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A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $41,600 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 assistant who makes $41,600 per year and spends some of her money this week on renting boxing gloves.
Occupation: Assistant
Industry: Entertainment
Age: 23
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $41,600
Net Worth: -$43,862 ($1,633 in an investment account, $72 in a Roth IRA, $3,558 in a 401(k), $3,500 in high-yield savings, $2,300 in regular savings (I pay my car insurance from this account) and $75 in I-bonds, minus debt).
Debt: $55,000 in student loans.
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $606.84
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,258 (I live with two roommates).
Student Loans: $0 (currently on pause).
Utilities: $47
Water: ~$45
Cell Phone: $0 (on my mother's plan).
Spotify: $10.81
Hollylist: $5 (canceling after this month).
AMC A-List: $24.95
NYT: $4.26 (I pay for my mom's subscription).
Wi-Fi/Cable: $23
Car Insurance: $91 (I did a big payment when I renewed my insurance to get the monthly payment down).
Streaming Services: $0 (between all our family members, my roommates and I have access to almost all the services).
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, both of my parents have graduate degrees so it was expected I'd attend higher education. My mother was low-income growing up so it was especially important to her. I didn't love school but I promised my parents I'd at least do undergrad. I am extremely lucky that my parents paid for a fancy prep school and the first two years of undergrad. My parents divorced while I was in school and it was quite messy. I ended up having to take out loans for the final two years. I worked all four years for spending money but my parents would also give me money here and there for spending if I needed it.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I had surprisingly few conversations growing up about money. We were certainly upper middle class but the kind of wealth I was surrounded with at school made me think differently. My mother grew up poor and always encouraged me to save and learn about finances. My parents refused to talk about their own finances and I only saw a little when my mom asked me to get her tax returns out of her closet and I took a peek.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was helping my mother's friend digitize files when I was in high school. For one summer, eight hours a day, I faxed, shredded and uploaded file after file. I'm not sure how much I made as I gave it all to my mom to put in a savings account.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Growing up I didn't worry about money. We went on family trips, bought new clothes and had all the snacks we wanted. My parents would never buy anything outrageously expensive but we would get phones for Christmas when we were due an upgrade and I know my parents helped their parents out with bills, cars and other expenses. The only time I worried was when my mom got sick and we had a lot of medical expenses and debt.
Do you worry about money now?
I worry about money all the time. Sometimes when I look at my salary after taxes and the cost of living in LA, I wish I had gone into investment banking or law. I recently did testing and learned I have the BRCA II gene. Most of the women in my family have or have had cancer. I have no idea how expensive it will be if I get cancer, but the preventative measures my doctor has talked to me about already have me worried financially.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My mother still pays my phone bill so I'm not totally financially responsible, but I'd say more or less a year and a half ago when I moved to LA. I know for a fact my mother would let me move back in with her (at least temporarily) if anything happened, but I want to stay in LA, so it would be hard for me to leave.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My mom gifted me her old car when I moved to LA. My parents paid for the first two years of college and would give me spending money if I needed it. My father asked me for my information a couple of months ago because he was updating his will. I don't know what is in there but I guess I'm getting something.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and completely forget why I set my alarm this early on a work-from-home day. My limbs feel like jello after doing arms and hot spin yesterday. I pull the covers up instead of getting up and scroll on my phone for a bit. I finally get up to make breakfast, shower, and do my skincare routine (it stays the same every day and consists of switching between Qasil powder and La Roche-Posay foaming cleanser for face wash, prescription acne cream, Great Barrier Relief, Trader Joe's face moisturizer and Supergoop sunscreen (I just purchased the Trader Joe's dupe for when this runs out)). I answer emails while eating pesto eggs on toast.
12 p.m. — I'm going to the dermatologist over lunch so I quickly eat a hodge-podge meal of meat buns, dairy-free yogurt, granola and a handful of grapes. I've struggled with acne since puberty and am in the middle of a particularly bad breakout. My dermatologist confirms what I already knew, that I'll probably have to go back on spironolactone. I was on spiro a couple of years ago and while my skin looked great, it made my period inconsistent. As soon as I went off spiro, I gained weight and my acne came back. I don't want to take it for the rest of my life and I ask her about Accutane. She decides instead I should do an antibiotic, topical spironolactone, and up my tretinoin percentage before trying Accutane. I pay $49 to order the topical spiro from a specialty pharmacy. I end up paying the $25 co-pay with my FSA card (so really $0). $49
1:30 p.m. — LA has been hit with a large amount of rain recently and it's clear no one knows how to drive in it. I narrowly escape getting hit by another car and pull into CVS. My mother is an avid CVS-goer and luckily she lets me use her coupons. I pick up some much-needed contact solution and throw in some ginger tea and Altoids to make sure I don't waste any of the coupon ($20 ExtraBucks Rewards so I don't pay anything). I really need to get gas but I think I can squeeze an extra day out of my tank.
6:30 p.m. — I'm currently looking for a new job at the same time as a couple of my friends so we make a group chat and split various job board subscriptions (Hollylist, EntertainmentCareers, Tracking Board, etc.). I finish up work and watch a couple of episodes of Emily in Paris while looking at jobs. I then eat dinner (high protein veggie burger from Trader Joe's, which is surprisingly very bad) while swiping on Hinge. One of my friend groups is trying to go on more dates in 2023 and we're making a shared date calendar/group chat to hold everyone accountable. Between finding a new job and trying to put myself out there, 2023 has a lot riding on it.
10 p.m. — I read Defend The Dawn before doing my nighttime routine (it stays the same every day unless I skip the tretinoin. Face wash, tretinoin or Paula's Choice 2% BHA, and face cream). I take my birth control pill and medication for my IBS and GERD (is having stomach problems still all the rage?). I love fantasy books and chick lit and usually love to read a couple of books a week. However, I'm trying to slow down and just read before bed so I can make space after work to pursue other interests and hang out with friends. I'm not ashamed to say I've spent many Sundays reading all day, alternating between my bed and a comfy chair. Lights out!
Daily Total: $49

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I wake up to the streets of LA flooding and it's still raining so I'm not going into the office. I scroll on TikTok for a bit before getting up to shower, do my skincare routine, and heat up some egg cups I meal prepped for breakfast. My roommate, Z., has kindly let me use her French press to make loose-leaf tea since I saw someone do it on TikTok and it works pretty well! The roommates come to the living room and we all work together, which reminds me of working in a study room in college, and I kind of love it.
11 a.m. — Z. sends me her ClassPass referral link so I can get a month free and join her at a boxing class later today. I set a reminder in my calendar to cancel after the free month is over. We are big on fitness class deals and free trials in my apartment.
1 p.m. — Break for lunch. I got a temporary crown put in a couple of days ago because I cracked one of my teeth but the crown still hurts and I'm already tired of chewing on one side of my mouth. I eat the chicken shawarma bowl I meal prepped. I scroll through TikTok and a couple of clothing sites but resist the urge to buy anything. I decide to do a closet clean-out of my sweaters and T-shirts and make a big pile to donate. Usually, I would treat myself by buying a new sweater since I'm going to donate a good few, but not today. 2023 me is spending less money!
3 p.m. — Work is a little slow today. I sneak in some reading of Babel. I really want to finish this book because everyone is raving about it but I'm 100 or so pages in and it hasn't hooked me just yet. I spend a bit of time prepping for a phone interview I have tomorrow and cleaning my bathroom. I give some other friends my referral link for ClassPass. We vow to make a list of more free/affordable things to do in LA since everyone is trying to save money.
5:30 p.m. — I duck out of work a bit early to go to the boxing class with Z. It's a lot of fun. The lights are low and the music is loud so no one can see how bad I am at throwing punches. I pay $5 to rent boxing gloves. $5
6:30 p.m. — I'm about to open my building door when I see a Crumbl cookie package outside with my name on it. Turns out my friend from home sent me some cookies, so sweet! I shower then make a sesame tofu bowl for dinner.
8:30 p.m. — My roommates and I were going to go to a free comedy show that promised a celebrity drop-in, but we feel with the weather the celeb might not show up. We opt to stay in doing face masks and creating vision bingo boards (of course a TikTok thing). My teeth are in so much pain that I end up buying a moldable night guard on Amazon as I don't want to wait for my dentist in two weeks to fit me for a night guard. I know one from my dentist will be hundreds of dollars and this one will do for now. $17.99
11 p.m. — Finish up my nighttime skincare routine, take my meds, and read some more of Babel in bed (update: I'm now into it and will probably have to renew my library loan on it).
Daily Total: $22.99

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I wake up just before my alarm with a raging headache. Quickly shower, do my morning skincare routine, and throw on a red lip since I'm going into the office. I put on a red sweater, black Levi's Ribcage jeans, black booties, and a checkered oversized blazer. I pack a chicken shawarma bowl for lunch along with yogurt, peanut butter, and granola for breakfast. I drive to work.
10:50 a.m. — I book a free first class at a workout studio for this Sunday while covertly scrolling through job boards. My headache is still going strong so I'm trying to stay hydrated and stay seated.

6:15 p.m. — I finally have to stop for gas. I only fill my tank three-quarters of the way full since I live close to work. $40.11

6:30 p.m. — Luckily I'm not doing anything tonight so I take some Aleve for my headache and drop some Alka-Seltzer in some water for an oncoming stomachache. Somehow this week my body is attacking me from all sides. I change into comfy clothes and watch an episode of Will Trent, Fleishman Is In Trouble, and Ginny & Georgia. My meal prep is not calling to me so I break into my stash of Trader Joe's frozen food and heat up a Jamaican beef patty to eat with some pita chips and hummus.

10 p.m. — I do my nighttime skincare routine, take my meds, and settle into bed with Babel and A Fate of Wrath & Flame. My friends text to set up time to play tennis next Friday and I hesitantly agree. I'm going to the dentist to get a permanent crown that afternoon and I don't know if it will hurt after. I book a few more classes on ClassPass for next week and the week after, including an intro to aerial silks and an intro to pole dancing class. I'm trying to get the most out of this free month and do things I've never done before.

Daily Total: $40.11

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Wake up, shower, morning skincare routine, and pack the last of my yogurt and granola and chicken shawarma bowl for work. I'm super excited because my friend from high school, T., is visiting and we're getting dinner tonight. With that in mind I do my eyebrows, put on mascara and a red lip. This is the most makeup I've worn in a couple of weeks. I used to do a full face but I've slowly started wearing less during the week to give my face a break. I put on some light wash, wide-leg jeans, a mock neck shirt, black boots, and another black checkered blazer. Finally, I spritz on Madonna (Lilly) by DedCool. I throw a black blazer, a brown leather jacket and a purse in the back of my car to change into for dinner.
11:25 a.m. — I skim through the Fidelity Investing Ideas for 2023 email and think about ways I could put more towards my Roth IRA and investments regularly. Part of the reason I'm looking for a new job is so that I have more leftover money at the end of the month and big purchases no longer feel impossible.
7 p.m. — I arrive at the restaurant for dinner with my friend and her boyfriend. I get a dairy-free ragù and we split a few sides. $33.25
8:30 p.m. — Pay $0 for parking as the first 90 minutes are free and I begin the trek home. My prescription cream has arrived and it is way too small to be $49. My Amazon package with my night guard is sitting outside my door. I'm about to sleep well tonight! My other roommate, H., fills me in on her recent Hinge date. The man showed up in mismatched sweats. I feel like if the sweats matched, it could've been a look (agree or disagree?).
11 p.m. — A couple of my friends are trying to get the group chat to rally and go out this weekend. I don't want to spend the money but the party sounds like a lot of fun. Only time will tell. I do all the usual nighttime things and drift off blissfully.
Daily Total: $33.25

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — It's Fridayyyyyy! Unfortunately, I took my night guard out in the middle of the night. I'll try again tonight. I do my morning routine and hop on a 9 a.m. meeting, camera off. Friday work-from-home is the best day for cleaning so I clean up my room, water the plants, and eat some grapes.
10:15 a.m. — Make pesto eggs and assess what I've got in the fridge for the weekend. It's looking bleak so I'll probably swing by Trader Joe's after spin tomorrow (this feels like such an LA sentence).
1 p.m. — I head out during lunch to pick up my antibiotics at CVS ($3.17 paid with my FSA) and I make a tofu scramble when I come back. I'm looking at my new-ish skincare routine like 'you better fix my entire life you little shit'.

6:45 p.m. — Work is over and it is time for H. and me to fail gracefully on the tennis court. The last time we played, someone's tennis coach stopped us and said he had to help (it was very mortifying). We play for an hour and then get victory ice cream. I try all the dairy-free limited flavors before getting the red velvet. I'll be back at least two more times before these flavors leave. I use a gift card I got for Christmas so $0 (ordinarily $5.31 for a kids' scoop plus tip).

8 p.m. — Z.'s boyfriend comes over and we have an impromptu game night with the roommates and another friend. I donate a bag of salsa verde chips to the night and we play Hearts and Phase 10 while listening to Tiny Desk Concerts (T-Pain's concert is one I'd play on repeat).

12 a.m. — Drive our friend home, set my alarm for 8, and fall into bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up more nauseous than normal and consider canceling my spin class. But I hate wasting money so I sip on tea while doing laundry, sweeping the living room/kitchen, cleaning up the living room, and forcing down some peanut butter toast. H. and I head to hot spin where I pay $3 to rent shoes for the bike. It's raining and we consider canceling plans to go out tonight but the rain promises to stop by 9. $3
12 p.m. — After eating my last egg, I head out with Z. and H. to see a tarot card reader at one of our favorite coffee shops. We get there and wait 45 minutes but the line is barely moving. The barista tells the reader that people are waiting, but the readings don't speed up. We eventually leave and I discover my car roof is leaking!
1 p.m. — I check my roof but there isn't any obvious hole. I'm assuming it's from the windshield. Since it doesn't rain much in LA, I decide it will probably be okay. I head to Trader Joe's and pick up frozen lamb vindaloo, frozen pork and ginger soup dumplings, spinach, broccoli slaw, carb-savvy tortillas, guac, smoked salmon, crackers, cilantro, Greek chickpeas, hard-boiled eggs (they're out of regular eggs), a chicken salad wrap, and a couple of other staples. I'm going to make honey sriracha fish tacos, NYT chickpea kale soup (unfreezing a batch I made last week), and chili chicken burgers. I already have all of my proteins at home so this haul should've been cheaper, but I went a bit overboard. I unload my groceries at home, eat half the chicken salad wrap and my last Jamaican beef patty, and then take a towel to my car. $54.63
7 p.m. — People start to drop out of going out tonight (I'm secretly relieved) so I eat the other half of my chicken salad wrap and the TJ's pork and ginger soup dumplings. I watch the first two eps of Velma (so-so, but I'll keep giving it a chance) and then I accidentally end up getting hooked on New Amsterdam and watch until 1:30.
Daily Total: $57.63

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I woke up in the middle of the night sweating and so nauseous that I ended up turning on the fan and sleeping sitting up in bed. I definitely need to call my gastroenterologist to adjust my medication next week. I scroll in bed until 10:30 before getting up and getting ready for my workout class at 12:30.
12 p.m. — I head to the class and luckily find a meter with an hour and a half already on it. I add another 30 minutes for $0.75 and get there a bit early since it's my first class. I'm trying to do more things alone/go on solo dates this year and this is certainly a good step. After the class, I window shop on Melrose and check out the farmers' market. $0.75
2:30 p.m. — I add some spinach to the lamb vindaloo and watch more New Amsterdam. At some point I'll grow tired of this show, but not today!
5 p.m. — I quickly eat a chicken burger with guac before heading over to a friend's house to restart Abbott Elementary. I fell off watching, but I love Quinta and want someone to enjoy it with.
7:30 p.m. — The roommates and I head out to a girls' night at one of our friend's houses. We bring some wine from home to contribute and have a good time catching up on all the gossip.
11 p.m. — I watch a few more episodes of New Amsterdam, do my nighttime routine, and head to bed.
Daily Total: $0.75
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