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A Week In Los Angeles On An $80,000 Joint Income

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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: a coordinator who makes a joint income of $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on headphones.
Occupation: Coordinator (I was told on the first of the month I will be laid off so this is my job for the next few weeks).
Industry: Entertainment
Age: 33
Location: Los Angeles
Salary: $80,000 (this is an estimated joint income. Last year, my husband and I made a combined $97,000. It's the most we’ve ever earned in a year. My husband is a freelancer/independent contractor so his income varies wildly. Last year he made around $20,000 and I'm guessing he'll earn a similar amount this year. I suspect our income this year will be $15-$20,000 less since I got laid off from the highest paying job I’ve ever had at the end of 2022).
Net Worth: $155,000 (we have $25,000 in checking and savings. I just got laid off due to the writers' strike and suspect our emergency account will get drained. Sadly, getting laid off constantly is very common in entertainment. Strike? Laid off. Show ended? Laid off. Two-week holiday break? Laid off. We have $130,000 in investments. This includes retirement accounts. Neither my husband nor I have ever had an employer-sponsored retirement account so this is all through me saving the past 11 years. I'm nowhere near where I want to be retirement-wise but am proud of how much I have invested with a relatively low income and unstable career).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $1,065
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,200 for a two-bedroom apartment in a not-so-desirable part of LA. We may downsize if I'm still laid off in a few months.
HBO Max: $12.50 (we use other people's Netflix, YouTube and Disney+).
Spotify Premium: $12.99
iCloud Storage: $2.99
SimpliSafe: $27.99
Health Insurance: Mine is through work for another month and I pay $46 for dental. My husband's is $352 through the marketplace.
Gas: $20-$50
Electric: $60-$150
Internet: $89.99
Car Insurance: $800 every six months.
Roth IRAs: $220
Work Expenses: My husband has several monthly expenses on his “work” credit card and that monthly bill is usually between $400 and $1,000 a month. This includes his phone bill (about $100), Expensify ($5), various websites he needs subscriptions to as an actor to find gigs, and any parking or meals he needs to buy while on the road.
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?
It was never a question if I would go to college. My mom worked in retail and my father was a public school teacher but both have graduate degrees. I went to a private college and my parents paid for my tuition and housing. I graduated early and figured out how to get free/cheap housing through volunteer opportunities and sharing bedrooms. I'm not sure that they expected me to try to lessen the cost of school through these tactics but I just felt like I should. I also always worked a job or two for spending money. I have a graduate degree that I paid for with a scholarship. I paid the remaining costs upfront since I was working full-time at that point.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Never. But I remember my family commenting a lot about how much I liked to shop. I remember one particular comment my dad made once that was along the lines of, "If she goes into a shop, she needs to buy something to thank the owner for letting her in."
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started babysitting when I was 12. I got the job because I was that kid that couldn't wait to be a teenager — I really wanted to get a job, braces and homework.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. I knew we couldn't go on cruises and shop at Abercrombie but we went on road-trip vacations every year and we shopped all the time at cheaper stores. I do have a memory of my parents worrying about bills when my dad's union went on strike but otherwise I don't remember worrying about my needs being met.
Do you worry about money now?
Literally constantly. My husband is a very low earner and the longer I work in entertainment, the more I realize that I've always been a somewhat low earner given my education and work history. I've also been told I'm about to lose my job, which adds extra stress.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Maybe 26 or so when I had to get my own health insurance. That's also around the time I got rid of my first car, which my parents paid for the insurance and repairs on. My mom pays for my cell phone bill, though I've offered to take it over several times over the years. If needed, my husband and I could go to my parents for money and could probably move in with either set of parents in an emergency.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My father-in-law pays for our gym membership, which is around $60/month for both of us. My mom pays my phone bill, which is about $45/month on a family plan. Before we were married, my husband received $30,000 from a grandparent's death. We used the money to help pay for a cross-country move and our wedding. I have never directly inherited money.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm. I get ready for work (it's my second-to-last week) while my husband is still sleeping. I put on a sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers. I washed my hair yesterday so it just needs a quick brush this morning. I wear minimal makeup these days: brows, mascara, Bare Minerals powder, concealer on pimples and a cream blush sample from Sephora that is lasting me forever. I make a salad with romaine, cucumbers and lo mein noodles to bring to work.
9:15 a.m. — At work I make a cup of coffee and eat a Clif Bar from the office kitchen. I message with a woman from my local Buy Nothing group about a TV. We've been considering getting one for our bedroom. If the quality sucks, maybe we can use it as a computer monitor.
12:15 p.m. — I leave for my lunch break. I'm squeezing in a (free!) haircut. A woman in the same Buy Nothing group needed people for a hair school workshop. She posts them pretty regularly so I feel like someone in the group would have spoken up if the haircuts are terrible. We'll see.
1:30 p.m. — Back at work and I don't love the haircut but what did I really expect? I tipped the $6 that I had on me. I had been wanting a haircut for weeks but wasn't sure how to make it work with our budget so this was an overall serendipitous experience. I eat my salad. $6
6:30 p.m. — I leave work and pick up the TV from the Buy Nothing group on my way home. My husband smokes weed while I have a glass of wine. He then cooks grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner while I move some laundry he started to the dryer. We eat and watch NBA finals highlights. I start the dishwasher and we go to bed around 10:30.
Daily Total: $6

Day Two

6 a.m. — My husband wakes me up to say goodbye before he leaves for a gig. I woke up in the middle of the night for an hour or so as well, so I go back to sleep.
9 a.m. — I wake up and scroll a little bit before getting up to make coffee and breakfast. I make oatmeal with a banana, walnuts, chia seeds, flax and honey. I eat while watching House Hunters.
10:30 a.m. — I empty the dishwasher and attempt to put away the laundry we started yesterday (laundry has become a weeklong chore for us lately). I fold some laundry that's been air-drying on a laundry rack for who knows how many days. But then instead of actually putting away the laundry, I move my desk from the office into the bedroom. Since I've been interviewing for jobs and at home more, having both of our desks in the office is not working for us.
11:30 a.m. — I text a friend to see if she wants to go on a walk and then finally start putting away laundry while watching one of my personal finance YouTubers, Prepper Princess. I make another cup of coffee and two breakfast burritos with frozen hash browns, eggs and cheese. I eat while I apply to a contract writing job I saw on LinkedIn. They have very strict submission instructions and want a lot of writing samples, which makes me a little nervous. In my experience, this is a red flag when applying to jobs.
2 p.m. — I put on sweatpants and a sweatshirt and go for a walk. My sibling calls and I walk for about two hours while on the phone with them.
5 p.m. — I call my husband to see what time he'll be home and start making dinner. I make frozen salmon, couscous and veggies. I try to recreate an easy sauce from a HelloFresh recipe we had recently and it turns out okay. As the world's worst cook, I actually learned a lot from HelloFresh — the main thing being put butter, salt and pepper on everything. We love HelloFresh but canceled it this week in preparation for my layoff. For us, the cost for five meals with HelloFresh is essentially what we spend on a full week of groceries.
6:30 p.m. — My husband and I eat while we watch wrestling. I clean up from dinner and he sets up the TV I picked up yesterday. It works great with an old Chromecast we had on hand. I take a shower and watch a tiny house show while he takes his shower. We fall asleep while watching Barefoot Contessa (my favorite).
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9 a.m. — I wake up and unload the dishwasher, make coffee and the same oatmeal as yesterday, and watch another episode of the tiny house show.
10 a.m. — My goal is to apply to one job a day so I fire up LinkedIn. I'm looking for part-time or contract grant-writing roles so I can hopefully stay on once the writers' strike is over and I go back to my current job. I see a posting that looks promising until I see it's commission-based. I've been writing grants for 10 years and have never seen something like this. I consider applying until I come to my senses. Researching and writing grants is incredibly time-consuming and being awarded grants is a numbers game in a lot of ways so this payment model is complete BS. I find a job to apply for and edit my cover letter and resume to better reflect what the position is looking for. I then dig out a few bags that I'll need when I catsit later this week. They're in some suitcases crammed in a deep closet so it takes some time to access them.
11:30 a.m. — I make another meal since I'm not sure what time I'll be able to eat again. I scramble two eggs with frozen hash browns, spinach and cheese and make a second cup of coffee. I watch another episode of the tiny house show while I eat.
12 p.m. — My friend picks me up and we drive an hour to where I'm catsitting later in the week. I pick up the key and get the rundown from the homeowners. Payment has not been discussed and I'm too embarrassed to ask about it now. I assumed they'd assume I would only agree to do it if it was paid but they are also being so kind and generous about stocking the fridge that I'm wondering if they assume I'm doing it for free. Since it's located right on the beach, people would probably pay them to stay at their place.
2 p.m. — We get to our hiking destination and it's not the place I thought we were going. I can't figure out what the issue is but after a quarter-mile we stumble across the largest snake I've ever seen in the wild and decide to go back to the car. I get a text for a $1,800 charge on the card I share with my husband and remember him mentioning something he needed to book for a gig. It will be reimbursed by the gig this week.
3 p.m. — I buy my friend lunch as a thank you for taking me to pick up the key. We go to a restaurant I've heard a lot about (spoiler: It's disappointing). She gets a taco salad and I get taquitos and beer. I fill up on chips and bean dip so I only eat half of my meal and take the other half home. I tip 22% and apply this to my personal spending budget for the month. I've used EveryDollar to track my spending for at least eight years and as someone who has tried every budgeting app out there, I love it. I actually like the free version better than the paid version. I have my issues with Dave Ramsey (it's his app) so I'm conflicted about using it, though. $52.81
5 p.m. — At home I take a shower. I'm so mad at myself for not just asking about the rate for the catsitting gig. The cat gets three meals a day (I didn't anticipate needing to be home during the day) and I'm wondering now how I'm going to make this work when my 9-5 is over 30 miles away. I talk to my husband on his way to another gig and put on a face mask (Fenty Cookies N Clean, it's not worth the hype). I get in bed, look at my calendar for the week and cancel a retail job interview I set up last week. After looking into unemployment more, working a minimum-wage job doesn't really make sense. I would need to work over 23 hours a week to make what I think I will make on unemployment. At this stage, I think focusing on higher-paying contract jobs is a better use of my time. I may look into retail jobs again in a month or so if I need to.
10 p.m. — I turn off the TV and try to go to sleep but have major anxiety about this catsitting job. There are just a lot of puzzle pieces and I really don't want to spend money on meals or Ubers, even more so since I'm not sure if I'm getting paid. My husband tells me he got gas while I was out. This is the third time in nine days we've had to get gas. I hate LA. $73.09
Daily Total: $125.90

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I get up and put on leggings and an oversized concert sweatshirt. I leave for work and run by the post office for some mailing boxes. Two things I listed on eBay are going to sell and I want to have the supplies ready when the auction ends.
9:30 a.m. — At work I make a cup of coffee and eat a granola bar. I spend the morning working and take a break to get concert tickets for a show my husband wants to go to in a few months. I'm using credit card points to get them so I opt for nicer tickets than I usually would. The tickets are worth about $350 after fees. I then decide to pull the trigger on tickets I've been wanting to get for a show earlier that same week. Those are worth about $100. I make a second cup of coffee and eat some cashews and string cheese from the kitchen.
1:30 p.m. — I work more and make an Easy Mac from the office kitchen. I then google how much it costs to board a cat in the area where I'm catsitting. It's $10 less a night than the minimum going rate for housesitting in LA — further confirmation they probably aren't planning on paying me. I need to ask them to ease my anxiety but I'm really too embarrassed to ask at this point.
6 p.m. — I head home from work. My husband makes enchiladas while I try to cram the eBay items into the mailing boxes I picked up this morning. The items don't fit. Grrrr. I then help my husband with dinner and make us margaritas. We eat dinner while watching the NBA finals. My husband falls asleep while I rearrange my bathroom drawers. I go to bed and lie there for hours, once again crippled by the anxiety of fitting this catsitting gig into my week and my looming layoff.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8 a.m. — I take a shower and get dressed: band T-shirt, cardigan, jeans and Converse. On my way to work, I stop by the post office again and pick up more boxes for my eBay orders. At work I make coffee and eat a banana from the office kitchen.
12:30 p.m. — I make a frozen Trader Joe's japchae I brought for lunch. Throughout the afternoon I eat various fun-size candy bars from the office kitchen.
6 p.m. — I leave work and my husband makes a walnut chicken dish for dinner. It's also revealed he got ice cream sandwiches at the grocery store today. He didn't put it on our credit card so I assume he used cash. This is an ongoing point of friction for us. A lot of his gigs will pay or tip in cash and he treats it like extra fun money, which bothers me since every cent that comes my way gets accounted for in our combined budget. I don't bring it up tonight. I do a load of laundry but leave it in the dryer for future me to deal with. The two eBay items sold so I finish packing them. After taxes and eBay fees, I'll make $106.
8:30 p.m. — We leave to go see a play our friend is in. I talk to my husband about us not buying drinks while we're there and I can tell he's annoyed. He mentions there might be a drink minimum and I respond that we shouldn't have agreed to go in that case. My husband brings a vape pen to smoke on the way in.
11:30 p.m. — We head home from the show. Once home, we get ready for bed and scroll on our phones until about 12:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up and shower. My husband has to drop me off at work today as I'm borrowing a friend's car for the catsitting job. On the way, we stop at the post office to ship the two eBay items I sold. Shipping and insurance for the items come to $41.25 so my estimate of $50 in profit was accurate. $41.25
9:30 a.m. — At work I grab a coffee and granola bar from the office kitchen. I get an email with an offer for a small contract job I interviewed for last week. It will be a few hundred dollars a month and hopefully I can continue the work when my full-time job starts up again.
3 p.m. — I take my lunch hour to grab the car I'm borrowing from my coworker.
5 p.m. — A friend texts me asking if I'll read the manuscript of her book. I agree and make a plan to start this weekend. I also offer to help her find cultural sensitivity readers since I have a lot of connections to writers who all would love the work right now (WGA writers can work on non-TV and non-online media projects).
6:30 p.m. — My husband makes Impossible Burgers and fries for dinner while I put away a load of laundry. We eat while we watch TV and go to bed early.
Daily Total: $41.25

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up and shower. The people I'm catsitting for text me to tell me they left gas money for me. Yeah… I am definitely not getting paid for this job.
9 a.m. — I make toast with almond butter and eat while signing on to a therapy appointment. It's my first time with the therapist and she doesn't show up. I'm extra annoyed. I request a new therapist through the platform and the new one doesn't have a calendar to schedule an appointment. I give up and go to work.
10 a.m. — At work I make a cup of coffee and realize I don't have my headphones with me — I left them on the table after my canceled therapy appointment. If I didn't have to go straight to catsitting after work, I'd just deal with it but I really need headphones this week. I leave work and buy a pair at a nearby store. I use a gift card to lessen the price. I'm really upset since between buying my friend dinner and these headphones, this catsitting gig has now cost me nearly $70. $16.20
12 p.m. — I eat some cashews and string cheese from the office kitchen. I get a few texts from my credit card company for about $550 in charges. It's for equipment rentals for one of my husband's gigs and will be reimbursed by the company. Anything for those credit card points.
3 p.m. — I eat a can of lentil soup and some crackers from the office kitchen while I monitor the traffic to the catsitting job. I leave around 3:45. On the way, I notice the car I'm borrowing is blowing through gas — it's used almost half a tank since I picked it up yesterday afternoon.
5 p.m. — I get to the house where I'm catsitting and feed the cat. I look around the house and know I'm not going to be comfortable here. They didn't grab groceries or wash the sheets like they offered. They also left a sink full of dishes so I wash them. I play with the cat and the neighbor literally just walks into the house! The neighbor is perfectly nice but I'm a little creeped out. To make matters worse, I don't have service here. I download Google Meet and video call my husband. He offers to bring me bedding but it's really not worth the drive. I email my work to see if I can work from home tomorrow, though I might just drive to my house and work from there.
6 p.m. — I go to the grocery store. I get a gallon of water because I don't trust other people to change their Brita filter, three Poppis, bananas, hummus, tortilla chips to go with the hummus (the pita chips are $9!), coffee concentrate, creamer, bagels and cream cheese. I want to get wine but might want to take an antihistamine because of the cat so I just stick to Poppi. $42.63
7 p.m. — I make a frozen meal I find in their freezer and drink a Poppi. I then eat some ice cream I find in the freezer (they said I could help myself to anything in the kitchen). I feel really sad to be here and homesick in a way. I talk to my husband on the phone, watch TV on my laptop and go to bed around 10:30.
Daily Total: $58.83
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