A Week In San Diego, CA, On A Joint $206,000 Income

Photo: Getty Images.
Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a freelance graphic designer who makes an average of $8,900 per month (about $100,000 a year, and $206,000 per year when combined with her husband's income) and spends some of her money this week on fried rice. Below, we asked the OP some questions about her career.
How did you get into freelance work?
"I got into freelance a few years ago because I wasn’t happy with my job at the time, which was also my first job out of college. I was working as an in-house graphic designer basically filling out pre-designed templates for brochures. My fiancé (now-husband) was super supportive of me trying my hand at freelance and told me to just quit my job and go for it. It wasn’t success right off the bat — in the first six months I only made $8,000 total."
What are the challenges of freelancing?
"One of the biggest challenges is the instability of freelance. Even though I have very consistent clients that have been with me for four years now, I always have a little fear in the back of my mind that they’ll decide they don’t like my design style and stop working with me or will decide to go with an agency instead.
"Another challenge is figuring out a work/life balance. Since I work from home, it’s very easy to work at all hours of the day and weekend because my office and computer are right there. One of my goals of this year was to set normal hours for myself to stick to them."
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the freelance world?
"Don't low-ball your prices starting out in fear of clients not hiring you. Charge what your experience and design quality is worth and a good client will pay that. I’m having a hard time working long-term clients up to what I should be charging because my rate was too low in the beginning. Also, make sure your clients know you would be happy to receive referrals. At least half of my current clients are all from referrals."
Occupation: Freelance Graphic Designer
Industry: Graphic Design
Age: 28
Location: San Diego, CA
My Income: Since I am self-employed, I invoice my clients twice a month and then receive checks throughout the month. My pay can vary pretty drastically (for instance, the lowest month has been $6,295, and highest was $11,060), but my current average monthly income is $8,900 per month. This is all pre-tax, so I set aside about $3,000 of this every month to go towards my estimated tax payments each quarter. I am on track to make just over $100,000 this year.
My Husband's Salary: $106,000
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,369
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Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $3,147
Monthly Loan Payments: $350
Gas/Electric: $160
Sewer/Water: $100
Cable/Internet: $133
Work Subscriptions: $330 (This is for my stock photo accounts, invoicing programs, file storage, design programs, etc.)
Personal Subscriptions: $57 (Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, SimpliSafe)
Phone: $0 (I'm on my parents' plan, and my husband's company pays for his.)
Car Insurance: $173 for both cars
Naked Wines Subscription: $40
Estimated Taxes: $3,300
Health Insurance: $447
My Husband's 401(k): $733 + 25% match from his company
Savings: Average of $1,000 (It's inconsistent, since my paycheck changes. We currently have $35,000 saved.)
Stash Investments: $200
Other Investments: We have $32,000 in another investment account that was given to me by my amazing parents. Long story short, it's what's leftover from my college fund that they let me keep. I haven't added any of my own money to this yet.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — Wake up and lounge in bed for 15 minutes. My husband, B., travels for work every other week and he left this morning around 5 a.m. I let the dogs out and watch the news.
7:30 a.m. — With an iced coffee and taro bun leftover from the weekend, I start working through a few projects this morning in my home office. A couple weeks ago, I stopped working for one of my most demanding clients. The plan is to make room for more higher-paying clients to expand my business by being able to sub-contract work out to other designers. Without the old client, this week has been the slowest I've had in months. It's nice to finally be able to relax a bit, but not having a full day's work automatically makes me uncomfortable as a freelancer.
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10 a.m. — I drop the two dogs off at their grooming appointment they have every six weeks. I pick them up two hours later, and continue working when I get back home ($110 with a $22 tip). While going through my email, I notice I have a credit on my West Elm credit card from a return I made awhile back. I decide to buy new couch pillows, which we've been needing. It's comes out to $170 for four new pillows, but with a $120 credit, I only spend $50. $182
2:30 p.m. — I snack on slices of cheddar and carrots for lunch at my desk. I don't have the greatest lunch habits now compared to when I worked in an office. I often graze throughout the day from whatever we bought on our weekend grocery run. Some weeks I do meal prep on Sundays for lunches throughout the week, but B.'s parents were in town visiting last weekend, so that didn't happen.
4 p.m. — I finish up work and take the dogs on a walk through the neighborhood. When I get back, I run to the grocery store to get ingredients for two big batches of soup to freeze ($45). Tonight I'll do black bean soup and tomorrow it'll be vegetarian chili. I see that B. has gone to the grocery store as well to stock up on some food for his week ($23). $68
6:30 p.m. — I make the black bean soup, which I also have for dinner. Then I drink some wine and lounge around catching up on some trash TV until I go to bed early.
Daily Total: $250

Day Two

7 a.m. — I lay in bed a little later than usual because the dogs are always restless when B. is gone and I don't get the best sleep. I get up, do my morning routine, and then make coffee. I have toast with peanut butter and honey for breakfast. The pre-work routine is pretty simple when you work from home.
7:20 a.m. — Unlike yesterday, I have a full day of work ahead, so I get settled into my desk to start working until I take one of the dogs to daycare later in the morning. He's only one year old and a German Shepherd and Pit mix (read: really high energy and mischievous), so taking him to daycare once or twice a week helps with all that energy.
12:30 p.m. — Now I'm drowning in work that has to be done today. Why didn't I enjoy my slow day yesterday more?? I eat leftover soup at my desk quickly and get back at it. I see that B. has bought Subway for lunch $8.80
4 p.m. — I leave to pick up my dog from daycare. I have to stop and get gas on the way there ($35.20). We're out of pre-paid half days, so I buy a new ten-pack of half days for $225. This usually lasts around six to eight weeks, depending on how often I take him there. When I get home, I sit back down at my computer to keep working. I grab an applesauce and LaCroix from the fridge to keep me going. $260.20
5:45 p.m. — I finish up for the day and take the two dogs on a walk.
7 p.m. — I make the chili I got ingredients for yesterday. It takes awhile to make, but it's really good and I get to freeze five dinners for B. and me to have later.
8 p.m. — I lie in bed with the dogs and watch a movie before going to sleep around 10.
Daily Total: $269

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I get up because the dogs want to get up. One of them needed to go outside at 3 a.m. for the second night in a row. I get ready really quickly and run to Panera for a bagel and latte. (B. and I have “Bagel Friday” every week.) I have a free bagel reward on the Panera app, so it's cheaper than usual. $5.49
7 a.m. — I get started working while enjoying my bagel and drink. I'm half working, half just wasting time on the internet.
1o a.m. — It's a really, really beautiful day here today, so I take a break to go on walk with the dogs.
12 p.m. — I grab one of those pre-made salads from the fridge for lunch. I bought it last week, but it still looks acceptable. Normally I order lunch out on Fridays, but I intend on getting takeout tonight and don't want to buy every meal out today. I feel guilty about wasting money if I buy too many meals out. B. gets lunch at a Mexican restaurant for lunch. $9.77
12:15 p.m. — I get an email to pay a bill that was just processed from a previous doctor's appointment. $87.21
2:30 p.m. — I finish up work items and start logging my hours online for the past two weeks, so I can invoice easily on Monday. During the week, I just write down my hours on a paper timesheet. It's easier and quicker at the time of to just write them down, but putting all those hours in online to invoice is a pain every 15 days.
4 p.m. — I finish working, walk the dogs, and then tidy up the house a little. B. let's me know he caught an earlier flight and will be home earlier than expected.
7 p.m. — B. gets home and we order sushi through UberEats for dinner. We share three rolls for $55. (Yes, this place is way overpriced). $55
8 p.m. — As B. and I discuss a trip to Big Sur we're taking next weekend, we realize we forgot to book the pet sitter we use for the dogs. Luckily, she has room to take them for the weekend still. $198 for three nights. We hang out watching TV and chatting until it's time for bed. $198
Daily Total: $355.47

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wake up but lie in bed to watch the news and drink my coffee for about an hour. B. had to be up around 5:30.
8:30 a.m. — I make scrambled eggs and hash browns for breakfast. I get a reminder on my phone to give the dogs their heartworm and tick medicine and realize we are completely out, so I order a three-month supply of both. $142.95
11 a.m. — B. gets back and we go on a three-mile hike in the canyon next to our house.
1 p.m. — We head to the mall for B. to try on clothes at Bonobos. He needs a new blazer and a shirt and pants to go with it. This is definitely not a normal purchase for us — he hates buying clothes and this will only be the second blazer he owns, but he really needs another one for work events. We knew it would be expensive, so I already set aside money for it along with a few other big purchases we knew we needed to make. We decide not to buy it in-store because I find a 20% promo code online. Then we stop at Veggie Grill for lunch while we're there because we have two free meal coupons. It's $8 for two bottles of soda, though. $8
3 p.m. — We run to get our flu shots ($0 with insurance), then to the grocery to stock up for next week. We get pre-made salads, wontons, shrimp, sweet potato, avocado, ramen, biscuits, rice vinegar, sweet chili sauce, fruit, and bourbon. $77.93
6 p.m. — With a glass of wine in tow, I order B.'s new clothes from Bonobos. With the coupon, it comes out to $560 for a blazer, dress shirt, chinos, and a t-shirt. $560
8 p.m. — We cook wontons for dinner and hang out until it's time to go to bed.
Daily Total: $788.88

Day Five

7 a.m. — We wake up and B. likes to get the paper on Sundays, so he runs out to get it ($2). Then we make egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches. $2
8 a.m. — We go on another three-mile hike in the canyon, this time with the dogs.
10 a.m. — Back at the house, B. starts on laundry and I work on cleaning the house. I also deposit all of the checks I've received throughout the week (which comes out to $2,900 – definitely a good week!).
12 p.m. — B. runs out to pick up some things from Target (scrub sponges, laundry detergent, a shower liner, a kitchen mat, and a birthday card for my dad) for $54. One the way home, he stops by our favorite Mexican restaurant by our house and gets a burrito for me and quesadilla for himself. We both eat half of our meals and save the other halves for lunch tomorrow. $71
2 p.m. — Both B. and I go outside to work on the yard/garden. He takes the front yard and I work on the back. From our vegetable garden I pick four cucumbers, two cherry tomatoes, and a carrot. I also cut enough roses to make two bouquets for the house.
5 p.m. — We FaceTime with both sets of parents, which we do every Sunday evening. We started doing this when moved here about six years ago. Both of our parents live across the country from us, so it was our way of keeping everyone happy, and it just stuck!
7 p.m. — For dinner, B. grills a steak for himself and I make refried beans. We also have a sweet potato and sliced avocado. We end up watching YouTube videos until it's time to go to bed.
Daily Total: $73

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I wake up to a ton of emails. I work for two people who live in different countries, so sometimes they bombard me with work overnight while I'm asleep. Yay, Monday!
7:15 a.m. — I start working and B. is off to work shortly after. I have two leftover biscuits from yesterday for breakfast.
12 p.m. — I take a quick break from work to heat up the other half of my burrito from yesterday for lunch. I also grab a LaCroix and eat at my desk while continuing to work. I send out invoices to all of my clients (total for first half of this month is $4,362) and send out reminders to clients who are late on paying me.
3:15 p.m. — B. comes home early and we head to a training session for the younger dog. It's the first of five sessions we have and it goes pretty well! It cost $575 for five sessions, but we prepaid for them two weeks ago, so there's no cost today.
5 p.m. — We decide to pick up Chinese food on the way home. B. gets sesame chicken and I get fried rice and egg drop soup. $21.32
6 p.m. — We catch up on recorded TV shows for awhile and call it a day early.
Daily Total: $21.32

Day Seven

7 a.m. — We both sleep in a little later than normal because one dog wanted to have a play session in the middle of the night.
7:30 a.m. — I get started working and B. leaves not long after. After answering a few emails/requests, I take a quick break to make breakfast. I scramble an egg, reheat refried beans from Sunday, and then sprinkle cheese and Taco Bell hot sauce on top.
9 a.m. — I drop off one of the dogs at daycare and then walk the other when I get home. While walking, I call my mom to chat. I'm clearly avoiding work today.
12 p.m. — I have a salad and fruit for lunch. I pick up the dog from daycare a few hours later.
5 p.m. — I finish working and do a little training session with the dogs with what we learned from yesterday. B. gets home and takes one of the dogs on a run. Afterwards, we go on a walk together.
7 p.m. — For dinner, we have grilled cheeses and some of the soup I froze. Then we watch TV before going to bed.
Daily Total: $0
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