A Week In Berkeley, CA, On A $72,800 Salary

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 civil engineer who makes $72,800 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Twix bar.
Occupation: Civil Engineer
Industry: Hydrology & Hydraulics
Age: 24
Location: Berkeley, CA
Salary: $72,800
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,785.57
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,100 for my half of a one-bedroom backyard cottage, including all utilities, internet, and laundry
Student Loans: $0 (Undergrad was paid for by my parents and a trust from my grandparents. My master's was paid for with savings, a gift from a family friend, and $10,000 in loans that I paid off four months after graduating.)
Credit Card: ~$2,000 on a 0% APR card from when my car needed a $7,000 fix a few months ago. I wanted a travel rewards card anyway, so this way I got the signup bonus and had more time to pay off the fix.
Health Insurance: $97.63 each pay period
Phone: $5 (My work pays for $25 of my $30 bill.)
YMCA Membership: $32
Student Spotify With Hulu: $4.99 (my last year possible)
Savings: ~$14,800 in various accounts, including $3,800 in a combination of traditional and Roth 401(k) not including company match.
Roth 401(k): $168 per pay period (This is 6% of my salary, and my company matches 4% of my salary at the end of the year.)
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Additional Expenses
Car Insurance: $341.18 every six months
Renters Insurance: $196 a year

Day One

6:25 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I spend the next five minutes cuddling with my boyfriend, L. I get up when his alarm goes off at 6:30, start boiling water for my French press, and toast some of the cranberry walnut sourdough I made last weekend. Then I pack my prepped lunch of broccoli and chicken breast and an apple. I also add a healthy oat cookie from the batch in the freezer that I made for L. last week. I add homemade almond butter to my toast and eat it with a cup of coffee (and fill my travel mug with the rest) while reading theSkimm on my Kindle.
7 a.m. — I get ready by wiping my face with micellar water (I use reusable fabric rounds that I wash each week) and putting on SPF moisturizer, tinted BB cream, mascara, and blush and brow gel. I unbraid my hair, throw on a dress and tights, and am out the door by 7:20. On the drive to work, I listen to Maggie Rogers on Spotify, and I make it in by 8.
11:30 a.m. — After a meeting and getting some work done, I eat my apple and go on my lunch walk around the block, which takes about 20 minutes. I spend the rest of my break eating my lunch at my desk.
4:30 p.m. — My afternoon at work was kind of boring, and I had to find things to do to fill my time (including making my meal plan for next week). I finally catch up with my boss towards the end of the day and get some work to do for when I'm working from home tomorrow, so that's good! Many of my current projects are waiting for other companies/clients, so work is slow right now, but I could have a week's worth of work to do tomorrow.
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4:45 p.m. — For the past 10 months or so, I have been baking my way through a book of 10 expert bread formulas — one each month. This month is my last, and the bread formula is croissants. I need more ingredients to make them, so I decide to just do the grocery shopping for next week right now. L. and I usually do our shopping together and split the bill, but he paid for a large Costco run last weekend, and we don't need much this week, so I don't mind paying for all of it. I head to Trader Joe's where I get butter, milk, eggs, ground turkey, two onions, a tomato, bread crumbs, a lime, black beans, a six-pack of beer, and lobster ravioli to eat on Valentine's Day. I've been trying not to buy produce wrapped in plastic, which means TJ's is pretty off limits, but I fail and get a bag of spinach this week. I'll get the rest of our produce at the farmer's market this weekend. I remember that TJ's doesn't have bread flour, which is unfortunate, and I drive home. $40.75
5:30 p.m. — After unloading the groceries and unpacking my things, I walk to Safeway to get bread flour, whole milk in a small carton, and tissues. I enjoy the walk and getting to take in the beautiful blooming magnolia and cherry trees (thanks, California!) $8.16
7 p.m. — After chilling for a bit and watching an episode of Pioneer Woman on Hulu, I start making dinner. I make fried rice using brown rice I cooked yesterday, broccoli, bell pepper, carrots, mung bean sprouts I've been growing all week, and egg. L. gets home just as it's finished. He gives me a giant hug when I tell him I already got the groceries for next week. We eat dinner while watching Friends from College on Netflix. L. says dinner is good even though I think the brown rice is too starchy for fried rice.
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9 p.m. — After doing the dishes, L. and I play Stardew Valley together for an hour before bed. L. really likes playing video games, and while it isn't something I would choose to do alone, it's fun to play some games together! We are in bed by 10.
Daily Total: $48.91

Day Two

6 a.m. — My gym alarm goes off, but L. cuddles me and I am sore from going earlier this week, so I decide to sleep in. I get up at 7 and start working while eating the same breakfast as yesterday.
11:30 a.m. — Work is really busy this morning, but I decide to take a break and go for a run on my lunch break. I run just over two miles and get home just as it starts raining. I work a bit more, shower, and start my croissant dough while my computer is busy converting an AutoCAD surface to a DEM. L. is currently finishing graduate school and is done at noon on Fridays. He comes home, and we eat leftover turkey chili we made earlier in the week for lunch.
3:30 p.m. — I finish my work for the day and briefly consider working this weekend since a file I was waiting for all day never came through, and I need it to finish the report I've been working on. L. and I play more Stardew Valley, and I continue to check my email to see if the files are finished uploading, but no emails come!
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5 p.m. — L. and I are going into the city tonight to see Mortified Live! We decide to drive since BART isn't very convenient, it's raining, and there is free parking nearby. It takes about 50 minutes to cross the bridge into the city, and the toll is $7 charged to my FasTrak (prepaid). I'm shocked at first that the toll is so high, but then I remember they increased this year to pay for better mass transit, which is a good thing!
6 p.m. — We get to the show right as doors open so we can get seats, only to realize L. got reserved seating tickets (they were my Christmas present). We get two beers, which L. pays for ($15), and decide to get some pizza next door to bring to our seats while we wait for the show. I pay. $23.65
9 p.m. — The show was great, and L. and I laughed the whole time! We get back to the car and realize where we parked was only free until 8:30. Luckily, we don't have a ticket and traffic is easy as we head home.
10 p.m. — I am bloated from the pizza and beer, so I drink a lot of water as I get ready for bed. My usual nighttime routine is Paula's Choice salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, followed by retinol and either a moisturizing night mask or blue tansy oil. Sometimes I use a jade roller, too. I also floss, brush my teeth, and wear my bottom retainer to bed both to keep my teeth straight and act as a night guard. We are in bed by 10:30 like the old people we truly are on Friday nights!
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Daily Total: $23.65

Day Three

6 a.m. — I wake up naturally and we cuddle/snooze until getting up around 7. I have sourdough with butter (I ran out of almond butter) and coffee. Today, I need to laminate my dough for the croissants! L. and I put our sheets in the wash and talk about what we need from Amazon before my free Prime month ends. He leaves for his class, and I add a roll-up travel hat, a pair of Heat Holders socks, and workout headphones for L. to my cart, but wait to purchase in case I think of something else to add. I watch an episode of Pen15 on Hulu while waiting for my dough to rest between turns. The show is okay, but I don't think I will watch it again. It's kind of creepy with the grown women and little kids, but the music is great!
9:30 a.m. — My dough is resting in the freezer and needs to chill until tomorrow. I switch the sheets to the dryer. The rain has stopped, so I decide to bike over to a nearby coffee shop since I have a coupon for a free cup of coffee on the Chinook Book app. I pump my tires and bring my book with me to read while I drink my coffee. I tip the barista $1 and read I Contain Multitudes for about half an hour. I usually read a lot, and while this book is really interesting, it doesn't pull me in like other books. I bike home enjoying the sunshine. $1
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10:30 a.m. — I get home and decide to clear out the area around my garden box. My landlords are great and let me garden in part of the shared backyard! I do some weeding and trimming while thinking about what I want to bring to a dinner party tonight. I consider going to Trader Joe's for wine, but I am not a huge wine drinker and wouldn't know what to buy. I've moved a number of times for school and don't have any close girlfriends in the area. I find it's hard to make close friends, and even harder to meet people since I've finished school. I'm getting together with people from my graduate program, and even though I know them, I want to make a good impression.
11 a.m. — I decide to make cookies, and I find a recipe on my Pinterest board that I haven't tried yet and have all the ingredients for — Salted Coffee Brownie Cookies. I eat an apple, then I make the cookies in my Kitchenaid and also make more almond butter in my food processor. It takes a surprisingly long time, but it does come together with patience! I also remake the bed with clean sheets and do the dishes while listening to my playlist of Brandi Carlile, Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers, First Aid Kit, and Billie Eilish. The cookies stick to my Silpats and are kind of annoying, so I probably won't make them again.
1 p.m. — L. comes home, and we play Stardew Valley for an hour or so. I reheat some of the leftover fried rice for lunch while L. cultivates our crops and cares for our chickens in the video game. We would both like to have chickens and a big garden someday in real life, too! Then we do our own thing (I read and he plays a different video game) and snack on some BBQ chips we got last week. He eats a cookie and says they're really good, so that's a plus!
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4 p.m. — I spend some time looking for a new hair salon online. I usually only cut my hair about twice a year and use Groupon, but I am ready to find a hairdresser to go to regularly. The top-rated salon looks great, but haircuts range from $80-$105. I'll probably go with it, but decide to call to make an appointment, since it isn't clear what type of haircut I should book online. I also remember I wanted to get a safety razor on Amazon since I am almost out of my plastic razor heads and am ready to make the switch to a plastic-free option. I find one I like and add it to the cart (but still wait to purchase). I'll have to look up how-to videos before trying it out so I know what I'm doing!
5 p.m. — I finish my book, and we watch the new Safiya Nygaard and Bon Appétit videos on YouTube. I've always loved to cook and bake, but I've really seen myself progress since watching Bon Appétit videos and The Great British Bake Off. I love how they explain the process and science behind their cooking. I have a sip of L.'s beer, and we both decide it's a bit too sour for us (we like darker beers). I drink peppermint tea and eat an English muffin so I won't be starving when I get to the party.
6:30 p.m. — I get to the party exactly on time (as usual), and sit in my car for five minutes since I know it's not normal for people to be on time. I'm still the first one there, but it doesn't feel too awkward. We make and eat pork dumplings and drink wine while catching up. It is a lot of fun, and everyone loves the cookies, which is great!
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10:30 p.m. — I'm home at a good time, since it always takes me a while to wind down after socializing. I wipe off my makeup and brush my teeth before going to bed and end up taking melatonin around 11:30 because I'm not sleepy yet.
1:30 a.m. — I'm still not quite asleep, which is a real bummer. Usually melatonin works, but my brain just won't quiet down and I keep replaying conversations in my head from the night. I go to the bathroom and drink some water before finally falling asleep.
Daily Total: $1

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up, and L. is already up. I'm really groggy, so I just make coffee and move my croissant dough to the freezer before browsing the internet and eating a leftover cookie.
9 a.m. — Time to shape the croissants! The dough is a bit more mottled than I would like, but I soldier on and make plain and chocolate croissants. They need to prove for two and a half hours, and L. asks to play Stardew Valley again. We play for an hour and then I get ready to walk to the farmer's market.
10:30 a.m. — I change my clothes before walking to the market. I wear a baseball hat, which will forever make me feel like Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story. It is such a beautiful crisp and clear morning! At the market, I buy two artichokes, broccoli, and cilantro. They have the first of the strawberry crops, but I pass this time. Sadly, the honey stand isn't there, so I'll just have to continue to be honey free for another week. $9
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11:45 a.m. — Home from the market, and it's time to bake! I brush the croissants with egg wash and put them in the oven…fingers crossed! While they bake, I look at adoptable puppies at a nearby rescue and wish I could have pets at my apartment.
12 p.m. — Fun fact: my oven is not level. When I turn my croissants, a massive flood of butter is shuttled to the end of my baking sheet, threatening an oven fire. Fortunately, I quickly grab a rimmed roasting pan to throw under it and catch the butter. There's my adrenaline rush for the morning! L. takes a break from school work to try a chocolate croissant. He gives me a hug and tells me he is proud of me for finishing my bread book project. The croissants aren't perfect, but holy balls do they taste good!
4 p.m. — After doing the dishes, I spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing. I shower, do a clay face mask, start some tulsi holy basil seeds I got from the farmer's market last year in half an egg carton on my counter, eat scrambled eggs on bagels with hot sauce, and talk to my parents on the phone.
6:30 p.m. — I start my meal prep for the week and dinner for tonight. For my lunches, I steam some broccoli and bake two thin chicken breasts with ghost pepper flakes and curry powder. I only make three days' worth since I'll work from home at least one day, and we're getting lunch at work tomorrow. For dinner, I make vegan lentil burgers with carrots and jalapeño in them and use up some burger buns and French fries we have in the freezer. The lentil burger recipe makes seven burgers. I cook extra so L. can take one for lunch tomorrow and freeze the remaining ones to have later. We watch Friends from College while we eat and do the dishes together. Then I read and do my nightly routine while L. finishes school work.
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8:30 p.m. — We play our game for an hour in bed and then I read for another half hour before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $9

Day Five

6 a.m. — Wake up to my alarm, and L. rolling over to cuddle. I know if I stay in bed too long I won't go to the gym, so I count down from 10 and force myself up. I make coffee and a smoothie (almond milk, frozen fruit, spinach, and protein powder) in my to-go cup. I also toast half a slice of sourdough with almond butter and reheat leftover coffee to have while I drive. I kiss L. goodbye and I'm out the door by 6:20.
7 a.m. — At the gym I'm reminded why it's nice to come early. Every squat rack is free, and I can do my entire workout in an hour. It only takes me about 10 minutes to shower, change, and do my makeup. I stand under the hand dryer for two cycles so my hair isn't as soaking wet. I would bring a hair dryer, but 1) no one at work cares if my hair is damp, and 2) it would take me about 20 minutes to dry it fully.
8:30 a.m. — At work and I'm busy already. My stomach feels off, since I ate mostly junk all weekend, so I only have half of my smoothie before going to my long meeting. I brought some of my croissants to share, and everyone loves them!
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12 p.m. — We have lunch catered today (which is pretty rare). The food is good but filling, so I save half to have with my meal prepped lunch tomorrow.
4:30 p.m. — The rest of the day is wonderfully busy and flies by. I come to a stopping point in my work right at the eight-hour mark, but I am not sure if our meeting/lunch counts as a lunch break and if I should stay another half hour. I decide to head out since most other people have, and I usually walk on my lunch breaks, but I didn't do that today.
5:15 p.m. — Home from work. After I unpack all of my many bags, I change into my running shoes to go for a 20-minute walk. It's another nice evening, and I see the wild turkeys which is always fun! Back home I get an email that my final tax document is available, so I finish my taxes. My refund this year is much more than I expected (around $4,000 from the feds and $1,000 from the state)! Part of it is my education credits for being a student last year, but the rest is a total surprise. I do a mini happy dance and text my family group text, since I've had bad tax years in the past. My mom says she's glad there won't be tears this year. (I cried at the tax lady a few years ago because I owed a lot in taxes unexpectedly thanks to an internship. There were other things going on at the time that contributed to the tears, but I sure made the poor lady uncomfortable!) I decide to wait to submit my taxes so I can review them with fresh eyes just in case.
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7:15 p.m. — For dinner tonight we're having a white bean, artichoke, mushroom concoction I made a few months ago and kept leftovers in the freezer. I heat it up and add a few handfuls of spinach. L. comes home, and we eat while watching YouTube videos. The dinner is kind of gross and mushy. I apologize to L. that everything we've been having lately has been kind of bad. He immediately asks me to stop and says he can't believe I make him dinner on days he has class late and that it doesn't matter what it is.
8 p.m. — After doing the dishes, I get ready for bed while L. reads for school. His shoulder is really bothering him ,so I massage it first with my hands and then with an electric body massager. We usually trade massages, but my shoulders feel fine today, and I want to read Educated before bed. I remember I need to get gas in the morning, so I grab the Costco card from L.'s wallet. We are both asleep by 10:15 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:25 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I do my usual non-gym daily routine of cuddling, coffee with toast while reading theSkimm, unbraiding my hair, throwing on makeup, grabbing my lunch, and leaving at 7:20 am.
7:21 a.m. — Shit! I forgot I needed to get gas until the second I turned my car on. Oh well…at least it's on the way, and I won't be too late. I stop at Costco to fill up. I usually need gas about every week and a half, depending on how often I work from home and if I go hiking on the weekends. $35.60
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12:35 p.m. — Work has been pretty busy this morning. I mix my leftovers from yesterday with my broccoli and chicken, and it's so good! I'll bring the container from my leftovers home to compost/recycle since we don't have compost at work. I consider skipping my lunch walk again, but I don't want to make sitting for eight hours straight a habit. I walk for 20 minutes.
4:30 p.m. — Ahhh! Time to head home. This afternoon was pretty slow and really felt like it dragged on. On the bright side, my boss complimented me in front of everyone.
5:15 p.m. — I get stuck behind wild turkeys on my way home. They hang out near a busy street by my house and tend to block traffic. I love the little reminder that we are all animals living on this earth, and the opportunity to slow down for a minute. Plus, they are getting their mating season plumage and are too funny looking! Once home, I unpack my lunch bag and walk to Safeway for avocados. It's Taco Tuesday, so guacamole is a must! I also buy L. a Twix bar because he has been having a rough week with school. $7.25
6 p.m. — I eat the final croissant and look for summer campgrounds to go to. We don't know what L.'s schedule will be like yet, so we can only book weekend trips. We have a spot booked nearby, but I'd love to go out to the Sierras. Or maybe we should go river rafting? I bookmark a few options to look at later and start the tacos. L. and I usually make them together, but his later class got switched this week. I cook ground turkey with a ton of different seasonings (garlic powder, cumin, dried ghost pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, and paprika), garlic, onion, jalapeños, chipotle peppers, and black beans. Then I make guac with red onion, garlic, cilantro, avocados, jalapeños, cumin, salt, garlic powder, and a squeeze of lime.
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7:30 p.m. — I get a text from L. saying his bus never came and asking if I mind coming to get him. I don't at all! My steering wheel is locked when I get in my car and my usual trick to unlock it isn't working. I quickly Google it and am able to solve the problem (thanks, wikiHow!). We get home and have our tacos with tortillas, spinach, leftover tomato from our lentil burgers, two different types of salsa, and pickled jalapeños. We each have a beer with dinner.
8 p.m. — After dinner, we do the dishes and play Stardew Valley for a bit before bed.
Daily Total: $42.85

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Gym alarm goes off, and it is raining really hard out. I want so badly to stay in bed, but I have no excuse today. I change into my gym clothes and eat half an Rxbar as I drive to the gym by my house.
7:30 a.m. — Home from the gym and loving being near the heater! I start work for the day while making coffee. I quickly shower and make some eggs and toast for breakfast.
9 a.m. — Fortunately, I am working from home today since I have a long meeting. I notice a small patch of mildew on our ceiling above my fiddle-leaf fig tree. UGH. We've been having issues with mildew taking over the shoes/bags we don't use too frequently, and I thought we had fixed the problem a few weeks ago. I'm sure it's leftover, since we switched out our shoe rack, have been running the dehumidifier 24/7 in the room, and placed DampRid in every closet of our house after deep cleaning/removing anything with mold on it. I'll ask L. to help me dab the ceiling with bleach or vinegar when he gets home so it doesn't spread or get any worse.
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11:30 a.m. — I'm already hungry, so I eat my broccoli and chicken breast and make some black tea. It doesn't satiate me. I try not to snack too much when I'm home, so I'll wait a few hours before eating anything more. No lunch walk today, since it's still pouring rain.
12:30 p.m. — Eat half of an overripe orange over the sink...and smush the other half while trying to peel it.
1:30 p.m. — I'm antsy from being inside for so long, so I take a break and brave the rain to drop a few things off at the mailbox. I take my time walking back and look at the water in the gutters and culverts near my house. Helping to design these is something I do at work, so it's always interesting to see them doing their job (or more interestingly not doing their job) during storm events.
2:30 p.m. — I eat a small bowl of Special K with strawberries and almond milk and a cup of peppermint tea.
4 p.m. — Finished with work for the day. L. isn't home yet, so I decide to take care of the mildew myself. I wipe down the wall and ceiling with diluted rubbing alcohol and put a fan on the area to dry it out. Then I review and submit my taxes and research pay raises for positions similar to mine. I've been at my job for about seven months now and think I will deserve a raise after my first year. I think it's pretty common, and while I think my company will be open to it, I will probably need to be the one to bring it up. I see that at a local municipality, after one year and a higher education degree, the salary range goes up 15% with a new title. That seems like quite a big jump, but I can't find anything for private companies. Good thing I have a few months to research and think it over.
5 p.m. — L. comes home, and we watch Claire from Bon Appétit make gourmet Ferrero Rochers and performances from the Grammys. L. warms up a frozen pizza for dinner, and I make a spinach salad with lemon vinaigrette using lemons from the tree in the front yard. We take turns playing Stardew while we eat.
8:30 p.m. — I get ready for bed and read for a while. My shoulder is really bothering me today from the gym and using a computer mouse for so long. L. gives me a shoulder massage which helps a lot. My stomach hurts from the pizza (I really shouldn't eat cheese), so I don't fall asleep until 11.
Daily Total: $0
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