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A Week In Los Angeles, CA, & New York, NY, On A $150,000 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.

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Today: a graphic artist who makes $150,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Milk Bar Cereal Milk ice cream.
Occupation: Graphic Artist
Industry: Film & TV
Age: 24
Location: Los Angeles
Salary: $150,000
Net Worth: $27,461 ($6,496 cash/savings, $6,153 in a Roth IRA, $17,633 in brokerage fund, $5,000 in Series I bonds, -$6,483 student loan debt)
Debt: $6,483 in student loan debt
Paycheck Amount (weekly): $2,850
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,400 (my half, split with my boyfriend, F)
AMC Stubs: $25
Adobe Creative Cloud: $16 (got it discounted on Black Friday)
Dropbox: $10
Apple Storage: $3
Google Drive: $2
Streaming Services: $0 (between mine and F's families, we've got all of them)

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?
Always. I'm a first generation child of Middle Eastern parents, and they viewed higher education as the ticket to upward mobility. I was a pretty studious kid and loved my college experience, especially as an art major. Learning is fun! I went to school in-state and qualified for the most financial aid possible, so I made it out with very little in debt. My parents did not contribute anything financially (but my mom always made sure I went back with lots of homemade food whenever I visited them).

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I have a lot of siblings and come from a single-income household, so money was pretty tight. My parents were frugal — my mom especially. She would pore over the grocery ads and hit multiple stores per trip for particular items. To this day, ask her about any item and she'll tell you where to go to buy it cheapest. We never ate out, shopped at the mall, or went on trips. They definitely taught me how to save money, but didn't impart much in the way of investing other than "one day, you should buy real estate." I learned everything about the stock market and saving for retirement on my own.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job as a motion graphics designer at my college's events office. I'd animate little ads for upcoming movie screenings, festivals, and other fun events my school would throw. They'd play on the TVs in the food court. I'd also take a camera out to the bigger events and edit a sizzle reel of clips for our YouTube channel. It paid $13.50 an hour and was pretty chill.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I knew we were poor, but my parents were never anxious about money in front of us. To this day I have no idea if things were ever really bad; my siblings and I were shielded from that. Vibes were good.

Do you worry about money now?
I generally don't worry about money, because it just so happens that my dream job pays very well. I'm extremely grateful for that. The film industry is freelance, though, so I always make sure to save for times when I may not have a paycheck for weeks or months at a time.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At 18, when I moved out for college. I budgeted my financial aid and worked through college to support myself and pay the rent. My parents are sweet, though, and liked to give me small sums of money every so often — $50 here, a filled gas tank there — so that definitely helped. If things were to go south, they are definitely my financial safety net.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Good morning, New York. F's alarm goes off and it takes him a solid 15 minutes to get out of bed and into the shower. I get it — we're still on L.A. time and this week's work/social stuff has been limiting the amount of sleep we've been able to catch on this trip. I'm so grateful to be here, though. F's work paid for this (stupidly expensive) hotel and his flight, and I had flight credit enough to cover my way. Amazingly, my show was totally cool with me working remotely this week since production isn't too crazy yet. I've definitely been feeling the professional, It girl energy.
8 a.m. — We walk over to try a highly rated bagel spot. His breakfast is expensed, mine is not. I opt for a blueberry bagel and coffee with almond milk. It's incredible. We eat there before splitting up, with him off to conduct a training session a couple of blocks away. $7.25
9 a.m. — Back at the hotel, I take a quick shower and get ready for the day. I use Hada Labo foaming cleanser, CosRX snail mucin essence, Eucerin moisturizer, and Biore's UV Aqua Rich sunscreen. I'm kinda lagging a bit but hey, it's 6 a.m. for the rest of my coworkers so I figure I can take mornings slow. I pack everything I need into my backpack and head out to work at the NY Public Library.
9:45 a.m. — Um, wow. This really is a stunning space. I'm settled at a work desk, laptop and mouse out, AirPods in, adorable lamp turned on. I jump into Illustrator and get to work refining one of the diner logos I made on the plane trip over here. After that, I make a few logo options for a sports show.
12:30 p.m. — Working now on some restaurant logos after getting names cleared through legal. I make four options and upload into our production's drive for review.
2 p.m. — I walk by a café and pick up a parmesan salad to go. When I get back to the hotel, I see freshly baked macadamia cookies in the lobby. Hell yes! I grab two, excited to surprise F later. I eat back at the room while watching season three of Derry Girls. Sister Michael is my spirit animal. $12.78
3 p.m. — I park myself at the hotel's combined bar/lounge and get back to work. I sketch out logo ideas for a pharmaceutical company, and then start on a menu for a taco shop.
5 p.m. — I end a little early today so I can get ready for F's demo presentation at his company's event. Creatively, I'm pooped. I love my job a LOT, but my brain is always on. Sometimes I wish I pursued something chiller, with a regular amount of downtime, but that's only in my most stressed moments.
6:30 p.m. — I am standing in a ballroom, drinking wine and eating mini shrimp skewers, watching F give an incredibly intelligent presentation on his company's product. I am so moony-eyed. He looks adorable up there, and fully confident in front of a huge crowd of people. I am smiling like an idiot and taking a million pictures. After, we hang around the mixer for a couple hours and I meet a good handful of people. I don't work in F's industry, but it's kind of on the periphery of film production, so I get by with my limited knowledge. I eat lots of free food, get a little tipsy, and have a great time.
9 p.m. — F and I head out together and amble a bit. A gigantic, two-story candy shop in Times Square attracts us, but nothing vibes with us enough to purchase. We find a cute pizza spot and eat a slice each to round off our piecemeal dinner. F expenses my slice with his.
10 p.m. — Back in the hotel watching bad cable TV and lying in bed. We call it a night.
Daily Total: $20.03

Day Two

8 a.m. — Another day, another bagel. It's somehow even more packed than yesterday, but F and I manage to snag a table outside. Just a plain everything bagel today, plus coffee. After eating he splits off to go to his trade show, and I head back to the hotel to get ready. $7.25
1:30 p.m. — Been planted at the NY Public Library for a few hours now. Finished up the drive-thru menu graphic and am now in the middle of a diner menu. It is so cold in here. I'm bundled up in my coat, hood up, and I'm still freezing. Naturally there's a dude chilling in short sleeves a couple seats away.
2:30 p.m. — The cold beat me. I find a local place and make myself a warm box lunch from their hot bar. Veggies, chicken, and shrimp — yum. I wanted to work through lunch, but as soon as I sit down I feel as if I absolutely cannot be bothered so I just scroll my phone. $13.75
3 p.m. — Back at the hotel. I'm not gonna lie — I'm in bed, under the blankets, eyes closed, enjoying the sunshine filtering onto my pillow. I'll work…in a bit.
3:30 p.m. — At the hotel bar/lounge again. I know there's a million gorgeous work spots in Manhattan, but every café I walked by was packed. I order a sugar-free Red Bull, which is a ridiculous $8.71. Good thing a $30 daily credit is included with our stay, so that's covered. I get to work making office bulletin board gak — spreadsheets, flyers, forms, that kinda thing. Fake paperwork is the worst!
6 p.m. — Work over and I'm back in the room with F, who just got back. We watch cable and decompress a bit. Hotel rooms = Pawn Stars, Ancient Aliens, Gold Rush; all the best trash.
7 p.m. — The two of us venture out to meet F's younger brother for dinner. I love that I can use Apple Pay at the subway turnstiles — huge upgrade from the last time I was here. $2.75
7:45 p.m. — Delicious Japanese food, cozy vibes, and lots of laughter. I get a Japanese curry and take great delight in slowly breaking the egg yolk. The owner gives us all free ice cream, which totally makes my day. F and I had decided beforehand to treat his brother, so after F pays I send him half. $52
10 p.m. — F's brother found a screening of Decision to Leave, Park Chan-wook's new film, so we take another train to an Alamo Drafthouse ($2.75 for the subway, plus $20 for the ticket). The movie is phenomenal. Korean cinema typically kills it, but wow, I was especially sucked into this film. Equal parts funny and emotional, and some of the most creative cinematography I've seen in a long time. $22.75
1:00 a.m. — We stumble out of the theater, hug goodbye, and then F and I set off back towards Midtown. Riding on the Q, head on his shoulder, beautiful sparkly city lights outside the window… It's magical. I am so very content. $2.75
Daily Total: $101.25

Day Three

10 a.m. — Oops, I overslept. I'm ahead on graphics though, so it's alright, and honestly, this show is pretty chill. F is working from the hotel until a noon appointment. I shower and get ready, and on my way out grab a protein bar and an apple from the lobby cart. So fancy.
12 p.m. — Another calm morning designing at…you guessed it, the New York Public Library. So far I've made a series of political campaign posters.
2:30 p.m. — F is done with his appointment and back at the hotel. I walk back over and grab a coffee ($2.50) on the way, then we meet in the hotel lounge. I order a salad that's completely covered under our daily credit. We work side by side. Poor guy is completely overwhelmed with Slack messages and emails. He's a tech guy who's way too good at his job, which has unfortunately made him the person everyone comes to for answers. $2.50
5 p.m. — We're done. I declare it done. TGIF. We head back to our room and watch TV while cuddling.
6:30 p.m. — F and I find ourselves at a cozy Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away, meeting both his brother and sister for dinner. The four of us drink through two bottles of delicious wine, so I am delightfully tipsy and thoroughly enjoying myself. Our conversations are so funny my face hurts from laughing by the end. We all split the check evenly. $101.45
9 p.m. — After saying our goodbyes, F and I walk off into the city and find a Milk Bar. We each get ice cream, sit by the window, and people watch. $10.87
10 p.m. — We stumble back into our room, thoroughly exhausted after a long week of travel, work, and social events.
Daily Total: $114.82

Day Four

10:30 a.m. — Finally, the weekend! No alarm today, so we wake up organically, to the sound of multiple cars in a honking battle. Nature is so beautiful. We cuddle for a bit, then start getting ready.
11:30 a.m. — Back at our bagel spot, which is even busier than the weekdays. F buys us a smoked salmon bagel and a Vitamin Water, which we take back to the hotel lounge to share due to a complete lack of seating.
12:30 p.m. — We're off to the Natural History Museum. Tap into the subway ($2.75) and then use the student discount for my ticket ($22). I'm two years post-grad and going to milk that student I.D. forever. When it finally gets too old, I'll just design myself a new one. $24.75
4 p.m. — Dude, this museum kicks ass. Fossils, taxidermy, and a planetarium, are you kidding me? Science is the best. I am also extremely high. The edibles we took kicked in at some point in the middle of the sharks, and for at least 30 minutes we sat leaning up against each other's shoulders, watching a huge LED screen show us stock footage of every type of shark. Peak entertainment. We find a cute Christmas ornament in the gift shop to commemorate this trip, which I cover. $12.95
5:30 p.m. — We wander around Central Park for a bit while deciding what to eat. After some park bench Yelp research, we land on a decent-looking Thai spot. Tap back into the subway. $2.75
7:30 p.m. — Best meal ever. Or maybe I'm still high. We share a sausage appetizer, pad Thai, a hot pot soup, and coconut ice cream. F pays and I send him half. $41
8 p.m. — Back at the hotel to save our game. We watch TV and contemplate the next move of the night. My feet hurt. He's tired. But there's a rooftop bar nearby, we can hear the music, and the night isn't too cold.
10 p.m. — I've got a cute wrap dress on and sparkly eyeshadow. We're doing this. The bar ends up being gigantic, with plenty of skyline views and good dance-y vibes. I cover the two beers we nurse all night, because we pregamed with more edibles in our room. Money-saving hack. $21.87
1 a.m. — On the way back to our hotel we simply must stop by a pizza place and grab a slice. The grease levels are immaculate. F covers this one.
Daily Total: $103.32

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — Goodbye, New York. We wake up, slowly make ourselves presentable, and pack up the room. On our way out, we use our last $30 daily credit to grab a couple coffees and a slice of pumpkin bread from the hotel café.
10:30 a.m. — We tap into the subway and head towards Brooklyn to eat with F's siblings and check out his brother's new apartment. $2.75
12 p.m. — Brunch! The vibes are good and the food is flavorful. I opt for an omelette with roasted potatoes, and steal a couple pieces of F's pizza. The four of us split the bill evenly. $31.25
1:30 p.m. — Time to head to the airport. F is going to JFK while I'm going to Newark, because I had a flight credit with United that was set to expire at the end of this year. How did I get this credit? By breaking up with my boyfriend last year, who had recently moved to Europe for grad school. I had a ticket to see him, and when we broke up, he felt bad and sent me the money to cover the flight. But when I went to cancel my ticket United also credited me the full amount. Most vindicated flight ever. I tap into the metro ($2.75), then pay for a New Jersey Transit ticket towards Newark ($15.50). $18.25
4 p.m. — Finally at my gate and ready to board. Travel days feel extremely draining. I eat some of my pumpkin bread and look through photos from the trip.
9:20 p.m. — Back in L.A. I watched The Farewell (phenomenal), Blades of Glory (hilarious), and some episodes of What We Do in the Shadows and Top Gear. F's flight lands 10 minutes later, and we take an Uber home (expensed by his work).
10:30 p.m. — Our travel tradition is to eat In-N-Out whenever we get back home. I get a cheeseburger, animal style fries, and a Diet Coke. He pays; I send him half, plus half of what he paid our friend to check in on the cats during the week. $40
Daily Total: $92.25

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — The alarm goes off and we both groan. So tired. I load up my car with my kit: my iMac, printer, and rolling graphics toolbox. I debate taking the Cricut but decide to hold off until it's relevant. Driving feels a little strange after a week of walking and public transit. I feel relaxed in my home environment, though. Palm trees, mountains, sunny skies and temperate weather. Hello, L.A.
9 a.m. — I arrive at our production offices, only a 10-minute drive away! This is my first day working in person and I love meeting all the cool people in our art department. I set up my little office and get straight to work.
1 p.m. — Lunch arrives. One of the best parts about working in production is the daily meal per diem. I went for a chicken and veggie plate from Tendergreens. Today I'm making elements for a car wrap, as well as cute birthday party signs.
6:30 p.m. — Free to go. It's a quick drive home, and F walks in just a few minutes after me. We're both pooped. Our plans for dinner are thwarted by the fact that we don't have the pelmeni we thought we had in the freezer, so we order Chipotle. Ordering food is a rare thing for us, but today it feels worth it. F covers it like the absolute sweetheart he is.
11 p.m. — In bed and ready to sleep after eating, watching comedy shows, and lazing around.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:15 a.m. — I wake up determined to jump back into my good habits. I stretch for 15 minutes, then do a 30-minute Pilates workout off YouTube. Ab day today. Quick shower, skincare, and I'm out the door.
9 a.m. — Arrive at work and jump immediately into revisions on the car wrap based on the director's notes. Next up is creating more diner dressing, namely table tents and a large menuboard.
12:30 p.m. — Free lunch again. This time I get Thai chicken and vegetables with rice, a salad, and an egg roll. Yum. I drink this with a La Croix from our office kitchen (and steal another one to bring home).
6:30 p.m. — Finally done! I finished up my day making silly 2000s-era logos for some T-shirts. My job feels so whimsical sometimes. I stop by the grocery store on my way home.
7:30 p.m. — Back home; I made out like a bandit in there. It's an international store so the prices are still relatively sane. I got bacon, chicken breast, two bags of chicken pelmeni, two bags of chips, three cans of hummus, Aleppo pepper, cumin, tahini, two boxes of plastic forks, grapes, dried jicama, a sugar cone, green onion, parsley, Roma tomatoes, and a wedge of Parmesan cheese. Some of this stuff is for a backyard party we're co-hosting at our friends' place this Friday. I text F and he sends me half. $49.47
8 p.m. — F boils the pelmeni and then tosses it with chopped tomatoes, parsley, and olive oil. We watch a couple episodes of Peep Show while eating and somehow it's already almost time for bed.
10:20 p.m. — Skincare slathered, clothes off, hair brushed. I'm so sleepy I feel like I'm sinking into the mattress. Goodnight moon.
Daily Total: $49.47
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