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A Week In San Diego, CA, On A $42,000 Salary

Photo: courtesy of Sam Edelman.
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: an events specialist who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Sam Edelman platform loafers.
Occupation: Events Specialist
Industry: Museum
Age: 25
Location: San Diego, CA
Salary: $42,000
Net Worth: -$80,000 (all debt, no savings unfortunately)
Debt: $80,000 (student loans + car loan)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,500
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,400 ( I know this is half of my monthly paycheck but I have a lovely studio on my own and I need my alone time for my mental health!)
Loans: $570 (car payment and student loans)
Spotify: $9.99
Internet: $45
HBO/Hulu/Disney+: $30 (I honestly need to cancel these subscriptions, I don't use them enough and they're just too expensive)
Netflix/Amazon Prime: $0 (thanks mom!),
Cell Phone/Apple Watch: $150
Car Insurance: $60
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 definitely felt expected to attend college. My dad has two bachelor's degrees, my mom has a bachelor's, two masters, and is finishing her doctorate…college wasn't really optional. I was an idiot at 18 and spent my first year and a half of college at a private school in NYC before moving home to graduate from a public state school. I took out way too many loans totaling nearly $80,000 and I expect to be paying this off until I die.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I knew we didn't have a lot of money, but my parents never really talked about it or made us feel as though we needed more. I think I could've paid better attention especially to how my dad paid bills and grocery shopped on a very strict schedule to keep everything tidy.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job is so embarrassing, I worked at Hollister in the early 2010s. I'm mortified when I look back, but they were the only place to hire me and I needed a job for gas money and playing with friends. Even then, I was really bad about saving my money and I spent most of it on clothes at work and mall pretzels.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about it but I also knew we didn't have an overabundance. We weren't the sort of family to take regular vacations or have fancy things. Both of my parents were teachers so they were never going to get big promotions or bonuses. My sister and I were comfortable with new clothes at the start of the school year and lovely gifts for Christmas and our birthdays. The most I worried about money was when my sister and I saved up our allowance (four quarters each, once a week) to buy walkie-talkies from CVS!
Do you worry about money now?
Only a little and probably not as much as I should. I work in the nonprofit world so I never expect to make the big bucks, but sometimes I shop/eat/play like I do. I don't have solid savings, which scares me sometimes but I'm very lucky to have parents who help me when I need it. I tell myself I'm still young and have time to shape up but realistically I know I should start doing that now.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became totally financially responsible for myself at 22 when I was newly graduated from college and started my first full-time job in a museum. I moved out of my dad's house and got an apartment on my own. I don't have a safety net but again, I have amazing parents who are willing to help in case of emergency. I seriously am very very lucky.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My mom has been very generous with my move to California and gave me $5,000 to assist with the transition.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up and stare at my cat for a while. We just moved here a week ago so every morning I feel like I have to recalibrate. I slowly move to the kitchen to pour some cold brew and oat milk while I get ready for work. I'm meeting my boss's boss for a coffee and chat at 10 a.m. so I don't bother making a full pot of coffee. I toss on some clothes and mascara and I'm out the door.
9 a.m. — I'm in the office and I settle in at my desk. Since I'm still so new at work I have little to no responsibility and it's driving me insane. I left my last job because I was overworked, mistreated, and completely deflated...but now I don't know what to do with myself! I take some time to read through websites regarding the museum and local news.
10 a.m. — My boss, D., and I head out to grab coffee in the park and chat. D. buys our coffees and we sit outside for a while talking about the future we envision for the museum and what my role will be. I'm already so enamored by this workplace and my new coworkers, so I spend the whole hour telling her how excited I am for all we can create!
11 a.m. — When I get back to the office I work on answering some emails and see that my mom has sent me money for National Coffee Day ($100). She is a literal angel and I don't deserve her!! I talk to her every single day and I still miss her.
12:30 p.m. — I clock out for my lunch and grab the leftovers I brought to eat in the park. I have been trying new foods in the city and so far my go-to is a delicious Indian spot that makes a killer paneer tikka masala. I eat outside and listen to a guy playing his saxophone.
5 p.m. — After a few meetings, a walkthrough, and hours of trying to look busy, I head home. Since I moved in, I've been really bad about making dinner and I keep telling myself that's okay because I'm still tired from the move but I'm embarrassed by how much takeout I've ordered. I order a huge pizza and drink some canned Moscow mules. $30
10 p.m. — I spend the evening coloring, watching Chuck, and FaceTiming for a bit with my mom. Before I get into bed I shower and cuddle with my kitty for a bit, take my antidepressants, and conk out.
Daily Total: $30

Day Two

8 a.m. — I wake up to my ear throbbing and get myself worked into a tizzy. I've had a swollen gland for a couple of days, but now my earlobe is super swollen and tender to the touch. I assume it's infected, but I don't know why so I spend my morning googling what could be wrong. I make a pot of coffee while I sit on the computer.
11 a.m. — I have a longer evening at work so I go in later. I get dressed and stop for a coffee at the corner coffee shop before driving into work. $4
1 p.m. — The morning passes slowly with a mix of googling what's wrong with my ear, reading articles online, and trying to make an appointment at a minute clinic. I have a quick bite from the cafe upstairs for lunch and sit outside for a while taking in the day. $10
5 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon signing up for health insurance and using up loads of sticky notes to plan out my vision for this new department. I also text my mom every three minutes to update her on my ear and a blister that's forming on my thumb due to all my unpacking. She's basically my doctor.
5:30 p.m. — A group of us are sticking around later than normal to test some AV equipment once the sun goes down. Our bosses order a couple of pizzas and offer us beers which makes it feel like a little party! I'm still struggling to get social so I stay a couple of feet away from the group and awkwardly try to join the conversation now and again. Typical behavior for me…
7:30 p.m. — We figure out what needs to be done and head out by 7:30. I didn't have any of the pizza that was ordered because I was being too antisocial so I eat a couple of cold pieces of last night's order when I get home. I do some more coloring, watch Chuck, and FaceTime with my mom again. I'm nothing if not a girl who loves routine.
Daily Total: $14

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — It's Friday!! I'm up a little late so I put on my favorite trusty sundress and run out the door. Stop at the coffee shop on the corner and then head to work. $4
10 a.m. — I spend most of the morning on hand to help with AV situations in the theater for an upcoming event and I finally feel in my element. I'm not an AV girl, but I love being ready to help folks with their logistics and have answers for questions. It's the first time since I've started that I feel like myself at work.
11 a.m. — Back in the office I'm a little bored so I end up online shopping for my dream tote bag from Shakespeare & Co., a bookshop in Paris. I order it (I have no self-control) ($33) and also pay for a subscription to the New York Times online ($4). I like to keep up with the arts world through their articles so the cost seems reasonable to me. $37
12:30 p.m. — Eventually I head upstairs with a couple of coworkers for lunch. I forgot to bring lunch (again) so I buy empanadas and a cold brew from the café at the museum. We sit outside a nearby theater and chat about the traveling we miss. $10
1 p.m. — I meet with my boss and our marketing department to plan some collateral materials but we realize we don't have all the information we need so it turns into one of those meetings where you all say we'll talk about this later. I do a walkthrough with a potential client afterward which gets me moving around the museum, always nice.
4:30 p.m. — I leave a little early since I'll be at work for a while tomorrow (Saturday) and I decide to treat myself to a mani-pedi. Since moving across the country and unpacking my whole apartment, my poor feet and hands could use some love. This isn't normal spending for me but now and again I'll enjoy a pedicure. I go to a cute spot nearby and the techs are going wild over a Halloween manicure a gentleman got. I relax and enjoy watching them take 100 pictures of his nails. $121
6 p.m. — On my drive home, I call my sister to check-in and she tells me all about her week as a substitute teacher. It sounds like absolute hell to me, but she loves it so I try to stay encouraging. She inspires me to order Chinese food for dinner...a choice I later regret. I buy a mountain of food thinking I'd eat it all weekend, but when it arrives I don't care for it at all. I stick it in the fridge, open a bottle of wine, and eat more of the leftover pizza. $50
8 p.m. — I have been bothered by the growing blister on my thumb all week and it's starting to really hurt when I touch it so I google how to treat a blister at home. I end up spending my Friday night in a cool new city lancing my thumb with a needle and running across the street to CVS for antibacterial cream. I go to bed around 10. $7
Daily Total: $229

Day Four

9 a.m. — Saturday! I wake up and enjoy the morning by making a pot of coffee, and you guessed it, watching Chuck while I color. It's my comfort move right now and I enjoy it so much.
11 a.m. — I do have to go out and return a bunch of items to Gap that I ordered for work but they didn't fit right. I drive up to Fashion Valley so I can shop around a little bit just for fun. I get a good chunk of money back (+$120) only to spend it...and, more at other stores. There's a super cute shop that sells plants and jewelry and cute knick-knacks — I get five delicate gold rings for a sweet deal ($21.50)!! Then, I stroll through Nordstrom and end up trying on some cute loafers. I tend to wear my shoes into the ground, which is pretty much inevitable in the events industry, so I really need some comfy, easy-to-slip-on work shoes. I get sold on a pair of blush patent leather Sam Edelman platform loafers — so stinking cute ($160)! $181.50
12 p.m. — On my way home I drive by a post office to drop some letters in the mailbox and I give my dad a call. I miss him so much! He is an early riser and an early sleeper so usually when I get out of work he's only awake for a few more minutes and we don't get to chat much. I tell him all about my week and he tells me about the stuff he's doing for his students. He's an art teacher and I love hearing about his projects!
2 p.m. — I start getting ready to go to work for a private dinner event we're hosting. It's a small group led by our biggest donor, so it's a weird blend of very casual and very important. I wear a really fun midi sundress I always forget I have and hustle to the museum.
10 p.m. — The dinner goes WAY later than we all expected!! It's always nice to know people are happy in our space and aren't in any hurry to go home, but by the time I leave, I'm both hungry and pooped. I eat a cup of elote from a stand around 8 but it doesn't do the full trick ($7). So, embarrassingly... I order dinner again. After the Chinese food fail I decide to order another pizza since it fed me for so many meals ($30). I color some more and fall into bed. $37
Daily Total: $218.50

Day Five

10 a.m. — Finally I have a full day off and I let myself sleep in super late. It's dreamy. Once I get up, I make a pot of coffee and FaceTime with my mom. This is what Sundays are made of. I don't want to waste my day away, so I force myself to get up and dressed. I eat a slice of cold pizza as my “brunch.”
12 p.m. — I read about an ArtWalk being hosted in Little Italy so I drive over to check it out. Parking costs some money ($10). I am totally blown away by this street fair!! The first thing I'm suckered into buying are two rocks painted into little bugs... so dumb, so cute. I buy a bee one for me and an ambiguous bug for my sister ($10). It's pretty toasty out so I stop in a cafe and get an almond Italian soda, my all-time favorite ($5). A shop outside of the tents beckons to me smelling of amazing incense. I can't help myself and end up buying two boxes of incense sticks and a new incense plate ($23). The last thing I buy at the market is a hand-painted watercolor card of an ostrich to send my sister with the rock bug inside ($10). I know I've spent more money than I should have but I love supporting small local artists. After walking around for about two hours I pop into a 7-11 and buy a sweet tea, bottle of wine, and a six-pack of boozy cider ($25). $83
3 p.m. — When I get home I check the mail, write my family members some letters and burn the new incense I bought. It smells so good! I color for a little while, but realize I'm pretty pooped from walking around in the sun all afternoon, so I cozy up for a nap on the couch.
6 p.m. — And several hours later I finally wake up!! I decide to make this the best Sunday ever and make homemade mac and cheese for dinner. I open the bottle of wine I bought and watch Meet The Millers while I cook. The macaroni has to bake for half an hour before I can eat it, so I switch back to Chuck and color for a while.
9:30 p.m. — By early evening I'm ready for bed but not tired, thanks to my afternoon nap, so I brew a mug of valerian tea and scroll through Tiktok for about half an hour until I get into bed and call it a day.
Daily Total: $83

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up later than normal because I'm not heading into work until 1. I woke up around 2 a.m. with a splitting sinus headache and took Benadryl and Tylenol PM... so I'm feeling pretty groggy. I brew a pot of coffee and cuddle with the cat for a bit.
12 p.m. — Still on the sofa :) I am really struggling to get up but I need to get dressed for work. I have a long day ahead of me so I stay comfy in jeans and a flowy tank.
1 p.m. — At work, we're hosting an opening film festival event so there's a large group of non-museum staff on-site prepping for the evening. I basically keep myself available to answer questions, help with access to backrooms, and handle mini-crises that arise. It's the first big event I've worked since I started and I am loving it!!
10:45 p.m. — Loving it just a little bit less. Just kidding. It was an amazing afternoon, with beautiful performances and lovely guests... but we all thought it was meant to wrap up around 9. By the time we leave, it's nearly two hours past that and we're totally spent. I hurry home, gobble up more cold pizza, and pass out almost immediately.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I am still pretty tired from yesterday's event, but I don't want to go into the office too late because I'd rather leave early. I make a pour a mug of cold brew to drink as I get ready and then stop at the corner to get a cup of hot coffee. $4
9:30 a.m. — Half of the office isn't in this morning for one reason or another and I don't have a lot of responsibility on my own yet so I spend most of my morning working super hard... typing up every one of Beatrice's lines from Much Ado About Nothing. She's my all-time favorite Shakespeare heroine and after watching my favorite version last week, it's been in my head for days. I send it to one of my besties back home and she tells me I'm doing the most important work, so I feel validated.
11 a.m. — I also hop online and order some more face masks. In the move, I seemed to have lost several and I prefer reusable ones I can clean instead of disposable ones. I order a total of nine from Nordstrom. $27
3 p.m. — I have a walkthrough with some potential clients. I'm wearing the new loafers I just got and they're killing me! I have massive blisters on both heels and three bandages on each foot, it's brutal.
4 p.m. — I go home early thanks to our long day yesterday and I cannot wait to take my shoes off. I was planning a Target trip but I can't handle making a stop in these shoes. Since it's earlier than I normally get off work, I'm able to connect with my dad and we chat for an hour or so until he starts to get ready for bed.
6 p.m. — I decide to order delivery from Target instead of walking around more today so I buy new markers for my coloring, ingredients for homemade queso, chips, and a pair of nice black sandals for work. $58
7 p.m. — When everything is delivered I make the queso and sit on the floor of the living room eating it straight out of the saucepan. I seriously love living alone. As the day wraps up and I get ready for bed, I reflect on my spending for the week. I know I had bad spending habits this week, but realistically I have moved across country alone and started a new job in the past two weeks. I'm not at my best and that's okay.
Daily Total: $89
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