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A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $75,000 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: a copywriter who makes $75,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a marijuana tincture.
Occupation: Copywriter
Industry: Commercial Real Estate
Age: 42
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $75,000
Net Worth: ~$264,000 (home: $850,000, savings: $6,000, checking: $8,000, investments: $2,000, 401(k): $2,000, minus debt. My husband makes $85,000 but our finances are separate and we split everything evenly. The only thing we share financially is we jointly own the home and have a joint account specifically for mortgage payments.)
Debt: Mortgage: $538,000, car loan: $40,000, personal loan: $25,000, credit card: $1,000
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,884
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $3,130.47, which I split with my husband, so my portion is $1,617
HELOC: $200
Car: $675 for car
Personal Loan: $500 (split with husband, my share is $250)
Utilities: $255
DirecTV: $110
Hulu and Netflix: $15 (I pay half, husband pays other half)
Savings: $900
401(k): $150, deducted pre-tax from paycheck
Health Insurance: $269, deducted pre-tax from paycheck
Cardio Barre Subscription: $39
Pet Medication/Expenses: $200
Duolingo: $83 annually
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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 think around 95% of my graduating class went to college. It wasn't something that was considered optional for most of us; it was just what you did after high school. I went to college and got a BA in English, which I thought I would never use. My parents paid for 75% of college and I took out a $30,000 loan for the rest. I'm thankful that I went to college when I did because higher education costs are pretty out of control now.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't really talk about money when I was younger, except for the occasional "we can't get that, it's too expensive." I wish we would have had more conversations about it, honestly. I went to school with a lot of wealthy kids, and though my parents were solidly upper middle class, we weren't millionaires. I got myself into trouble with credit cards in college (assuming I'd be able to pay them off once I got into the "real world" and got a "real job") and ended up declaring bankruptcy in 2009. Fortunately, that is now off of my credit report, but it sucked while it was on there.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was babysitting around the neighborhood when I was 10. It was the late '80s and that was a perfectly acceptable age to start babysitting back then. Looking back, I can't believe people entrusted a child (me) with their children. When I was in high school, I got a job at a pizza place. I started low and worked my way up to assistant manager.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
No, my dad was an attorney and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. We were comfortable. If there were problems, my parents shielded my sister and me from them. I also think it was probably easier to live on a single income back when I was growing up. My husband and I couldn't do it now, even though we don't have kids.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I make a good living, especially when you count freelance work I do on the side. But the insecurity I felt in my early adult life never goes away. I was also unemployed during the pandemic, which was not fun. Fortunately, I qualified for unemployment and we were able to suspend mortgage payments, otherwise I don't know what would have happened. We probably would have lost the house.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I started working full time when I was 21, but I lived with my parents for a long time after college. I would move out, then move back in with them, probably until I was around 33 when I moved to Los Angeles. My parents have always provided me with a safety net and I know I could count on them if anything happens. I'm lucky to have that.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I think I received a few thousand dollars when my grandfather died 20 years ago, but nothing other than that.
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Day One

7 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I hit the snooze button for an hour until my dog's begging drags me out of bed. I work from home, so my get-up time is negotiable most days; I just have to be online for our daily meeting at 9:30 a.m. I brush and floss my teeth, chug some water, and open the catio for the cats. We have six (I know, it's too many, but I have no ability to say no and my husband, D., finds kittens outside of work too often). Then I take the dog for her morning walk.
8:30 a.m. — I make my morning elixir of apple cider vinegar, water, and Truvia and sip this while I do my morning chores, including preparing breakfast for the pup, medication for one of the cats, feeding the cats, scooping the litterboxes (there are seven dispersed throughout our house), and making coffee in my Cuisinart coffee maker. I usually make five cups but only drink about half of that unless I'm particularly tired. While the coffee is brewing, I do my morning skin care (wash with mild cleanser, ice my face for 30 seconds, and slather on Coola's SPF 50) and take my medications (Flonase, one SSRI, and birth control).
9:15 a.m. — I dump some vanilla almond milk creamer into my coffee and use my Aerolatte to foam it. Then I put on concealer and mascara and my work uniform (a T-shirt and shorts today since it's going to be 85 degrees and I like to have the windows open for as long as I can) and log into my meeting. Once the meeting is over, I call a recruiter who left me a message this morning. I've had three job interviews at this one company and they want to see writing samples now. I send them over, then set my 25-minute timer — I use the Pomodoro technique, which is 25 minutes of work, five minutes off — and get to work. During my five-minute breaks, I get up, walk around, and do some sort of chore so I'm not sitting for eight hours straight every day (which I used to do).
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12 p.m. — I break for lunch. I heat up an In The Valley Vegan meal of Vegan Cowboy Chili Cornbread. I'm not a vegan but I am a strict vegetarian (no food with a face) and this is a new meal for me. I usually eat a salad or an Amy's frozen meal, so I hope this is good. While I eat, I watch an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Even though I live in L.A., I'll never understand how people have SO MUCH MONEY.
2 p.m. — Work is light today, so I take a break to confirm an appointment for a chemical peel this weekend, text my mom (who has COVID currently), and mop and vacuum the sun room. I use an app called Tody which tracks chores and has a daily to-do list. I have arthritis in my upper and lower back that can be okay on some days and unspeakably painful on others, so doing a full house cleaning on the weekend is not possible. So, I try to do a little every day. Mom texts back that she's feeling normal again (whew!).
3:30 p.m. — I hear things being delivered so I get the weekly Chewy package and my Coola sunscreen from Amazon off the porch and grab a banana, peanut butter, and more water. D. is out of town in Vegas for work and he calls to chat for a bit. The client has requested that he stay through Monday as opposed to Friday, which means I'll be alone for the weekend. Ugh.
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5 p.m. — Time to log off and do some yoga. I navigate to DoYogaWithMe.com, which has a bunch of free yoga classes. I used to be a fitness junkie, but with my back problems, I'm super limited now. I do a very gentle class. The pup and I head out on our evening walk, then I shower, and turn the oven on to heat up a couple slices of leftover pizza. While it's preheating, I check my lottery app and find that — surprise — I didn't win the Super Lotto. Again. My app is out of funds so I reload $25 and buy a ticket for Saturday's drawing. I hunker down with the animals to finish RHOBH and continue The Circle, which I started last night. $25
7:45 p.m. — I've been trying not to drink during the week, so I sip kombucha. It's okay but it smells terrible. Also, I miss D. and am bored. I order Pinkberry to make myself feel better. $26.70
10:15 p.m. — My dad texts me asking for advice on gaining visibility for a piece he put on LinkedIn. I do some research and tell him I'll read the article and come up with some hashtags for him. Then I place an Amazon order for nail polish remover, cotton balls, and carpet cleaning solution ($18.99). I do my nighttime skin care (mild face wash, benzoyl peroxide), brush my teeth, take my meds (SSRI #2, allergy pill), turn on Selling Sunset for background noise, and work on a crossword. $18.99
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Daily Total: $70.69

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I drag myself out of bed and walk the pup. I tossed and turned until I finally gave in and took an anxiety med at around 1 a.m. I don't like taking them because I'm groggy the next day, but if I can't sleep I'll give in. Morning chores, skin care and meds plus Prilosec which I take every other day, then log on for the morning meeting.
9:30 a.m. — Breakfast is coffee and a Perfect Peanut Butter Bar. It's payday (woo!), so I log onto my bank account and transfer the remainder of what I owe for the mortgage into our joint account. We don't share bank accounts, but we do have a joint account to pay bills.
11 a.m. — I go to my acupuncturist's office for a Zerona treatment. I paid in advance, so I don't owe anything this visit. I listen to a podcast while the laser zaps me.
1:30 p.m. — Lunch is a Tofurky plant-based ham and cheese sandwich, baked Cheetos, a mini vegan Coolhaus ice cream sandwich, and more of The Circle. I order lotion from Plaine Products ($32) — they use aluminum packaging and you mail the empties back to them. I already use their shampoo and conditioner, but I'm trying to switch over all my hand lotions around the house. I wish sustainability wasn't so expensive. I feel like it's cost-prohibitive to a lot of people, and it's hard for me to justify spending so much on hand lotion. $32
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3 p.m. — Duolingo and NeuroMD time. I paid for an annual subscription to Duolingo, and I've been dusting off my French and trying to learn Italian at the same time. Not having the ads popping up constantly has been a huge help.
5 p.m. — Time to log off of work for the day and do some Cardio Barre online. My back is bugging me, but I think it might help. Pup walk, then a glass of rosé and more of The Circle. I make fried rice for dinner using a packet of garden vegetable ready-rice, Tofurky lightly seasoned chick'n, and an egg. It's good, but it would have been better with more veggies. Around 10 I do my nighttime skin care, then go to bed.
Daily Total: $32

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — It's the weekend, yaaaay! I sleep in but regret it when I walk the dog and it's already hot. It's going to be 100 degrees today, yuck. Do my morning routine, then plop down on the couch with a banana for breakfast.
12:45 p.m. — I have an appointment an hour away for a facial peel at 1:45, so I leave. My aesthetician used to have a second location that was 15 minutes away, but the pandemic caused her to close. Normally, the drive sucks, but I take back roads instead of the highway and get there quickly and happily. I buy facial wash and resurfacing pads while I'm there. $251.59
4 p.m. — Since I skipped lunch I'm starving, so I heat up another Tofurky pocket (turkey, broccoli, and chick'n) and pair it with baked sour cream and cheddar chips. I finish it off with a bowl of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.
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7 p.m. — Time for some rosé and a grocery order. I log onto the Albertsons website and order staples for the week — bananas, apples, Perfect bars, a frozen pizza, and some Heineken 0.0 for D. — for pickup tomorrow morning. $144.30
10 p.m. — I wash my face and go to bed.
Daily Total: $395.89

Day Four

9 a.m. — I intended to get up earlier but failed. I walk the dog, do my morning chores and skin care, then pack the dog into the car to pick up the groceries. I hate grocery shopping, so the grocery pickup thing is life-changing for me.
4 p.m. — Cardio Barre time! I'm hoping it will help my back because it's hurting. It doesn't. I shower, then give myself a manicure. I realize my nail files are completely worn down, so I order a nail file kit, cuticle remover, and some toilet bowl cleaner refills from Amazon. $16.86
5:30 p.m. — I decide to check out the new dispensary near me after my workout. I've heard good things about tinctures for pain and sleeplessness, so I get one of each of those, plus some flower. It's cash only so I withdraw $200, but the total comes to $167.50. $167.50
7 p.m. — I've been sitting with a heating pad for a couple of hours and my back still hurts. I place a Total Wine delivery order for half a case of red since we're out of wine and I want to pour some on the pain. Then I heat up a kale and cheddar cheese bake for dinner. $119.72
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10 p.m. — Two glasses of wine helped. Skin-care routine, then bed.
Daily Total: $304.08

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Monday, augh. I walk the pup, do my morning routine, and pour coffee. Then I log into work for the world's most boring meeting. Between meetings, I scarf a banana and peanut butter.
12:45 p.m. — I pop out for another Zerona treatment. My acupuncturist is disappointed that my back still hurts. Me too, bro. Back at home, I log back into work and have an apple and a dark chocolate and peanut butter Perfect bar with lots of water. D. texts and says he's back in L.A. and will be home soon. Yay!
3 p.m. — I get a call from the new place that they're offering me a job! Very exciting. I take it to my current company as a courtesy, but they decline to counter so I give my notice. I call the recruiter back and tell her that I accept the job, and she says she'll send the formal offer letter by the end of the week.
6:15 p.m. — D. and I walk the dog. He's exhausted and his back is killing him, so we order in from a sandwich place that does an amazing Impossible cheesesteak. I get that, D. gets an Italian sub and a meatball sub, and we both get brookies and watch The Staircase (the show on HBO, not the documentary. We've already seen the documentary). $55.60
8 p.m. — D. and I each have a glass of wine to celebrate my new job, even though I'm freaking out a little. I don't do well with change, but the way my company has been going lately, I feel like I have no choice. There's nowhere for me to go there. At 10, nighttime skin-care routine, Selling Sunset, and bed.
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Daily Total: $55.60

Day Six

8 a.m. — I walk the pup, do my morning routine, and pour coffee. Then I log into work for yet another meeting. Meetings, meetings, meetings. I will not miss these meetings. For breakfast, I have a banana, strawberries, and coconut-based whipped cream.
11:30 a.m. — I take some tincture to help with my back pain. I'm hoping it doesn't make me all woozy and out of it. I wait a while and it does help my pain, but it makes me tired. Hopefully, I'll adjust quickly. I get my new offer letter and sign the paperwork. They don't want me to start for three weeks, but I already gave my notice, so it looks like I'll have a week off in between.
12:45 p.m. — One of my freelance clients contacts me and says she'd like to renew my contract at the same rate, but she's going to be reducing my workload 25-50% percent. This sucks because I've seen her posting freelance listings paying significantly less than what she's paying me, which means they're trying to lowball writers. I hate that this is the way things are and it's one of the reasons I don't freelance full-time anymore. The company has gotten a bit lax with their payment schedule as well. I sign on with them for the next year and hope that more freelance gigs come my way (that pay fairly and on a regular schedule).
4 p.m. — The tincture has knocked me out for the day. I spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch watching The Circle in a daze. At 5, I drag myself up to do Cardio Barre. D. comes home and we walk the dog and then have dinner. We have vegetarian burritos, blue corn chips, Morningstar chick'n taquitos, Tofutti sour cream, and salsa.
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8 p.m. — We continue catching up on TV from when D. was away. Tonight it's Made for Love. The lead actress is really good on this. D. and I snack on gummy bears while watching. Then skin care, Selling Sunset, bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:10 a.m. — I slept in a little. I get up, do my morning skincare, and walk the dog before doing my chores. I take one drop of CBD-THC and that seems to be enough to ease my pain but not so much that I'm unable to function. At 9:30, I log into my morning work meeting. I'm excited to see that my client finally paid me for April, so I pay my rather large credit card bill and transfer $553 into savings.
10:45 a.m. — Time for my final Zerona treatment! I don't think it did anything. Don't waste your money. Back home and lunch is rosemary and olive oil Asiago cheese, multigrain crackers, black grapes, and gummy bears while I watch RHOBH.
1 p.m. — I meet with my manager to see if I have anything I need help with before I'm done next week. I don't. I spend the rest of the afternoon looking on Realtor.com at properties I can't afford (yet). Then I sign some forms for my new job. By 2, I'm bored so I log into Duolingo and practice my French and Italian.
4 p.m. — I need a break from work, so I snack on honey-roasted sesame sticks and dried apricots while doing the NYT crossword. At around 5:30, I do some gentle yoga to ease my back pain, which kind of works.
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7 p.m. — D. and I make a dinner of corn on the cob, barbecued chick'n on Dave's Killer Bread buns, and coleslaw. We finish up Made For Love and switch over to Barry. I'm tired so around 9:30 I do my evening skin-care routine and it's off to bed.
Daily Total: $0
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