A Week In Lake Tahoe, CA, On A $53,560 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a development & communications associate who makes $53,560 per year and spends some of her money this week on an e.l.f. eyeshadow palette.
Occupation: Development & Communications Associate
Industry: Environmental
Age: 35
Location: Lake Tahoe, CA
Salary: $53,560
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,635.68
Gender Identity: Cis Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $625 (for my half of a two-bedroom apartment that is way under-priced)
Grad School Loans: $418 (I'm eight years into PSLF or Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but I'm not holding my breath)
Utilities: $50-75
Phone: $50 (to my husband's parents)
HBO/Hulu/Spotify: $25
Wifi & Netflix: $0 (husband pays)
Renters Insurance: $35
Domain/Web Hosting Costs: $25
Recurring Donations: $50
Gym: $0 (This is the yearly Christmas gift I get from my parents)
IRA: $458 (I will max out with bonus at the end of the year)
Car Savings: $100 (for annual costs and to eventually replace my 19-year-old CRV)
Travel Savings: $100
Down Payment Fund: whatever is left, usually around $600.
Note: I have a fully funded six-month emergency savings account, so I'm not adding to that currently. When we buy a house, the down payment savings will go towards emergency savings.
Annual Expenses:
Amazon Prime: $129
Car Insurance: $498
Ski Pass: $500

Day One

6 a.m. — I wake up on my own, before my alarm. Oh, the glorious few days after the time change when my body hasn't adjusted yet. I take advantage of my awakeness to make myself an Americano and climb back into bed to drink it while scrolling Instagram and chatting with my husband, R. I have to get up for real now. I'm not showering this morning, so I douse my hair in dry shampoo. My morning routine is pretty basic -— wash face, toner, Cerave moisturizer, Tarte CC cream with SPF, and Tarte mascara. I pack my gym bag and am out the door by 7:30.
8 a.m. — At work, I make myself a mint tea and check my email. I work at a nonprofit where I do a little bit of everything, but I'm mainly focused on fundraising, grant writing, and communication. We're getting close to the end of the year, which is the craziest time in fundraising. I eat honey roasted turkey and cheddar slices for a weird breakfast, but it's what I had in the work fridge.
10:30 a.m. — I take a few boxes of envelopes to the post office to send them off. Luckily, the line isn't too long, and the woman who actually knows how to process bulk mail is working up front today. While I'm out, I stop by the bank to make the deposit and run into CVS to get some mascara. I'm usually all about the Tarte Gifted mascara, but we're going on vacation to Costa Rica in 13 days, and I want to get something waterproof. My friend told me recently that Wet n Wild is cruelty-free, plus it's cheap. I make what's probably my first Wet n Wild purchase since buying tan lipstick/brown lip liner in the 90s, and get basic black, waterproof mascara. $4.21
12 p.m. — I get an email from our realtor's office that they've scheduled the home and pest inspections for tomorrow. My husband and I made an offer on a house last week (timing is stressful with our upcoming trip, but our realtor assures us that we'll be fine), and now we're in the inspection period. We make plans to meet the inspector to hear his report. This is getting really and anxiety-inducing. I'm about to go heat up leftovers for my lunch when I'm invited to lunch with my boss and a donor. I can't turn that down. I get coffee and a chicken udon salad, and we get to schmoozing. Lunch is expensed.
2 p.m. — I run by the post office to drop off some mail for work and my ballot. While I'm out, I pick up the November wine from our monthly wine club that R. pays for. For $35 a month, we get two bottles from an awesome local wine shop. Once I'm back, I work on a presentation that my boss and I are giving later this week.
4 p.m. — I leave the office. I swing by a local print shop on the way to the gym and grab a display I designed and had printed for a fundraising campaign we have going on later this month. At the gym, I turn on my workout-only, favorite podcast, The Babysitters Club Club. After warming up, I do upper body lifting and three miles on the stationary bike. On my way home, I stop by the store that's hosting the fundraiser to drop off the display and chat about the details with the owner.
6:30 p.m. — Home! R. already did the dishes (I cook, he washes dishes), so I get started making dinner. I listen to the Bald Move Network Watchmen recap podcast, We Do, while I cook. I like the show, but I'm not diving into all of the other material that's being released, so the recap podcast gives me those details I'd be missing. I'm no-recipe throwing together a tempeh noodle soup with spinach tortellini I got last week at Trader Joe's. While it simmers, I jump in the shower.
8 p.m. — Out of the shower I moisturize my face with Cerave, and then dinner is ready. I make myself a cocktail with fancy gin, homemade limoncello (made by my mother in law), and soda water. The soup is decent, but the tortellini is really bland. I don't think I'll be buying that again! R. and I chat about our days and start the new season of Disenchantment. I spend more time scrolling through Reddit than watching, and pretty soon I've lost the plot. I go into our room where I can really concentrate on the unsolved murders I'm reading about. R. joins me after he finishes the second episode, and it's lights out before ten!
Daily Total: $4.21

Day Two

5:40 a.m. — Ugh, I'm awake, because our upstairs neighbor, Stompy McNightcooking, has started his day, loudly. I scroll through Instagram for a bit before I get up to make coffee and start getting ready. I'm leaving work early today to go to the house inspection, so I want to get in by 7:15.
7:19 a.m. — Only a tiny bit behind! We're not sticklers for time at my work, because it all balances out in the end, but I have a lot to do before I go on vacation! First thing, I need to clean up my office space. I sweep, vacuum, and wash out my garbage can. I'm not the neatest person, so I try to clean up regularly so things don't get too out of control. My boss and I walk to a nearby coffee shop to meet someone who is going to volunteer with us. This place has AMAZING cold brew lattes, so I get an iced oat milk latte with housemade vanilla, despite the chilly morning temperature. We chat about the organization, her background and interests, and the work she'd be doing. She seems like she'll be a great fit, and I'm excited for her to start in the next couple of weeks. $4.50
3:15 p.m. — Out of the office to meet R. and our realtor at the house for our inspection. The inspector is quite the character. The inspection goes better than I hoped — there are issues, but nothing hugely pressing. A lot of small things we'll be able to do ourselves and a couple of things we'll ask the sellers to do to get section one clearance. The inspector also tells us about some stuff we'll have to watch out for over the years. We'll pay the inspector tomorrow and get the official reports right away, which is great.
5 p.m. — I'm still really hungry, so it's an early dinner tonight. Between the $10,500 check I wrote to the title company last week and the fact that we're going to be gone for two weeks shortly, I'm trying to make all meals from food we already have, without resorting to eating out. Tonight, I make a charcuterie-type spread with a few cheeses, serrano ham and salami, dutch crunch bread, chips and salsa, and some onion jam I made last weekend. I make another gin/limoncello/soda water cocktail, and we watch old episodes of Community while we eat. After dinner, we play Grand Theft Auto, and I open a Sierra Nevada. I only drink about half, before remembering that I don't really like their pale ale. I do this at least twice a year.
10 p.m. — I get ready for bed, cleansing my face with micellar water and reusable face pads, applying prescription Retin-A (which I use every other day — it's cheap and has been great for my skin!), and moisturizing with The Ordinary rosehip oil. I fall asleep pretty quickly, but wake up around 11:30 and can't fall back asleep forever. I'm anxious about house buying and the upstairs neighbor is being loud. I read a book I've read a million times on my kindle (The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss), which finally lulls me back to sleep around 1.
Daily Total: $4.50

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I did not sleep well. Normally, I'd go back to sleep for another 45 minutes and pull myself together with dry shampoo and a lot of undereye concealer, but I have to give a presentation to some potential funders today. I drag myself into the shower. I'm just about out of my Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser. I developed a bit of an expensive skincare habit, but with the house purchase on the horizon, I'm going to have to cut back on that. I dress a little nicer than usual and add some neutral eyeshadow to my basic look. Before I leave, I remember to grab leftover quinoa salad for lunch and the Americano I made earlier.
8 a.m. — I mildly panic that the organization we're presenting to won't have the correct laptop adapter (even though they told me that they would earlier this week), and email our contact to make sure. This is what my old therapist called catastrophizing, focusing on the worst possible outcome, and I used to be really terrible about it with work situations. I've gotten a lot better about it in the last couple of years, but I think the house stuff is ramping up my base level of anxiety. This reminds me that I need to see my primary care PA for travel meds. I book an appointment for Monday afternoon.
10:30 a.m. — R. offers to let me borrow his adapter because he knows that will help me calm down. I walk over to his office and grab it, and we chat a bit about house stuff before I head back to my office to prep for the presentation. I check my credit card and notice that the yoga studio I joined last month charged me for this month's membership. I signed up during an anniversary special so I get a discounted rate for an unlimited membership until February. After that, I'll reassess my budget, and probably drop down in levels. $69
12:45 p.m. — Presentation went great! (Though they didn't have the correct adapter — I'm so glad I brought my own.) Both my boss and I have a good feeling about getting this funding. We go out for a celebratory lunch and I get a half turkey sandwich/half Caesar salad combo. $9.51
2:30 p.m. — Back in the office, I'm finishing up part one of a re-engagement email campaign that I'm hoping to send out before I leave. With all the prep work I've been doing, it comes together more quickly than I expected it to, and I get the go-ahead from my boss to send it out this afternoon! One more thing checked off my pre-vacation list.
3:45 p.m. — Off to the gym! I'm going to a community meeting for work this evening, so I'm leaving a bit early to work out. I listen to I Hate It But I Love It, a hilarious podcast about guilty pleasure movies hosted by two women comedians.
5:30 p.m. — I run into a bunch of people I know at the community meeting and I'm pleasantly surprised to see they're providing dinner. If I have to work evenings, I always appreciate a free meal. R. texts to let me know that he paid the invoices for the home and pest inspections, $370 and $185, respectively.
8:30 p.m. — Finally home, R. and I hang out on the couch and watch mountain bike Youtube videos while catching up on our days. I do my nighttime routine and remember to take my magnesium supplement. I've been taking it for a couple of months and I find that it helps with stress, sleep, and muscle soreness.
Daily Total: $78.51

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm and can't go back to sleep. Luckily, it seems more like “I got enough sleep” awake and less like “I am rethinking every decision I've ever made” anxiety. I read things on the internet, then make coffee and get ready. I'm the only one in the office today, so it is going to be a VERY casual Friday, involving a lot of dry shampoo, stretchy jeans, and a shirt that feels like pajamas.
8 a.m. — I check to see how our re-engagement email is doing. Not a ton of opens, but that's to be expected. I've been working to improve our email outreach over the past few months and this re-engagement campaign is one of the big steps I'm taking. After that, I get back to content writing. Around 10, I heat up the quinoa lentil salad and have a savory late breakfast while I sort through photos.
10:30 a.m. — Someone from our mortgage lender calls to give me an update and to order the appraisal. House prices are so high in our region that we qualify for a down payment assistance program, which we're using to buy. Because we're participating in this program, we are working with a mortgage lender that has experience with it. They've been really helpful on our first time home buyer journey. I give them my credit card number, and they charge me right away. $560
12:30 p.m. — I need some social interaction, so I take my laptop to a nearby coffee shop to work on our newsletter for a while. I get a double shot iced Americano, and it's only $3.10 since I brought my own cup. I pay with quarters that I dig out of my laptop bag, like a real adult. After I get back to the office, my brain is fried. I make myself some microwave popcorn for lunch. I promise I don't normally eat this weirdly. I finish out my Friday listening to Lizzo and catching up on admin stuff. $3.10
4:30 p.m. — I change into my yoga clothes and head out the door to a slow flow class. This is such a great, relaxing way to end my week. After class, I head home and start making dinner. It's Taco Friday and I start by making black beans in the instant pot. It took me a while to get over my fear of pressure cooking, but now I use it all the time. I'll never buy canned beans again! I also pre-cook potatoes that I'll use for breakfast tomorrow. I clean the kitchen while I cook since R. did the rest of the apartment while I was at yoga.
9 p.m. — Since we're going on a big bike ride tomorrow, we have a mellow night with tacos, old episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and a fairly early bedtime. I have sprouted a huge zit, so I use one of those zit patches. I'm not 100% sold on these working, but I'll finish out the package before I make a final decision.
Daily Total: $563.10

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I did not succeed at sleeping in, but R. is still sleeping, so I read on my phone until it's reasonable to get up. I use the Trader Joe's spicy chai mix to make a chai latte for R. and bring it to him in bed. I also make myself an Americano before getting started on breakfast. I cook up a scramble of potatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, chicken sausage, eggs, and Parmesan cheese while listening to the Bald Move recap of the premiere episode of His Dark Materials. I loved the book when I read it in high school, and I'm so excited for an adaptation that seems like it could do the story justice. After breakfast, we get ourselves and our bikes ready for a ride!
10 a.m. — R. and I pack up our bikes and drive to meet our friends, F. and K. We're being lazy and shuttling the ride today (ie driving to the top and riding down), so we need to figure out the shuttle math. We drop off R.'s car, cram into F.'s truck and drive to the top. Even cutting the climb to the top, this ride is hard and pretty technical, and I'm struggling to keep up with the guys who are much faster than me on the downhills.
2:30 p.m. — We make it down, collect the vehicles, and regroup for lunch. I suggest a nearby sports bar and everyone agrees. The table splits an order of mozzarella sticks, and I get a southwest chicken burger with a side salad and a Hazy IPA. The food takes a long time to come out, so my beer is gone before my entree arrives. I order a Pilsner to share with R. but end up drinking most of it myself. Ooooops. R. pays for our half of the bill, and our friends convince us to hit up the bike park on the way home. This is so not my biking skillset (plus I'm full of beer and greasy food), but I have fun playing around on the pump track, practicing small drops, and the guys even convince me to try the easiest jump line. I get a tiiiiiny bit of air on a couple of jumps and don't crash. Success! We make plans to do an easy ride tomorrow before they need to head out.
6:30 p.m. — I am so tired from the long day of riding, that I'm tempted to go right to bed after showering. R. convinces me to stay up, and we rewatch a couple of episodes of Narcos: Mexico. Neither of us are very hungry after the big breakfast and lunch, so we just snack for dinner. I eat the last of the serrano ham, plus garlic cheddar and gouda.
9 p.m. — I can't keep my eyes open, so I do my nighttime routine and we both head to bed. I fall asleep immediately.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

5 a.m. — No way, this is way too early to wake up on a Sunday.
7:45 a.m. — I manage to go back to sleep, on and off until I get up for real a little before 8. I make R. his chai latte, and decide that it's finally time to learn to use the steamer on my espresso machine. It's very, very easy and I'm embarrassed that it took me over a year to try it. I make myself an oat milk latte! This is going to be a gamechanger. Using Friday's leftovers, I make breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs. The secret to excellent homemade breakfast tacos? Scramble the eggs using Gordon Ramsey's method and fry the tortillas on a griddle or skillet using a little bit of butter or canola oil.
10:15 a.m. — We meet up with our friends for another shuttle ride, but this one is much shorter and easier with incredible views. While R. and F. retrieve the truck, K. and I sit in the warm sun and pet all the dogs that show up at the trailhead. K. and F. hit the road, and R. and I go into town to run some errands for the Costa Rica trip.
12 p.m. — We're going to the mountains, the beach, and doing a two-day river raft trip, and we need some supplies for that. We go to the first outdoor gear store, where I buy a new pair of Goodr sunglasses, croakies for R. and I, and a sleeve/lanyard for my GoPro that's marked down to $11.99. The total comes to $62.86, but I have $25 worth of rewards on my account, so I only end up paying $37.86. This store doesn't have all the GoPro accessories I need, so we go to another sporting goods store (there are a ton of them in our town). Luckily they have the extra battery and floating handle/wrist strap I want. We're also going SCUBA diving while we're there, and I'm nervous about dropping my camera underwater. This comes to $56.27, and we head home to make lunch. $94.13
1 p.m. — I make pesto grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch, and we celebrate being so accomplished so early on a Sunday by cracking open the bottle of white from our wine club. We spend the rest of the day watching bad action movies (the most recent Robin Hood, True Lies) while getting stuff done around the house. I do laundry, work on my packing spreadsheet for Costa Rica, and list some stuff on Poshmark. I have a hobby blog and niche YouTube channel that I've been neglecting due to house stuff and trip planning. I consider working on blog posts or editing a video I've already shot, but instead, we play Grand Theft Auto.
6:30 p.m. — For dinner, I steam a spaghetti squash in the Instant Pot. It's my first time cooking a spaghetti squash this way, and it's pretty quick and easy. I think I let it naturally release too long, though, and it ends up a little mushier than I would like. I mix the squash “noodles” with pesto and top with chicken sausage and Parmesan. We eat dinner while watching the latest episode of The Watchmen. It's WEIRD, but I like it.
9 p.m. — I jump in the shower and use the last of my Youth to the People cleanser. Guess I'm back to using Cetaphil. I read about other peoples' relationship issues on Reddit before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $94.13

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Our office is closed today for a holiday, but I want to get as much work stuff done as I can early this week, so I'm not stressed as we're getting closer to leaving. Since I'll be solo again, I'm going in late and wearing yoga pants and a fleece to the office. I make myself an oat milk latte and start packing my backpack for next week! My packing spreadsheet is color-coded, so I can keep track of what's been packed, what I still need to buy, what I'm wearing on the plane, etc. I'm one of those people who gets almost as much joy out of planning for vacation as actually going, and my planning gets pretty detailed.
9 a.m. — In the office, and I buckle down to write fundraising materials for our board. They're hosting their own online fundraisers for Giving Tuesday, but I've found that it's much more successful if I just write 95% of their content for them upfront. They can personalize the other 5%.
10:30 a.m. — I take a break to walk over to R.'s office to return the laptop adapter. Once there, I offer to buy him a breakfast treat, and we go get croissants nearby. They're pricey but so huge, and so delicious. $13
1:30 p.m. — Unsurprisingly, I'm getting anxious about going to the clinic to discuss my travel anxiety. Luckily, the physician's assistant I see for primary care puts me at ease. I get a refill for my daily asthma medication and a prescription for Xanax for the plane and long travel days. I used Xanax last time I did a big international trip, and it really helped. My copay for the visit is $45. $45
2:00 p.m. — I stop by the pharmacy to drop off my prescriptions and they say it's going to be more than an hour. I don't want to wait around, so I go to the grocery store. My grand plans of cooking from existing groceries aren't going to happen, but I only need a few things. I get sesame seed bagels, pears, sliced cheddar, honey roasted turkey, and ginger sparkling water. I eat some of the turkey and cheese slices with an Anjou pear for lunch since I forgot my leftover spaghetti squash. $25.72
4:30 p.m. — I spend the afternoon creating a donation page for our website that highlights our year-end fundraising campaign. Did you know that 30% of annual giving to nonprofits happens in December, and 10% on the last day of the year? Between prep, launch, maintenance, and related admin, October through December is usually pretty crazy for fundraising teams at nonprofits. After work, I'm off to yoga for a vinyasa flow class. It ends up being one of the top five hardest yoga classes I've ever done.
6 p.m. — I stop by the pharmacy on the way home to pick up my Xanax. While there, I also grab micellar water face cleansing wipes, UTI meds, an e.l.f. neutral eye shadow palette (also cheap and cruelty-free!), and generic Sudafed for R. for $33.15. I get home and throw together a quick dinner. Tonight, that means veggie burger patties (the Don Lee ones from Costco are delicious and soy-free!) on a bagel with a fried egg, melted cheese, and salsa. It's a weird combo, but so good after a hard workout. During dinner, R. and I watch episode two of His Dark Materials. I'm still loving it! $33.15
9 p.m. — We received the preliminary title report for the property from the title company, and it looks good to us, but, really, we have no idea what we're looking at. Luckily, one of our friends who reviews a ton of title reports for work offered to look at it for us, so R. forwards it to him. I am so grateful! How do people buy houses? It's so complicated. I do my nighttime routine and get in bed with my laptop to read the staff reports for some upcoming public meetings. I try not to work in bed at night, but it happens occasionally. The numbers I'm reading stop making sense, so I close my laptop and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $116.87
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