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A Week In Los Angeles On A $192,000 Salary

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 designer who makes $192,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on retinol serum.
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Occupation: Designer
Industry: Tech
Age: 32
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $192,000
Assets: House value: $1,007,000 (my half of the remaining mortgage is ~$300,000); 401(k): $68,000; Roth IRA: $6,500; HYSA: $99,000; online brokerage: $71,000.
Debt: $19,000 car loan; remaining mortgage ~$300,000, as mentioned above.
Paycheck amount (2x/month): $8,000 (I’m a FT contractor so the net paycheck varies but this is my biweekly gross paycheck).
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: Primary mortgage: $1,450 (my half); property tax: $450 (my half).
Car: $500 (my half of loan and insurance).
Water, gas and electricity: $150-$250 (my half).
Phone: $30
Gym membership: $150
Pet insurance: $15
Netflix: $16
Spotify: $15
Apple iCloud: $10
Savings: $8,000 (investing and HYSA).

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?
My parents have always put emphasis on me being able to fulfill my dreams and study if I want to. I am quite ambitious and aspired to go to college so I ended up with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in design. I’m not from the US and universities where I grew up are mostly free besides a small fee (around $200) per semester so thankfully I did not need to take out a loan and am free of any student debt.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We did not have many conversations about money, other than that it is tight and life is expensive. Nobody ever talked about investing instead of just storing money underneath your pillowcase but my family just didn’t know anything about it.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked as a barista at a concert venue on the weekends to make some extra pocket money when I was 14. I also designed a few posters for concerts and events as well.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes — we did not have a lot of money growing up. I would not say that I ever felt very poor but other people around me definitely had more, went on regular lavish vacations and wore cool clothes.

Do you worry about money now?
Sometimes. I think that my childhood has led me to always be cautious and keep that scarcity mindset, and I used to have a pretty hefty emergency fund. I bought a house a few years ago and a lot of my savings went into the down payment and renovations. The real estate market was ultra competitive back then because interest rates were so low, so 20% down was a minimum to even be able to compete. I’m currently trying to build my emergency fund back up. In addition, working in tech has not been easy the past few years, with layoffs happening left and right. Job security is still a hopeful wish so that definitely makes me feel less secure than what I’d hope for.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents pretty much stopped supporting me when I started going to college. My father had to pay alimony by law, which covered my rent and groceries, but other than that I had to make my own money. That financial support ended at age 24 and I’ve been making my own money ever since. In terms of safety net, I am actually theirs, not the other way around.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I did receive $5,000 from my grandparents for my graduation, which was a very generous gift.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and realize that it’s still kind of dark outside. The weather has been super gloomy lately and I stay in bed for another 15 minutes while cuddling with my husband, M., and dog, B., before I get up and make Earl Grey to get my morning started.
9:32 a.m. — I’m sitting at my desk and about to hop on my first call of the day. We go over current projects and action items and wrap at 10 a.m. I’m still wearing my pajama pants and fluffy socks but am fully dressed for the day otherwise — thankfully nobody can see my legs while on the call.
10 a.m. — I take B. for a stroll. She tends to prefer going out around this time and snoozes up until she suddenly feels the urge to venture out and discover the world.
11:07 a.m. — I haven’t eaten a proper breakfast today and have been working on a last-minute change on a project I’m involved in. Since it is already 11 a.m., I decide to skip breakfast and eat an early lunch. It’s still cloudy and cold outside, and I am craving something hot and nourishing. I’m debating whether I should order pho or a Japanese curry; I end up going for a hot bowl of pho for myself and another portion for M. ($18.97 for my portion). I schedule it to be picked up at 12:30 p.m. and am already salivating thinking about eating it. $18.97
12:30 p.m. — Drive to the Vietnamese place to pick up my order. Ahhh, it smells so great already! When it comes to eating out and ordering food, I usually place an order for pickup because I hate paying the extra $$ for delivery, plus it gives me a chance to leave the house during a workday. The workers here are always super nice and I included an 18% tip in my order.
12:41 p.m. — The time has finally come and I’m inhaling my bowl of pho. I can barely finish, the portion sizes are always enormous.
1:30 p.m. — Hopping on another call, this time with my manager. We’re discussing design choices about an asset I was working on and chat about future steps for this project. My manager is very nice and easy to work with. I’m glad he’s not some mean guy who is a pain in the butt. After we’re done I jump back into my file (I mostly work in Figma, a collaborative interface design tool) and iterate on a few assets.
5 p.m. — I’m off to the gym! I started working out a few years ago and cannot imagine a life without it anymore. It helps me clear my mind and keeps my body fit and healthy.
6:30 p.m. — Done with the gym and now walking B. She loves her evening walks and spots a gopher that just dug a hole and peeked out. The two have a staring contest and it makes me giggle.
7:15 p.m. — Back home and playing fetch with B. in the yard to really power her out while my husband is making dinner for us. Tonight it’ll be a simple meal with brown rice, shrimp and broccolini. I really dislike cooking and prefer doing other household chores such as vacuuming with my beloved Dyson, so M. usually takes on the feeding part.
9 p.m. — Easy evening with a hot cup of tea (Yogi Tea is my favorite atm) and a new show I started called Elsbeth. It’s hilarious and a spinoff of The Good Wife, which I really enjoyed watching back when it came out.
12 a.m. — Lights out, good night!
Daily Total: $18.97

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and realize it’s gloomy again. I stay in bed for a few more minutes and then head over to the kitchen. Today I’m craving oolong, which I prepare.
9 a.m. — I recently discovered a way to spice up my oatmeal game: adding frozen berries and a few sprinkles of granola on top is a total game-changer. Since it’s been pretty cold over here lately (mid 50s is considered cold in CA and I’m spoiled), the warm oats are soothing my stomach and setting me up for a successful day.
12:37 p.m. — Got some work done while my husband walked the dog, and I am starting to think about ideas for lunch. We’re about to head into a long weekend as Memorial Day is coming up and I have no particular plans. My family lives in Europe so definitely no big gatherings for me. My fridge is looking rather sparse so we opt for a delicious bento box, which my husband picks up for us. $16.75
2:30 p.m. — I’ve been thinking about renewing my bathroom rug, which I’ve had for about six years at this point. I rotate it with another one but this one is my favorite and I sometimes wash and dry it immediately so I can use it the same evening. It was rather pricey (I believe $50 back in 2018) so definitely not an item that you can justify the price of if people ask you about it. Last night I actually had a dream about my rug falling apart and losing even more threads so I decide to pull the plug and head to the website where I bought it all those years ago. Voilà, there’s a sale going on! I look through all the available patterns and opt for a different one than last time. It should be here next week. $62.50
3:36 p.m. — I need some heads-down time for work and B. is distracting me too much because she is just too cute and I can’t stop petting her. I head to one of my favorite coffee spots and grab an iced matcha latte with oat milk while she takes a quick nap at home. $6.50
5:30 p.m. — Time to head to the gym again! The community is super nice and it’s one of those places where you’re being met without judgment, no matter if you just started working out or you’re a seasoned athlete. I get all my frustrations out while doing ball slams and feel better afterwards.
8:32 p.m. — Classic evening routine (walking B., taking a shower) is done and we’re having a late-ish dinner. This time it’s a rather boring meal but I’m a fan. I “cook” the cauliflower ravioli from TJ’s and add grilled broccolini on top to get some veggies in.
12:24 a.m. — Spent the night playing video games and watching Elsbeth and now I can’t wait to fall asleep in my cozy linen sheets. Good night!
Daily Total: $85.75

Day Three

9:17 a.m. — Good morning, it’s the weekend! I wake up naturally around 9 a.m. nowadays. Back when I was in my teens I was able to sleep until 11 a.m. but at least I have more of the day now, ha. Today will be busy and I’m low-key already excited to get the day started.
10:21 a.m. — M. and I walk B. together and chat about life, work and what our exact plan for today is. We come back home and he makes us a breakfast sammie (turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumber on sourdough bread) while I’m getting ready for the day.
1:15 p.m. — Off we go. M. has a barber appointment across the city and I am planning on hanging out in my former neighborhood in the meantime. We used to live on the other side of LA and revisiting from time to time is fun.
1:45 p.m. — We completely underestimated traffic, which leads to a change of plans. Instead of me walking around in my old neighborhood, I decide to check out a new coffee spot close by, which I bookmarked on Yelp a while ago. It has incredible reviews and I’m more than curious to try it out.
2:17 p.m. — Arrive at the spot, a vibey place with a ton of people and very friendly customer service. I order one of their signature drinks (iced hojicha latte) and am lucky enough to snag a spot and read a book while listening to music to blend out the background noise. The drink is delicious, highly recommend. $7
3 p.m. — M. is done with the haircut. I walk in his direction since the sun is finally out and I’m in the mood for a stroll. We are both getting pretty hungry and head over to one of our favorite spots, a Japanese hand roll place. We order a set of six pieces each and iced tap water to drink. $37.50
4 p.m. — Done with late lunch. Food here in LA is just so delicious and as you might be able to tell already, I’m a huge foodie. The variety always fascinates me and it truly never gets boring. Want Thai for lunch and Italian for dessert? No problem! This might not be the best choice for my wallet but my stomach has been deprived for decades in Europe and I’m still so excited each time we try out a new spot or cuisine. We head home and I’m looking forward to seeing B.
5 p.m. — Back home and reunited with my pup. I take her for a long walk with M. and we spot a few squirrels, which she thinks she can catch. Of course this never happens.
8:32 p.m. — It’s rather late but since we had a late lunch and no dinner, I decide that we should venture out and eat ice cream. There’s a very delicious Mom & Pop Shop with the most intriguing flavors close by so we head over and bring B. with us. We both order a split scoop and toppings (I get lychee/strawberry as well as Yakult and add mochi as a topping). $9.50
10:43 p.m. — All done with my evening routine and now hanging out on the couch with B. and M. We opt for a round of video games as I sip on a steaming mug of Yogi Tea.
1:01 a.m. — Whoops, gaming was too much fun, good night!
Daily Total: $54

Day Four

8:20 a.m. — Wake up and get ready for the 9 a.m. workout. I’m still sore from two days ago and tempted to not go but I don't want to pay the cancellation fee ($15) so I end up going. I know I’ll be happy about it after.
10 a.m. — Done with working out and let me tell you, it was a tough one! Even after over two years of consistently working out, I’m still struggling to do more than one proper push-up and have to modify and do them on my knees instead. One of the sets was 10 push-ups for four sets each so you can imagine how that felt after a while, haha. I stop by TJ’s on the way back and buy a few essentials (eggs, oranges, tomatoes, corn, raspberries, salmon and freezer pops). $21.96 for my half. $21.96
11:06 a.m. — Walked B. and prepped a quick breakfast: soft boiled egg on sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes and some oats. I recently ran out of my vitamin C serum by The Ordinary and decide to splurge on a new one by Paula’s Choice ($44) since they have a sale going on. It’s supposed to be great and I’m curious to try it out. I add a retinol serum ($38.50) to unlock the extra two full-size gifts after spending more than $65. It’s the infamous BHA liquid exfoliant and a cleanser. The total comes out to $90.96 after tax. $90.96
1 p.m. — I play fetch with B. in the yard and pick up some leaves on the side. I have a massive tree in my backyard and it is constantly losing stuff. Also, my tiny fig tree is close to blooming again! Not sure how all my neighbors keep such well-maintained yards, it is so much work.
2:38 p.m. — The sun is out again and I’m off to explore a new store I discovered on Instagram a few weeks ago. They sell cool outdoor clothing and magazines that might serve as inspiration for my job. I’m in such a good mood and guess what? They also have a sale going on so I end up buying three magazines for 50% off each. $40.70
5:37 p.m. — Aaaand the hunger strikes again. We head to one of my favorite places in the area, a German-inspired beer hall that also serves hot dogs. I order a vegetarian sausage as well as some fries to share. $21.25
8:32 p.m. — Showered and on the couch in my PJs, drinking a probiotic soda. To switch it up, I decide to watch Hacks, a comedy drama on HBO. It is completely different from anything else out there and I’m highly entertained. I floss, brush my teeth and head to bed around 12 a.m.
Daily Total: $174.87

Day Five

9:41 a.m. — Good morning! I have today off and slept in until just now. The rest of the fam is still snoozing as well.
10:29 a.m. — Heading out for a walk with B. and M. I get ready for the day, wash my face with cleanser and apply sunscreen. My OOTD consists of black leggings, an oversized shirt, sunglasses, a hat and sneakers to walk B. comfortably.
10:41 a.m. — Drama watch: While walking B. I spot another dog roaming around unleashed and looking quite stressed out. Coming closer, I realize I know the pup’s owner from our previous encounters during walks. Their gate must have accidentally closed, trapping the dog outside. I ring the doorbell and am relieved when the owner answers. Turns out one of his children had unknowingly let the dog slip out when closing the gate. I’m glad we saved the little pup from getting lost or eaten by coyotes.
11:45 a.m. — Done with walking and I am starving since I accidentally skipped breakfast again. It’s finally warmer outside and to celebrate the rescue of the dog, I am craving sushi for lunch, especially since there’s a great spot close to my home. I stop by and grab some salmon, spicy tuna and California rolls. $17.50
3:28 p.m. — Sometimes I find myself craving a slow day. In a world that never seems to stop, enjoying those moments of calm becomes such a luxury. Today has simply been a cozy day at home: did some laundry, hung out in the yard, read a book. I am sweaty and looking forward to my evening beauty routine and fresh sheets later tonight.
7:37 p.m. — We end the evening with a delicious home-cooked meal: rice, grilled salmon and zucchini. I have a probiotic soda on the side.
9:49 p.m. — Embracing the feeling of fresh everything: hair, nails (love me some at-home manicure evenings) and linen bedding. I check my inbox as well as my calendar before work starts tomorrow again, watch some YouTube and head to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $17.50

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and cuddle my family for a few minutes before I get up and make hojicha, which I then sip on while scrolling through my socials.
9:03 a.m. — I made chia pudding last night and am excited that I can just add some toppings for a quick breakfast: fresh raspberries, crunchy granola and honey on top. It literally takes a few minutes to prepare and is definitely on my list of “things I will never buy when eating out”. I usually try ordering food that is difficult to make at home so you will never see me gobble down a $16 avocado toast.
9:30 a.m. — Work is already pretty busy and I’m waiting for final sign-off on a project I’ve been involved in. Some people are still OOO because of the long weekend and I’m trying to juggle five things at once.
1:47 p.m. — Have been pretty busy working all day and got hungry in between so I had another probiotic soda (this time strawberry vanilla) to tide me over and make my stomach grumble a little less during calls.
2:01 p.m. — Done with all the calls. My super sweet husband prepared lunch for us in the meantime: noodles with egg, tomato and cucumber on top. It’s a traditional Chinese dish that’s so easy to make and I finish the entire bowl.
5:17 p.m. — Work is over and I am excited to go on a long walk with my little B. I love her, she makes my life so much better.
6:21 p.m. — Back home and excited for my evening. I saw a video on my socials today advertising the most beautiful and sustainable cutting board you have ever seen. I pull up their website and see that it costs $35. I find that a little excessive. If I remember correctly, the ones I bought a while back from Ikea were only $3 for a set of two. No cutting board can be that good so I close the tab and head into the shower.
7:06 p.m. — I steam frozen xiao long bao for dinner — they are mouthwatering and I wonder how they’ve done such a good job preserving the texture. I’m PMSing hard and feeling a sudden urge to devour a crêpe from one of my favorite dessert spots. Husband is all on board and we head over.
7:31 p.m. — Already holding my crêpe in my hands. Working in the service industry is such a tough job and I try my best to always be friendly and thoughtful to the staff. They have so much else going on already. My crêpe is mouthwatering (I chose banana/strawberry/Nutella). Craving satisfied. $11
12:07 a.m. — Watch the latest episode of Hacks and then head to bed.
Daily Total: $11

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — The alarm wakes me up. I pick up my phone and look at some messages from work that have already come in since some of my coworkers live on the East Coast. I then check my emails and socials.
9:02 a.m. — For breakfast I have oatmeal with frozen berries, granola and yogurt. Today I try a new flavor of kombucha instead of tea and I love that it’s not too sour. I then head out to walk B. since my husband is tied up with back-to-back calls.
11:19 a.m. — I’m preparing for a little trip this weekend and always like returning to a clean house. Before my next call I throw in a load of laundry and do a quick vacuum session. How did I ever live without a cordless vacuum? It makes life so much easier. For me, cleaning feels meditative and helps clear my mind. If I’m in a creative rut, I sometimes like decluttering a single cabinet. It only takes 10-15 minutes and I usually return to work with fresh ideas.
12:04 p.m. — Having an early lunch today. I have an Uber Eats voucher for $25 each month, which is a benefit of one of my credit cards. We order Thai and I choose pad see ew with tofu. After the voucher, the total comes out to $4.37. $4.37
2:31 p.m. — Need to crank out some more work and head to a coffee shop to change scenery. I order a blueberry iced tea without caffeine since it’s already later in the day. $5.50
4:29 p.m. — Yay, all my projects seem to be in a good spot! I prep for the next day and end work around 5 p.m. Now, off to the gym.
6 p.m. — Done with working out. I feel my period approaching and not sure if it’s just me but my body feels significantly weaker a few days before. I am lifting less weight and my boobs are very tender, ouch. Thankfully no burpees today.
7:14 p.m. — Dinner is already in my belly and was super simple: gorgonzola gnocchi from TJ’s. I took out half of the frozen cheese because the balance seemed off to me otherwise and made a side salad to go with it. For dessert I had a quarter of a juicy watermelon with tajin. Thinking of taking either a bath or an everything shower. I opt for the latter.
8:21 p.m. — While showering and waiting for my hair mask to do its magic, I am listening to a podcast about the ethics of anti-aging. I’m somewhere between accepting who I am and wanting to dye my hair since I discovered my first gray hair about a year ago. Definitely still working on that self-love game.
12:11 a.m. — Spent the rest of the night working on a creative idea I had and gaming on the PS5. Good night!
Daily Total: $9.87

The Breakdown

Weekly Total $$ Spent: $371.96
Food & Drink: $177.80
Entertainment: $40.70
Home & Health: $62.50
Clothes & Beauty $90.96
Transportation $0.00
Other $0
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