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A Week In San Francisco, CA, On $34.75 An Hour

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 disease intervention specialist who makes $34.75 an hour and spends some of her money this week on Levi's jeans.
Occupation: Disease Intervention Specialist
Industry: Public Health
Age: 25
Location: San Francisco, CA
Salary: $34.75 per hour (~$72,000 a year)
Net Worth: ~$17,000 ($2,000 in checking and $15,000 in savings, no debt)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,900
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,125 (I live in a three-bedroom with two other roommates)
Student Loans: $0 (my parents pay my loans)
Utilities: $50-$80
Car Insurance: $154.27 (six months on, six months off)
Meal Kits: $129.58
Netflix: $0 (mom pays)
HBO Max: $15.99
Hulu: $12.99
Wax Pass: $139.50
Apple iCloud: $2.99
Apple Care: $12.49
Spotify: $9.99
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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?
There was absolutely an expectation for me to go to college. I am first-generation as well as the only girl on both sides of my family (out of 13 boys) so there were very high expectations for me to go to higher ed. I also really wanted to go away for school. As one of only a few low-income people of color in my hometown, combined with a very creative and outspoken personality, I knew small-town life was not for me. I took out about $25,000 in student loans, which my parents are currently paying off.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents always talked to me about money, but more in the sense of explaining why asking for something I wanted was selfish. It wasn't until I went away to college that they started giving me practical advice. My parents' number one rule is to never use your credit card if you can't pay the bill upfront. It also haunts them that I rent instead of own, but they don't understand we're in a different era of housing. Plus, I have commitment issues. For immigrant families, the quickest route to wealth is to buy land and my family stands firm by that.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I began lifeguarding during the summers when I was 15. My parents begged me not to get a job and focus on school, but given that they were very strict, getting a job with my friends and cute boys was a dream come true to me. Plus, I could buy concert tickets without having to beg.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
The first part of my life was very hard financially. I wasn't lacking necessities, but I could feel we were low income. My family got hit hard during the recession, so I developed a lot of trauma around job and housing stability. When I went away to college, my parents' income shot up, and the quick transition took some time to get used to.
Do you worry about money now?
I worry a lot just because I work in a city full of tech folks that get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for entry level positions. I also like nice stuff and I am constantly reminded by my father that my industry doesn't pay. I just want to live by myself which I am hoping to do in the next year!
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
The day I graduated college, my parents made it clear that they would only keep me on their insurance and on their cell phone plan, and everything else was my responsibility. I think this was a way to scare me to go straight into grad school. I have always been a big saver. My mom opened a bank account for me on my 10th birthday, so I've always practiced putting money away. I graduated college with $8,000 in my savings from birthdays, holidays, etc.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Nope!
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Day One

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and spend 15 minutes deciding whether to drive to work or to take the bus just to give myself literally five more minutes of sleep. Driving to work wins — I snooze until 6:40.
9:30 a.m. — I get to work and am already slammed with case follow-ups. I'm more tired than usual because this guy I've been seeing, K., stayed over last night. I have been seeing him for a little over a month and we moved very fast in a very short amount of time. I felt myself burning out so we had a conversation last night around possibly not being monogamous and giving each other more space. I don't know if I should text him to gauge what he's feeling, or just chill until he texts me. I have meetings until 11 so I guess I'll see how I feel after my last one.
1 p.m. — During my lunch break. I read a little bit and take a nap in my car. I'm supposed to do a field visit with my boss at 3 and I'm absolutely dreading it. I just started this job a month ago, but I really feel like I am getting babied. I may be the youngest on my team, but I have the most collective work experience with the population we work with (HIV+ folks most of whom are unhoused). I need to take a client in for their appointment and I really hope they're at their place when I get there. A lot of my clients are active substance users, so it is hard for them to put their HIV status first, which is understandable. My boss has been holding my hand a little too tightly, and I feel like the clients sense the tension between us when I show up at their door. I can't wait until I'm able to navigate the field on my own.
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5 p.m. — I'm off work! My client was at his place but was unwilling to go to his appointment (which truthfully I am okay with since I didn't want to work late into the evening with my overbearing boss). I hop in my car and go to Trader Joe's. I pick up some avocados, tomatoes, breakfast burritos, hand soap, snacks, and a few sparkling waters. $46.71
8 p.m. — I get home and make a Blue Apron meal. Then, I veg out on the couch. It's my last month living at this apartment because a room opened up at my friend's house which is exciting, but I will miss my cozy living room. I look at my phone and reply to all the texts I missed throughout the day and start replying. K. hasn't texted me so I decided to text him and we plan to see each other this week. I'm in such a good mood that I buy new jeans and shorts from Levi's ($31.91) using Afterpay. $31.91
11 p.m. — Quick body shower but take some time to use a scrub (Bum Bum scrub is by far my favorite thing to exist). Then, I do my skin-care routine: FAB Wild Oat toner, Youth To The People superberry face oil, Laneige lip mask, and Brazilian Bum Bum cream all over my body! Drink a full glass of lemon water, then go to bed.
Daily Total: $78.62

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I work 10-7 today, so I get to snooze and take a little more time to get ready. I pack my lunch, leftover Chipotle from date night on Sunday, and then make a quick cold brew with Chameleon Concentrate and run out the door. I don't eat breakfast because work is providing brunch today. I check how late I am so once again driving my car to work wins.
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11:30 a.m. — As soon as I get to the clinic, I have to hit the field with my boss to take a client to the doctor. This is my first client that has been very willing to be connected to care and I have a really nice time asking him questions and filling out his intake papers. I see K. sent me money for coffee and it makes me smile. He's a very sweet and generous guy (I have a record of dating emotionally unavailable men without jobs). It's things like this that make me feel guilty for not wanting to be monogamous.
12:30 p.m. — It's such a beautiful day in the city but I'm really looking forward to getting back to my clinic for brunch. I'm getting a little hangry so I check my personal phone and see my friend who's getting married (I am maid of honor!!) sent me updates about her bachelorette on Friday. We're planning to go to disco night, so I start scrolling for decorations. Nothing fits her garden fairy aesthetic, so I save a few things in my Amazon cart to look at later.
6 p.m. — I have an unsettling meeting with our clinical director and I'm not feeling great about it. They're throwing us into work that isn't in our contract with no additional training. In my line of work, lack of training harms clients and patients the most. It's not a “learn as you go” type of job and the clinic and executives are acting like it is!
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9 p.m. — I get home late and hang around my room putting clothes away and cleaning surfaces. I spend the night talking to K. We decide to go see Batman tomorrow on his side of the bridge, so he gets us two tickets and I pack an overnight bag to take with me to work since I'll probably crash at his apartment. This makes me excited to see him and hopefully get a little steamy time with him.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — I'm happy I don't have too much to do this morning; my lunches are packed and I have Trader Joe's breakfast burritos ready to go. I put on black skinny Madewell jeans, my favorite black Cotton On button-down, and Doc Martens because I want to look semi-cute for the movies after work. Again, I decide to drive to work because I'm a weak person.
12 p.m. — My boss isn't in this morning, so I spend my morning paying bills. I send my roommate money for the wifi (in monthly expenses), pay two parking tickets ($186) and an orthodontist bill that's been haunting me since Feb ($1,000 through my FSA). After the bills, I eat lunch that I brought from home and read my book. I really can't wait to see K. later. I start thinking about spending the night, so I send him a little spicy picture I took last night to break up both of our workdays. $186
4:30 p.m. — Right before I leave work my friend, T., asks if I will stay the night with her since she has been having a bad mental health day. She has been dealing with a lot and it's hard for her to ask for help, so I tell her I'll come over after the movie. I am a little disappointed I won't spend the night at K.'s, but I am excited to see my friend. She has a habit of not eating when she's not feeling great, so I decide to stop at Trader Joe's across the bridge near the movie theater to pick some things up for her. I grab sheet cake, a couple of pre-made salads, some wraps, snacks, and a bouquet of roses ($41.81). I have some time to kill before the movie, so I sit in my car and keep scrolling for bachelorette things on Amazon. I settle for a sash, a tiara, and a banner that says, “from miss to mrs with all my bitches” $(27.23). I chuckled at that one! $69.04
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6 p.m. — Movie time with my man RPatz! Oh and K., I guess. Hah. I give K. some smooches when I see him and tell him snacks are on me since he is always treating me. We get an extra-large popcorn, a Diet Coke, and an Icee for him $25.24
8:30 p.m. — Two and a half hours of bi panic later....the movie was great.
10:30 p.m. — I get to T.'s place pretty late, so I shower while she eats some of the snacks I brought and we spend the night giggling and catching up. I'm so glad I came over.
Daily Total: $280.28

Day Four

8 a.m. — I love sleeping over at T.'s place. She is about a five-minute drive to my work, has parking, and there's an amazing coffee shop right under her unit. I pull on some Levi's, a black cropped sweater, and my sneakers and head out the door while T. snoozes. I grab an iced oat milk latte ($6 with a gift card) then run to my car to head to work.
12 p.m. — So many trainings!! My favorite coworker from a different site, B., is working out of our clinic today so I ask them to lunch and we grab two La Croixs and sit at the park for some sun and a much-needed gossip sesh. As a queer woman of color working in queer spaces, I feel lucky to be supported and want to be friends with coworkers. It's very special and I do not take these relationships for granted! I feel very close to B. and our morals and job passions align very well. We chat then walk to the local coffee shop for a snack. They get a bagel and I get a huge oatmeal cookie. $4
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6 p.m. — I'm starving from work so I make my last meal from my Blue Apron box as soon as I walk through the door. It is a Korean beef bowl and it's absolute flames. K. is spending the night later so I'm scrambling to pack my bag to take to my parents' house since I'm leaving right after work tomorrow. My room is a disaster.
9 p.m. — K. helps me pick a bachelorette outfit and load everything into my car. We have another conversation about what we're doing and I'm honestly getting tired of having to repeat myself. I do enjoy spending time with him, I just think he's more into this than I am, and I don't want to hurt him. We don't really end the conversation at any point. We shower, then fool around. Lights out by 10:30!
Daily Total: $4

Day Five

8 a.m. — I treat myself to an expensive coffee and a ham and cheese croissant before work. I am a huge sucker for iced lattes. I use the rest of my gift card ($4) and pay the difference ($8.78). I'm late for my clinic shift but coffee is a must. $8.78
1 p.m. — Since I'm driving to my parents for the weekend, I request to be off early to beat traffic and get there in time for my friend's bachelorette. I am so sleepy and my usual three-hour drive looks like it is going to take me about four and a half hours. I stop for gas ($62.03) and get a Yerba Mate and some chips for the road ($5.53). $67.56
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5 p.m. — Finally I'm in my hometown after inconsistent traffic. I stop to get tequila for the night ($32.68) and then go home to get ready. My parents made carne asada for me, so I scarf down a few pieces with tortillas and salsa and hop in the shower. I blow out my hair using my Dyson Airwrap (it has taken me three months to get the hang of it) and start doing my makeup. I have an hour to be ready and I am absolutely sweating through my outfit. I choose some green flare pants from Shein, a sparkly black halter, and square-toed camel-colored Steve Madden boots (my fave). My friend picks me up. $32.68
10 p.m. — We get so drunk! We brought the party to the first bar since the crowd was a literal snooze. We're tired of holding down the party, so I call us an Uber to a better bar ($8.81). My engaged friend ends up throwing up in the Uber (we had a bag, so I didn't get charged, thank god). Her fiancé picks us up from her friend's place and he drops me off on the way. Successful bachelorette in my opinion. $8.81
12 a.m. — My mom gets so mad when I come home drunk, but at least I'm home right? Doing your skin-care routine while completely blasted should be an Olympic event. In bed by 12:30!
Daily Total: $117.83

Day Six

8 a.m. — Honestly feeling pretty good, but somehow, I wake up next to my mom. We chat about the night before and I remind her she needs to drive me to get my car serviced after 9. My dad comes into the room and we talk a little more. He asks me about K., which is so weird to me since he's never interested in my dating life. I'm incredibly close to my parents since I'm an only child, but these questions are out of character. My mom tells us breakfast is ready and I am very pleased to see she made my absolute favorite; machacado and eggs, fresh beans, and tortillas. After breakfast, we decide to get coffee and a pastry before taking my car in.
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9:30 a.m. — We stop at my favorite bakery, and she treats me to a cold brew and a cinnamon roll. I get four cookies, some stuff for my dad, and a muffin for my grandpa. I pay for those separately ($9.05). We head to Ross right before leaving my car since it's on the way and it's always better to get there at the opening. I get some stuff for my new house; a spice rack, a bathroom caddy, new shower curtain, and a basket for my fiddle leaf fig tree since it's still in its nursery pot. I also pick up a chain for K. since he had been talking about wanting a two-toned one. My total is more than it should ever be at Ross ($78.02). We head to the dealership right after and she drives me home. $87.07
2 p.m. — Still waiting for my car. I take a nap to pass the time as my hangover is also hitting me particularly sideways.
5:30 p.m. — My car is ready! My dad's best friend works at the dealership as a mechanic, so he always does it for a deal. I give him cash for the oil change and tire rotation ($60) and then head to Save Mart to pick up some wine for my mom and Takis for me ($15.58). As soon as I walk through the door my mom scolds me for missing a car insurance payment, so I get on the app and pay the bill. I set up auto-pay so I don't get this lecture again. $75.58
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8 p.m. — My parents make steak and chicken and I take a plate to my grandma's and help her read some bills and write some letters. I am also very close to my grandparents, so I try to see them at least for a whole evening when I come into town. My grandma hands me a check to use at Costco and sends me home with a car full of pan dulce and socks she bought at Walmart. I love them so much, and leaving their house is always hard. I buy Girl Scout cookies on the way home. $12
10:30 p.m. — My parents are drunk and in bed by the time I get back so I take an edible and catch up on Teen Mom. I munch on some Girl Scout cookies and hit the sack within an hour! Snooze time.
Daily Total: $174.65

Day Seven

9 a.m. — My mom wakes me up because my cousin is coming over and it's his first time seeing our new house. Although I'm an only child, my cousin, B., is like a brother to me. He's a lot older but we have always gotten along really well and even travel together. I'm so excited to see him. Once I get up and wash my face, I see my mom made a bomb breakfast; chilaquiles with fresh cheese and cecina, which is dried beef. So freaking yummy.
2 p.m. — My parents want to go get groceries, so I hop in the car to join them. I really love hanging out with my parents so I'm happy to run little mundane errands with them, especially if it's all three of us. We shop around and I decide to get some things too. At check out, my parents offer to pay, which is crazy to me! They are always on me about not expecting them to pay for anything (which I don't), and I'm grateful they get me groceries. When we walk out my dad tells me we can get Canes on the way home, which I've been dying to try! They just opened a few locations in the Central Valley. We each get a three-piece meal with Diet Cokes (my mom pays). This was so hyped, and now I know why! So freaking yummy. I love fried chicken.
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8 p.m. — Another thing I love to do with my parents is watch movies. Turning Red just released on Disney+. The movie is so good. I feel like my parents are super impressed with Pixar lately, especially after Encanto.
10:30 p.m. — Shower and bed. Good night!!!
Daily Total: $0
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