A Week In San Francisco, CA, On A $115,500 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Adidas.
Welcome to Money Diaries Extras - a Money Diaries series that takes a deeper look at our diarists, our readers, and the world of money.
Editor's Note: Last year, this communications manager from San Francisco wrote this Money Diary and readers loved her for her financial savvy (she had $34,000 saved by age 24!) and for coining the term, "let she who hasn’t cried in SoulCycle cast the first stone." Ahead, we caught up with the diarist and got a few updates about her life since her first diary as well as a follow-up diary of her current pandemic life.
Last we heard from you, you were going to leave your job to work in politics — where are you career-wise now?
Because of the pandemic, I ended up staying at my communications job. In my last Money Diary, I was passed over for a promotion, but I got it in March! It happened days before my office shut down due to COVID and I feel genuinely lucky that I was able to get a raise this year. 
How have your financial habits changed since you submitted your Money Diary?
They haven't changed much, but I do save more each paycheck taking my raise into account. When the pandemic first started, I was eating a lot of take out. Transitioning from having a free cafeteria for meals to being on my own 100% was a bit startling. After a few higher-than-expected credit card bills, I cut back a lot. I started meal planning and making grocery lists and finding ways to cook healthy meals I enjoy. I still eat out occasionally to support businesses in my community, but in a way that's a bit more thoughtful.
Have you made any money mistakes since your first diary?
I made the very small mistake of rolling over an IRA into a 401(k). I later learned that it's much easier to take money out of an IRA than a 401(k) to buy your first home. Becoming a homeowner is my main priority right now, so that was annoying, but the good news is that's money I'll be able to use in retirement. Very much a first world problem.
This has been a challenging few weeks for everybody, how are you feeling about the election? 
I'm writing this 48 hours after the polls closed without a clear winner, so I'd say my anxiety is pretty high. I'm old enough to remember 2000, even though I couldn't vote, so I'm pretty concerned about the will of the people being ignored by a Supreme Court installed by a president who didn't win the popular vote. 
How has the pandemic affected your life?
As of today, I've been working from home for 245 days. Living alone and being an extrovert has been emotionally challenging. As a Black woman, experiencing the racial justice reckoning we had this summer without the in-person comradery of the Black community was really taxing. But I was raised on the quote, "If we all threw our problems into a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back." I know really smart and hardworking people who lost jobs and people they love because of COVID. I feel very lucky to have a job, steady savings, and a healthy family in these times and I recognize this outcome isn't directly affected by anything I personally did, just sheer fortune.
Any other updates you want to share?
I genuinely hope that by the time my diary is published, we have a president-elect who is decent and cares deeply about others. But regardless of the election, I am keeping the faith that Americans are willing to fight for someone they don't know to make our country equal, just, and prosperous.
In today's follow up diary: a communications manager who makes $115,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on an Ivy Park Zip Sports Bra.
Occupation: Communications Manager
Industry: Technology
Age: 26
Location: San Francisco, CA
Salary: $115,500
Net Worth: $125,000 ($87,000 in a HYSA (saving for a condo downpayment in the next 18ish months), $38,000 in my 401(k), and no debt.)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,360
Pronouns: she/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,189 for my studio
FSA: $80 (pre-tax)
401(k): $500 (my company matches up to $6,000 a year)
Health Insurance: $0 (My premium is covered by work)
Spotify: $14.99 (I pay for Spotify family for my brother, my mom, and my best friend)
Netflix/Hulu: $0 (thanks, best friend)
Melissa Wood Health: $10
Gas & Electric: $20
Internet: $0 (It's $40, but it's covered by work)
Cell Phone: $0 (It's $65, but it's covered by work)
Donations: $2,000 annually doubled through company match (this year included Black Lives Matter, the NAACP, and Planned Parenthood)
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?
Absolutely. Both of my grandmas were teachers, so there was a lot of pressure to get a bachelor's and master's degree. I finished my bachelor's and will seek out my master's in three years when I'll be eligible for GMAT waivers. I hate standardized tests. My undergraduate degree was paid with the help of my parents, partial scholarships, and working 30 hours a week and full time during the summer.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
When I was in elementary school, my mom worked for a credit score company, so money and credit have always been discussed in my family. Whenever it came to big-ticket items, my parents would make me save up my allowance to make the purchase. I know looking back now that being able to save up for a Game Boy over the course of a few months is a privilege, because not every child receives an allowance, but it taught me the value of a dollar.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a fast food restaurant for two and half years, starting at age 15. I saved up and bought my first car with cash.
Did you worry about money growing up?
My dad was laid off during the Great Recession and it greatly affected my family's finances. When I got ready to start my undergrad, there was a pretty big rift because my parents always told me that if I worked hard, I could go anywhere I was admitted. When the time came for me to pick a university, that wasn't the case. I ended up receiving a great education from my local public school, lived at home a majority of my enrollment, and graduated debt-free. I didn't understand at the time, but it's the greatest gift my parents gave me.
Do you worry about money now?
I think it's easy to strive for the next financial milestone, but I live comfortably and don't worry about my finances in the short term. I worry about being able to provide for a family in a high-cost city, but that's far down the road for me.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Some time the year after I graduated college, around 22. When I first moved to San Francisco, I was making just above minimum wage at a PR agency. I was wrongfully evicted and my landlord fraudulently held my security deposit. My mom “lent” me the money to cover the security deposit for my next apartment, but when I finally got my first security deposit back, my mom told me to keep the money, so I had emergency savings. That's the last time I got money from my parents, but that $1,300 is the only reason I was able to stay in San Francisco.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
While they weren't an inheritance, I consider my education and the $1,300 I was given when I moved to San Francisco to be my nest egg.

Day One

1 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I sign onto a call with my teammates based in London and Sydney. I want to make it known that this is not normal and I've only done this a few times while at my company. The call ends at 1:45 a.m. and I go back to sleep.
8:30 a.m. — I wake up and make a protein smoothie with Trader Joe's vanilla pea protein, mixed berries, banana, and cinnamon. I run through my skincare — Drunk Elephant Beste Jelly cleanser and Clean and Clear toner (thanks maskne) followed by Drunk Elephant Lala Retro moisturizer. I brush and floss and put on my work uniform, a hoodie and leggings, before sitting down at my desk.
9 a.m. — The drop is here y'all. Beyoncé IVY PARK x Adidas is available for purchase. I fill up my cart with a sports bra, shorts, shoes, and a full outfit for a friend who will pay me back. This will be my second time buying exercise clothes this year and the first time was in January when the first IVY PARK x Adidas line was released. Not a single regret. I am an unapologetic stan. $303.81
9:15 a.m. — I start my workday by lighting a candle from Harlem Heirloom. It supposedly has notes of cinnamon, cypress, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, mandarin orange, musk, vanilla, and cedar, but I think it smells like the dream boyfriend I don't have.
10 a.m. — After clearing through some emails, I staff a fireside chat with an executive I support. It's moderated by a badass woman founder and while our exec does a great job, I'm more impressed by her resume. I send her a connection request on LinkedIn.
12 p.m. — I pause from work to heat up lunch; leftover turkey meatballs with homemade marinara and salad. I tried out a new recipe with panko and parmesan cheese and despite being someone who rarely cooked before the pandemic, I'm proud of myself!
5 p.m. — I set up my yoga mat and do a 20-minute pilates/yoga flow on the Melissa Wood Health app followed by 30 minutes on my spin bike. I'm a part-time spin instructor, but San Francisco COVID regulations have resulted in my studio being closed and me being furloughed. Our owners graciously allowed instructors to borrow bikes so we could stay in shape, but in the last eight months, I've successfully gotten out of and back into shape more times than I can count. I'm using a friend's Variis log in to ride on the SoulCycle app because teaching a spin class to one person is like trying to tickle yourself — it just doesn't hit the same.
6 p.m. — I take a shower and co-wash my hair, then make dinner. I sauté a chicken sausage with feta and spinach.
7 p.m. — Log into a volunteer shift with Mission for Arizona. Last year, I decided I'd leave my job, become an organizer, and campaign for the Democratic nominee, but after COVID hit, I had flashbacks to my family struggling in 2008. The idea of quitting a solid job to be unemployed in November was too scary. I've been phone banking and text banking through Mark Kelly's senate campaign in Arizona. I recently got trained to be a volunteer leader and have been taking two-hour shifts every day leading up to the election. Fingers crossed we finally turn Arizona blue!
9 p.m. — Could today be any more blessed? Yes, Rihanna could release an album, but we pick our battles. I am currently blasting Ariana Grande's new album through my Airpods and dancing around my apartment with a chocolate rice cake.
10:30 p.m. — After a quick call with my mom and zoning out on Instagram and Twitter for a bit, I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $303.81

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I gift myself 15 minutes of extra sleep. My team doesn't do meetings on Fridays, so I can sneak on a little late if my morning gets off to a slow start. I roll out my yoga mat and do 30ish minutes of pilates and then take a 30-minute power walk while bopping to Positions. When I get back, I make an egg with a breakfast sausage and then take a quick shower.
10 a.m. — I have a call with my otolaryngologist about results from my MRI last week. I've been having pulsatile tinnitus in my right ear that I was sure was caused by high blood pressure. Long story short, it wasn't and I've been on a hunt for answers since. She is stumped and is referring me to a neurointerventional radiologist. I'm hoping I can get to the bottom of this before the year ends because I've already paid my health insurance deductible and I'd prefer to not start back at $0.
12 p.m. — Lunch break! I run to Safeway to grab a bag of candy corn because I'm dragging today ($1.88). I also stop at the beauty supply store to grab braiding hair ($19.50). When I get home, I heat up turkey meatballs with grapes. $21.38
2 p.m. — I take 15 minutes to select my health insurance for next year because my company is doing open enrollment. I feel incredibly fortunate that my work covers my premiums, but also the premiums shouldn't exist. Everyone should have access to quality healthcare all the time.
5 p.m. — I start my volunteer shift. Tonight I'm helping texters answer questions from voters. This has been my favorite because we spend a lot of time answering questions for first-time voters.
7 p.m. — Once my shift ends, I reheat the last of my leftover meatballs with broccoli and talk on the phone with my mom. I fall asleep around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $21.38

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — It's Halloween! And what's more spooky than the state of the country we live in? I do 40 minutes of pilates, drink a protein smoothie, and rent a Lyft bike ($11.29) for a 30-minute bike ride to my favorite bagel shop ($7.19). After my bagel, I take a quick shower and do a deep condition and detangle of my hair before blowing it out. “Go natural,” they said. “It'll be way easier than a relaxer,” they said.. $18.48
10 a.m. — I log into a video call with my therapist for my anxiety. We talk about working through healthy ways to express feelings and not letting the election send me into a spiral. I'm a firm believer that a visit with a therapist should be like a physical; everyone should be able to have one at least once a year, even if they don't feel like anything is wrong. My copay is $20. $20
11 a.m. — I kick off my project for the weekend — giving myself box braids. This is a six-hour process, so I'll do half today and half tomorrow. I'd normally go to a shop and spend upwards of $200 on braids, but during the pandemic, I taught myself how to do them with the help of YouTube.
12 p.m. — I break for lunch and make a salad with mixed greens, carrots, sunflower seeds, and green goddess dressing. Does anyone else think green goddess is just a secret way to eat avocado pesto?
1 p.m. — I sign into my two-hour volunteer shift. Today I'm helping texters get onboarded onto our outreach system. It's super fast-paced and exciting to see other volunteer's enthusiasm.
4 p.m. — I take out the trash and realize it's 75 degrees and sunny out, so I put a beanie on (making my half-braided head look like a black q-tip) and head to the park to enjoy the sunshine for an hour. I bring my library copy of Come As You Are by Emily Nagowski because in this house, we support the scientific exploration of female sexuality!
6 p.m. — My friend, N., and her dog come over for a movie night. We both live in studios, so a month or so ago, we opened up our quarantine bubbles to each other. It was not an easy decision to make and it was a long and thoughtful conversation. She is the only friend I see without a mask indoors. We walk to Shake Shack and I order a chicken sandwich and fries and we stop at the corner store to get kombucha ($16.66). We watch President Obama on Lebron James' show The Shop, and then The Witches on HBOMax. $16.66
11 p.m. — N. and the pup leave and I fall asleep an hour later.
Daily Total: $55.14

Day Four

9 a.m. — I get an extra hour of sleep thanks to the time change and wake up to a “bunny rabbit” text from mom. Does anyone else's family have a tradition of saying “bunny rabbit” in the morning on the first day of the month for good luck? I roll out of bed and do a 45-minute live stream of The Class, which a friend has been suggesting I give a try for weeks. I'm not keen to pay for another workout membership, but I do feel incredibly energized afterward. I'll probably stick to mat pilates for now. I then go for a masked and distanced walk with my friend, D., because it's still beautiful out.
11 a.m. — On my way back from the walk, I stop at the grocery store to do my weekly shopping trip. I buy broccoli, green beans, a romaine salad kit, persimmons, a banana, half a dozen eggs, half and half alternative, ground turkey, kombucha, and irises ($40.86). My groceries usually cost $20-30 more, but I bought too much meat the week before and I'm still working my way through it all. $40.86
12 p.m. — When I get home, I make a smoothie, take a shower, and it's back to braiding.
3 p.m. — I finish braiding my hair and make a late lunch of a Trader Joe's vegetable masala burger and grapes. I curl up on my couch, light a blushing amber scented candle from Target, and read Come As You Are. After reading for a bit, I take a nap.
5:30 p.m. — Is there anything better than making your home smell like soup for a few hours on a Sunday? Personally, I cannot think of a single thing. I make chicken pot pie soup with a side salad.
7 p.m. — I check-in for a two-hour volunteer shift and immediately realize I'm an hour late because Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings. This is both frustrating and embarrassing. I try and shake it off to help texters for an hour.
8 p.m. — Treat myself to Sunday skincare and use Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial.
11:30 p.m. — I doomscroll Twitter and Instagram before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $40.86

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Another week in the bubble commences. I wake up, do 25 minutes of inner and outer thigh-focused pilates, and then take a 30-minute spin ride. I make myself a spinach and onion omelette for breakfast and then take a shower.
9:30 a.m. — For some reason, today is incredibly meeting heavy. I have back to backs from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
2 p.m. — Break for lunch and reheat chicken pot pie soup. I spend the rest of the day submitting materials to our translation team and writing messaging for an upcoming launch.
3:45 p.m. — I was a tour guide in college and was recently asked if I'd Zoom into their weekly meeting as an alumni spotlight, so I put on a collared shirt to give the illusion I'm put together and spend 15 minutes answering questions about life after university with fellow tour guides. I'm genuinely curious what the group is doing given there are no campus tours this fall.
6 p.m. — I heat up a vegetable masala burger with a side of roasted broccoli and log into my last volunteer shift before the election. Guess who remembered the time change tonight?
9 p.m. — I text my friend, T., so we can watch the season premiere Below Deck together. I started watching a few seasons back and now I can't quit. Her sorority little was just cast in an upcoming season, so we're watching this season together so she understand the ins and outs of crazy captains and borderline abusive yacht chefs. I fall asleep minutes after the episodes ends.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

5 a.m. — Holy crap, I cannot believe there was a time I woke up this early to work out. I'm serving as a poll worker today and we have to report at 5:45 a.m. I do a quick 15 minute arms and abs class, chug protein powder with water, and eat a persimmon.
5:45 a.m. — On my way to my shift, I reload my Starbucks card ($10) and make a pit stop for a soy vanilla latte. I'm not a coffee person, but I will not be able to maintain a customer service voice for 14+ hours without caffeine. $10
10:30 a.m. — My polling station is a dead zone because we had 70% voter turnout by mail before the polls even opened. On a break, I run home and pack up soup to eat for lunch and dinner because my station has a refrigerator and microwave.
1 p.m. — I eat my soup and stop into the grocery store for chocolate-covered peanuts. $6.99
5 p.m. — Start refreshing Twitter like a wild woman while greeting a trickle of voters. I eat my dinner and we start to wrap up the night. We end up only having 45 in-person voters in 13 hours.
8 p.m. — The polls are officially closed in California! We count ballots, pack up and wait for city officials to pick up our ballots. When they do, I walk home, take a shower, and then take a Lyft to N.'s. to watch results come in. I'd normally walk to her house, but it's dark out and the mood is tense. I look like a dog with my mask on and head out of the window. $11.57
11:55 p.m. — I cry happy tears when Arizona is called and text my friends in Arizona to tell them how proud I am of them. We finally accept results won't be called and go to bed after a sham news conference from the current US president.
Daily Total: $28.56

Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — Wake up and we STILL don't have a president?? I snuggle with N.'s dog before taking a quick work call. Who schedules a call at 8:30 a.m. the day after an election??
9 a.m. — We grab breakfast sandwiches and coffees from a local coffee shop ($10.27). We eat them in a parklet, a platform built by the city on the street for outdoor dining. $10.27
10 a.m. — After breakfast, I walk to a Zipcar and drive to my office to pick up a monitor. I have a co-worker who's currently living out of state and she offered to cover the cost of my Zipcar if I'd grab a monitor for her as well.
12 p.m. — I get home and take stock of my feelings. I'm pretty sure my body is disintegrating. I can't tell if I'm hungry, but my stomach, my back hurts, and I definitely didn't drink enough water yesterday. I make myself brown rice fried rice with a lot of garlic because I think garlic is a comfort food.
2 p.m. — I blast "Lift E'ry Voice" and "Sing" on repeat from Beyoncé's Homecoming, while getting some work done including drafting a coverage report, troubleshooting a project management tool, and copy editing blogs.
4 p.m. — Anxiety has not subsided, so I sign up for a volunteer shift with the SF/Marin Food Bank for tomorrow morning. Doing good usually feels good, so fingers crossed it works.
6 p.m. — After I wrap up work, I watch the season finale of We Are Who We Are on HBO. This show does an amazing job of capturing youth in a way that is beautiful but also makes my stomach churn with second-hand embarrassment. I'm equally obsessed with all the nuanced ways it explores gender and sexuality.
9 p.m. — Wake up from a nap and go back to refreshing Twitter and the New York Times. I decide to take out some nervous energy and do a 30-minute pilates flow followed by a 15-minute meditation. I take a shower and fall asleep around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $10.27
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