. I recently returned from a trip home to the Midwest and am still in the wrong time zone mentally. I have been enjoying getting ready more slowly because of this! I drink a glass of water, take a shower, then wake the dogs up to let them outside. My dandruff shampoo is no longer cutting it so I make a mental note to buy something else this week. I put on Tarte Amazonian Clay tinted moisturizer, Burt's Bees chapstick and Benefit mascara. Since I'm working from home today, I remain in my pajamas. I make a cup of coffee and am at my desk by 8.
8 a.m. — At my desk! My boss was out a full week so I'm a bit anxious for him to respond to how my teammates and I handled things in his absence. I work at a décor design company so you'd think it would not be terribly high stress but I've been feeling burned out for months. My dogs are cuddled up on their dog bed beside me. When I feel anxious, I pause to cuddle the pups.
9:30 a.m. — In the first meeting of the day. I get a second cup of coffee and help prioritize creative workloads for the week. My days usually have three hours gobbled up by meetings. My workload remains the same as it was before I was promoted but now I also have the responsibility of managing a small team of creatives.
10:30 a.m. — My roommates, E. and F., are awake and packing since they are going away for the next few days. We are going to watch their dog while they are gone. I do some laundry and have fried rice for lunch around noon.
1:36 p.m. — All morning has been spent pushing and yet my to-do list grows longer by the second. This is the most stressful time of the year with this company. I grab a Diet Coke.
3:30 p.m. — The dogs start barking and run out of the office. Yay, V. is home from work! I remain at my desk fielding emails.

4:26 p.m. — I finish work and we go to the grocery store. We grab essentials including coffee, bread, bananas, cheese and veggie patties. I'm not vegetarian but V. is so I rarely eat meat at home. I pay and V. will venmo me half later. $126

5:45 p.m. — I start the rice cooker and then play Project Zomboid with V. for an hour. It's the most realistic zombie game I've ever played, don't let the graphics fool you. If you're into that sort of thing, I definitely recommend.

6:45 p.m. — I fry garbanzo beans, simmer them in butter masala sauce and then dinner is served! It's very filling with the rice. I pretty much always cook dinner and V. cooks breakfasts.

9:45 p.m. — I wash my face with the usual CeraVe cleanser, use First Aid Beauty collagen cream and finish up with a sample size of Caudalie Vinoperfect eye cream. My roommate gifted me Laneige Apple Lime Lip Sleeping Mask, which I am amazed by, so I apply some of that too. V. and I cuddle and I fall asleep before 10.

Daily Total: $126

Day Two

5 a.m. — Kiss V. goodbye, go back to sleep.
6:40 a.m. — Wake up right before my alarm in a great mood. Hop in the shower, feed the dogs and pack a bologna sandwich and a Diet Coke for lunch. I wear a pink and red sundress with a red cardigan and Vans. I grab a banana for the car ride and I'm out the door by 7:15. I work in the office twice a week. It is usually an hour drive and very soul-sucking. I listen to Spotify the whole time.
8:20 a.m. — Once I arrive, I park and walk to the office, which is really just a warehouse. It's in a sort of rough area with homeless tents, RVs and wild dogs. Gotta love it! Unlike many tech companies in the Bay Area, we have no café, gym or any of those other perks. It's frustrating because I know the company is making millions. I've seen the receipts with my own eyes!
8:23 a.m. — I make a cup of coffee and then set up my laptop to the Cintiq tablet. It's only myself and one other creative in today. Most take PTO to avoid driving into the office on the required days. It's an unfortunate situation and very frustrating driving all this way just to sit in silence with my headphones in. I start to push out projects.
9:45 a.m. — I'm feeling hungry but don't want to eat my sandwich too early. I eat a beef jerky stick in the break room. Then I'm back to work.
11 a.m. — Have a Zoom meeting from my desk. Originally the push was to come in so that we could have meetings together at a conference table but there were too many technical difficulties. I think about my bologna sandwich in the fridge.
12:23 p.m. — Pause to eat my packed lunch. I take a minimal lunch so that I can try to hit the road before rush hour. Leaving 20 minutes later sometimes equals an additional hour of traffic.
1:14 p.m. — Someone has been using a tape gun and it's giving me a migraine. My mood is slowly depleting. I have been applying to other jobs for over a year at this point but I keep getting promoted instead. I've tried negotiating with each promotion but still feel underpaid and overwhelmed most days. It's really difficult because this job has become so much of my identity. I left the Midwest for this career. For many art industries, your passion for the work is considered part of your payment and I guess is how they rationalize paying you less. I grab a La Croix from the fridge. Jerky and seltzer is what we get so I'd better be happy with it for the time being, right?
4:30 p.m. — I'm out of here! I walk to where I parked, then remember my bra has a big ol' rip in it. I check and see that it will take an hour to get home already so I decide to hit the nice mall nearby.
4:45 p.m. — I park at the mall. My Midwestern sensibilities are horrified by paying for parking to buy stuff but it is what it is. $3
4:50 p.m. — I hit Sephora. I get Ouai thick hair shampoo, a beauty blender and Sephora brand mascara and eyeliner. I spend more than I intended but rationalize that my rent is so low that I can treat myself sometimes. $86
5:20 p.m. — I go to Victoria's Secret, try on like six bras and leave with the one I like best. $49.96
6:20 p.m. — I arrive home and say hello to V. and the dogs. I start making Impossible Burgers and a salad. Then V. practices his bass while I play Switch Sports volleyball. I'm pretty good! Slowly moving up through the ranks.
10:15 p.m. — After my skincare, I fall into bed.
Daily Total: $138.96

Day Three

7:20 a.m. — Oops, I slept through my alarm! I never do that and I'm panicked. I frantically jump in the shower, throw on mint-colored slacks with a white smock shirt and run out the door by 7:40 with a banana in hand. Luckily V. took the day off so he corrals and feeds the dogs.
8:30 a.m. — I park and walk to the office. More creatives are in today, which is exciting. I make my first cup of coffee and start going through emails.
11 a.m. — A product manager reaches out to tell me a new project is due mid-next week. I tell her that with my current workload, that is not feasible unless the projects can be reprioritized or moved to someone else. She says she will discuss with sales and get back to me. Sigh. In the past I would have worked through the weekend to meet the deadline but if it is that urgent, then they can hire more people. I consider drafting an email to the higher ups, begging for creatives to be allowed to work from home so that we can be more productive. The reality is that I'm now spending four to six hours a week sitting in traffic rather than working, all so I can sit in an office with spotty internet and lots of distracting sounds. Butts in seats is what's important, I guess.
12:30 p.m. — I go to my usual café for when I don't pack lunch. The service is always really good. I get a pear, pecan and blue cheese salad and read Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger at my table. It's like a 4/10 but I always feel like I have to finish books once I start them. $13.16
3:30 p.m. — I leave the office once my boss does. Traffic is nuts as usual, even before rush hour. I listen to the Just Break Up advice podcast.
4:41 p.m. — Made it home. I grab some extra toasty Cheez-Its and a Diet Coke and then plug in my laptop, charger, Cintiq, mouse and keyboard. I am ready just in time for my next meeting at 5.
5:45 p.m. — Meeting is done and so am I. We have a Zoom meeting with the Chinese side of the company each week. I've been trying to learn basic Mandarin for a month and I'm just now starting to pick up words during these meetings. My roommates get home and I chat with them for a bit.
6 p.m. — V. lies down for a nap. I cross my fingers that he's not down for the count for the rest of the night. I feed the dogs, then sit in the fenced-in backyard with them and do half an hour of Duolingo. I paid for a year of Duolingo Premium a few months ago and it's definitely been worth it.
7 p.m. — I'm hungry. I put the puppy on the bed to wake V. up and it works! He suggests we go out for Thai food. I touch up and we are out the door by 7:15. We share a red curry and spicy fried rice with tofu. Delicious but very spicy. He pays. It's around $40.
8 p.m. — Back home! We watch episode one of The Bear with the roomies. I like it so far and the lead is super hunky. Afterwards I do my usual skincare. V. and I retire to our room, chat and are asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $13.16

Day Four

5 a.m. — I give V. a kiss goodbye and then scoot to the center of the bed to maximize the rest of my slumber.
7:30 a.m. — I'm awake! I get to work from home the rest of the week. I drink water, shower, let the dogs outside and feed them, and make myself a cup of coffee. I see my family group chat has new messages so I respond to them. It's hard being away from my family and I try to visit twice a year at least.
8:14 a.m. — At my desk reading emails and configuring my hit list for the day. My stomach grumbles so I get a banana and an apple cinnamon rice cake. I touch base with my mentees to ensure we will meet deadlines.
11:20 a.m. — I heat up my curry leftovers. I'm flying through emails! Now to actual work. I open Photoshop and get to refining an illustration.
12:15 p.m. — Shower! I put on a yellow shift dress, do the usual quick makeup, grab a Diet Coke and back to work I go. I realize it's the end of the month so I venmo the roommates $600 for my portion of the rent. Before pivoting back to projects, I jot down some things that I want to bring up in my therapy appointment later this evening.
2:34 p.m. — My stomach is rumbling so I get a handful of extra toasty Cheez-Its, yum. I hear F. unloading the dishwasher so I go help. I also drink some water and let the dogs outside.
3:15 p.m. — F. brings me a glass of iced coffee he made, woohoo! I've just hit a wall with work and this will give me the boost I need to get me through the last chunk of the day. I wish it was Friday already.
4 p.m. — Therapy! My therapist is great. She is also a Midwest transplant in the Bay. I tell her about my trip home, which had a lot of stressful family drama, and vent about how stuck I feel in my position. She suggests I try a no drinking/substances for a month refresh. She also sends a podcast episode for me to listen to about addiction. The payment is auto-deducted from my checking. $80
5:10 p.m. — V. and I take a walk around the block with the dogs. They love it and I feel guilty that I don't take them more often. I have some blueberries when we get back.
6:40 p.m. — I make a bologna sandwich with stone ground mustard. After that, I notice a bunch of dog nose streak marks on the windows so I get the Windex and wipe them down. I try to finish my book on the couch but it's really not hitting. I retire it to the bookshelf and do half an hour of Duolingo instead.
8 p.m. — I turn my attention to Jewish Matchmaking on Netflix. I get sucked in for an hour and a half. So interesting!
9:30 p.m. — I do my skincare, then lie in bed and put on the podcast my therapist sent. It's the Hidden Brain podcast and the episode is called "Paradox of Pleasure." There is this study with rats where they removed their dopamine production system. If food is placed in the rat's mouth, they will eat. But if placed just a rat's length away from it, they die of starvation. Dopamine is intrinsically linked to motivation but in today's society every dopamine hit (phones, food, drugs) is so readily available. I do my skincare and get in bed. V. is out with friends and will come back later.
Daily Total: $80

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I wake up from a weird nightmare. I've been trying to eliminate my cannabis usage and my dreams have been nuts since then. I do the usual, let the dogs out and make coffee, and I'm at my desk before 8.
10:37 a.m. — The work pressure is mounting and I can feel the tears starting to build. I take a shower to calm down and take deep breaths. We are seeing Barbie this evening so I put on a pink and green patterned floral dress with a pearl necklace.
11:50 a.m. — I make a grilled cheese.
3:30 p.m. — Luckily work has a policy where we get out at 3 on Fridays to kick off the weekend. V. gets home and we chill with the roommates on the couch and surf YouTube. After that we all go for a stroll around the block.
5:30 p.m. — After feeding the dogs, V. and I head to the theater. We are way early so we get sandwiches at a place next door, he pays.
6:16 p.m. — I purchase our tickets and a large Diet Coke to share. We really enjoy it! A little girl sitting behind me kicks my seat the whole time but otherwise it's a lovely movie that may or may not have made me cry. V. and I have a really good discussion on the way home about patriarchy. $37.20
9:30 p.m. — We get home. Our roommates have headed to their friend's birthday party so V. and I have the house to ourselves. You know what that means, winky face.
10:38 p.m. — We play with the dogs and then I make us some nachos to split. It's just cheese and hot sauce but it hits the spot. Then we pass out for the night.
Daily Total: $37.20

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — We wake up and cuddle until the dogs start whining, then we let them outside. It's a beautiful sunny day. V. makes breakfast potatoes, scrambled eggs and veggie sausage as I make coffee. I start a load of laundry and then we watch an episode of Intervention. That and Hoarders are two of our constantly on shows.
9:55 a.m. — I don a hat, work boots and work gloves, and V. and I go out to the backyard to do some yard work. With our rent being so cheap, we like to help where we can. We rake the tree leaves and prune and water the rosebushes.
12:15 p.m. — I thumb through a Georgia O'Keeffe art book on the couch and feel inspired. My therapist suggested I try to do more art outside of work, which sounds like a good idea. V. and I head to Michaels and I grab a few small canvases. I already have everything else I need. $16.30
1:20 p.m. — We also grab some groceries while we're out. We get La Croix, salad, cereal, ginger beer, cranberry juice and limes. V. pays and I venmo half. $19
3 p.m. — Get home and chill with the roommates. V. and I make mocktails with the beverages we bought earlier. We all watch two episodes of The Great British Baking Show.
6 p.m. — I feed the dogs and we go for a spin around the block. They look so happy! Afterwards I make spaghetti and salad for dinner.
7:24 p.m. — We do the dishes and then play with the dogs.
8 p.m. — I can't find any game I want to play in my Steam library so I buy a game called 60 Seconds! Reatomized. It's on sale and really fun! It's a comedy game about the nuclear apocalypse where you make decisions to keep yourself alive in a bunker. It's more fun than it sounds. I keep having to pee because I've had like five mocktails. $4.99
11:30 p.m. — E. texts us that they're on their way home and ask if we want any Jack in the Box so we ask for large fries. When they get home we all snack and talk about Barbie. V. venmos for the fries.
12:06 a.m. — Whoa, late night! I fall asleep after my skincare.
Daily Total: $40.29

Day Seven

9:05 a.m. — We sleep in pretty late for us. I heat up leftover breakfast potatoes and make coffee, then feed the dogs. I do Duolingo while waiting for them to poop.
10:16 a.m. — We notice that one of our dogs is breaking out in hives. I borrow half a Benadryl from E. and feed it to him, then hop in the shower just in case I need to rush him to the pet hospital.
11:15 a.m. — Watch a Lost Boys punk band documentary with everyone. I eat a banana. Our dog looks noticeably better so I breathe a sigh of relief and take him and the other pups for a walk.
1:45 p.m. — I start an oil still life in the backyard of a red rose in a Diet Coke can. V. fiddles with a bass amp he's trying to fix. My base underpainting looks solid so I play a bit more of my new game.
3:12 p.m. — V. starts an Amazon order and asks if I want to add anything since he has Prime and I don't. I add a six-pack of socks since I own hardly any summer pairs. $16
3:37 p.m. — I start a new book from the shelf, How to Be Alone by Lane Moore. I'm enjoying it so far — it's very funny but also sad.
6:30 p.m. — V. texts the roommate group chat that he's on his way back and asks if we want anything from Carl's Jr. I get the California Classic. I venmo him for my portion. $5
7 p.m. — We watch a few more episodes of The Bear. Having worked in restaurants through college, this show stresses me out but I'm enjoying it.
10 p.m. — V. and I lie down and talk and giggle until we fall asleep.
Daily Total: $21
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