A Week In Los Angeles, CA On A $80,000 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.

Today: an ICU nurse who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on washi tape.
Trigger Warning: This Money Diary deals with death and mentions ICU-level nursing care.
Occupation: ICU Nurse
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $80,000
Net Worth: $174,950 ($5,000, in a checking account + $49,000, in a savings account since high school + $16,707, in stocks + $15,500, in Citi HYSA – they had a $500 incentive if you kept a $15,000 balance for three months + $1,000, in a Betterment HYSA + $64,078, in a 457b + $5,095, in my pension + $18,570, in a Betterment Roth IRA)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,450
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0. Spoiled, I know. I have been lucky enough to live under my parents' roof my entire life. They have been the best friends and roommates! Boyfriend and I pretty much live with my parents but he has been renting an apartment in San Diego for his weeks on at work, so we do go back and forth depending on our work schedules. However, next month my boyfriend and I will be moving into my parents' old house up here as their tenants moved out and they don't want to rent it out right now. We are all sad that we won't be under the same roof, but I look forward to paying them rent until my boyfriend and I decide where we want to buy.
Health/Dental/Life/Disability Insurance: $0 (all pulled from work benefits allowance)
457b: ~$1,200 (15% of my income) + ~$300 (4% match from employer)
Pension: ~$330
HSA: $15 (Also from the allowance, but I have $500 rolled over from last year because I avoided doctor visits due to COVID)
Car: $0 (paid off at the end of last year — yay!)
Cell Phone: $80
Spotify: $12.99 (Family for my dad and I)
Netflix: $0 (covered by cell phone provider)
Yoga: $0 (I used to pay $89/month but received a yoga teacher training scholarship that comes with classes)
Lemonade Rental Insurance: $5.14 (our apartment in San Diego)
Parking: $140 (our apartment in San Diego)
Car insurance: $635.48 every six months
Gas: ~$250
Savings: $1,000 per paycheck
Roth IRA: I end up maxing it out every year but the amount per month fluctuates, shooting for $500 per month
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?
Absolutely. My parents immigrated here in the '80s and were able to achieve their goals of higher education, so their belief that education is the key to a better life is where their expectations stem from and what they instilled in me. My mom says that all parents want for their kids is for them to be better off than they were — this has really stuck with me. My own expectations of myself come from knowing that they persevered and accomplished what they did with English as their second language, so I should definitely be able to meet them up there. They paid for my prerequisite undergraduate courses and allowed me to take a long and winding route from question mark to computer science to nursing. Finally, I pursued an associate's degree in nursing that was mostly covered by the county government with two years of working for the county, which saved me a few hundred dollars per semester. From then on, I was working as a nurse so I could afford to pay for my bachelor's degree as I studied. I am currently figuring out how I will fund my master's degree.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents and I have always had a fairly open relationship and can converse about almost everything (my mom makes dirtier jokes than my friends do, so I can't see her really holding back about finances). When I started grade school, I would get a quarter for every page of words I memorized, and as I grew up, I would get an allowance for chores that were each given a monetary value. After chores just got worked into my everyday life as a teenager, I would get a weekly allowance. My dad took me to open my first savings account in high school, but any financial advice took a pause while I was in college until I started my career. They led by example in explaining to never create any credit card debt you can't pay off immediately and emphasized the importance of retirement savings.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a tea shop at 18 because I felt the need to make my own spending money and wanted to practice some Chinese. Other perks of working included drinking free boba milk tea and eating Taiwanese food on the house.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I knew that we were better off than a lot of people but not necessarily rich. I waxed and waned between wanting more expensive purchases that were easy for my friends' families and feeling guilty for my parents spending too much money on me. However, my parents never made me feel any of that burden.

Do you worry about money now?
I worry about being able to afford a home and take care of my parents and future family, but I don't worry about money as far as having my basic needs met. However, I am very lucky to have a job in which I will always be able to find work and know that if I need more money, I can just work more. I do hope that I will be able to move up so that I don't have to work overtime and be unable to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
As I said, I have technically never paid rent before, but apart from that, I took on all other expenses after I graduated nursing school at 25. My parents are 100% a safety net and my boyfriend continues to voice that he will support me in all ways, including financially, if I ever need it.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I did have an allowance in high school and some of college. Other than that, passive income came in the form of red envelopes and not having to pay rent. Passive income is definitely the goal!

Day One

12 a.m. — I'm stressed, but working with a good team tempers that stress. My patients are what is called "stable sick," in what would have been ICU level of care previously but, thanks to the pandemic, we've created a pop-up progressive care unit (PCU), in which we take care of five of these patients versus the usual three. They're all maxed out on high-flow nasal cannulas, which means A LOT of aerosolization, and I joke that we're hotboxing COVID. (Nurse humor can get fairly morbid, but we understand each other). I treat myself and my coworker to tater tots for breakfast for our hard work. $2.39
7:30 a.m. — We change out of our dirty scrubs into clean ones and sanitize all our belongings — our new normal routine. Then we head out to the courtyard to get our second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is covered by work. I'm pleasantly surprised that the process is efficient and we're out in less than 10 minutes. My arm is sore, but other than that I feel okay and I walk to my car, swap out my shoes for sandals, and resume Armchair Expert for my 45-minute drive home. I get home, shower, wash/dry my hair, and plop down to eat a bowl of Cheerios. I sleep in past my usual wake up time of 2, and snooze until 3:30.
3:30 p.m. — I'm still feeling more tired than usual so I just sit at the kitchen counter and scrapbook until dinner time. My mom brings home our favorite Vietnamese spring rolls because she got to leave early from work. I eat two and keep scrapbooking to try to make it to 10 so I won't wake up too early tomorrow.
Daily Total: $2.39

Day Two

9 a.m. — I wake up sweating and then with chills and really bad body aches. Please let this be the vaccine doing its work and not you-know-what! I text a couple of coworkers and they're experiencing the same if not worse. I eat a giant bowl of Cheerios so I can take some ibuprofen and crawl back into bed.
3 p.m. — I wake up feeling much better. I loaf around and then drive out to my parents' old house, which my boyfriend and I are going to rent from them when his work schedule changes next month. I make use of my McDonald's $1 large fry deal on my way there and end up adding on a cheeseburger and McChicken. I sit at the dining table (the only furniture that I have there, which I snagged at the Pottery Barn outlet a couple of weeks ago for $400 instead of $800!) and eat my fast-food feast while scrolling through Instagram. I hang up new curtains, do some cleanup, and head home. $4.80
7 p.m. — I decide to make a trip to a craft store on my way home because my stress relief as of late has been catching up on my bullet journal scrapbooking from 2019. It reminds me of the happy memories from pre-COVID days. I'm still on August 2019. I did order some stickers online but their ETA is six weeks. Everything I'm buying is 50% off and I am buying stickers for specific pages that I've outlined, but I somehow manage to spend quite a bit on washi tape and stickers. I put my purchases to use and scrapbook the night away. $40.52
Daily Total: $45.32

Day Three

10 a.m. — I scrapbook and eat Cheerios. I drop off some things at the other house and replace a broken light fixture with a used glass globe that has arrived from Amazon. $16.99
12 p.m. — I go to Costco to get gas. I require self-control to keep myself from going inside because I don't need anything in bulk; we're fully stocked on eggs, milk, pasta, even Cheerios. $35.82
12 p.m. — The gas line is short, but I do stop by the food court to pick up lunch for me and my dad. Not the healthiest meal, especially after my McDonald's transgression, but I bring home three slices of pepperoni, two smoothies, and a chicken bake (my dinner later). $15.63
1 p.m. — I swing by Trader Joe's and get essentials for the four of us and even some of their latest release: Everything But The Bagel kettle chips! I pick up the essentials like vegetables and breakfast items. Can't forget some frozen items like orange chicken and hash browns! $61.99
5 p.m. — I wake up and get ready. I fill up my Yeti with hot water (Yes, I like to drink hot water. Yes, my coworkers make fun of me. Yes, I do it anyway), pack my half of a chicken bake and pretzels with hummus, and head to work. I drink what's left of my Costco smoothie on the drive and listen to Dax spar with Monica and Kristen Bell on Armchair Expert.
7 p.m. — I'm back in the trauma ICU tonight, half of which has been converted to COVID ICU. It's heartbreaking to see that the last two patients I admitted did not make it. One of my patients is intubated and sedated and has been lying prone on her belly for better oxygenation for two days. We turn her back into a supine position and, to my pleasant surprise, she doesn't decompensate. I count this as a win considering all my ICU patients have passed since I last saw them. I suggest to the doctor that my other comfort care patient gets a consult for home hospice because she is now stable without oxygen requirements and it breaks my heart that her family can't be with her in the hospital.
Daily Total: $130.43

Day Four

2 a.m. — After I transfer my stable patient to the regular ward, I eat my chicken bake and pretzels. I admit another very sick patient who has just been intubated before transfer because she would not have tolerated transport. I spend the rest of my shift assisting the intensivist with placing lines, changing her vent settings, and monitoring labs to improve her oxygenation.
7:30 a.m. — I change my scrubs, change my shoes, sanitize, and walk out with my coworker who brought me the patient. He tells me that before they intubated her, she cried to him that she wanted to live and see her kids. I drive home and shower with more Armchair Expert and, of course, more Cheerios. I'm wishing I had the Dyson sonic dryer because drying my hair takes a good 15-20 minutes, precious time I could be sleeping. My friend who cuts and colors my hair told me she could get me a 40% discount so I wonder if I should budget for that next month since I bought a washer and dryer for the other house earlier this month.
5 p.m. — I wake up and pack a quiche in case I get hungry at work, but I got a free sandwich coupon from my cell phone rewards app, so I eat a banana and pick up my free sandwich for dinner on the way to work. I have to add a bag of chips because a bug on the checkout page is making my total negative. I am excited to have my patient from yesterday back because I can't stop thinking about what my coworker said and I so want to get her better. They have her paired with our reserved trauma bed that we call the "hot bed" to accommodate any trauma patient who may need our very last bed (which usually stays empty). I get a text from my boyfriend that he's home from work and eating dinner with my parents. He gives me a play-by-play of how my dad is in trouble with my mom for eating ice cream when he thinks he might have a sore throat. The sore throat worries me, but the play-by-play makes me so grateful for my family. Working nights is the hardest when everyone's home and I'm wishing I were home, too. $0.66
Daily Total: $0.66

Day Five

12 a.m. — My charge nurse tells me they want to use the hot bed, but she tells me to be honest with her if I will be overwhelmed, because technically my patient should be 1:1. I tell her yes, I will be, but if someone needs the bed, I'll put in the work as long as I have help. She always tries to make things work for us and never hesitates to help with patient care so I am more than willing to take on the extra load to make her shift go more smoothly. The new patient comes in very critical and is probably not going to make it, but we do what we can to keep him stable and comfortable until his family can FaceTime him. It is heartbreaking and sounds horrible, but this is the best option for him. I run back and forth between him and my other patient and am able to power through with the help of coworkers. I finally get to eat around 6:30 and inhale my Trader Joe's broccoli and cheese quiche.
8 a.m. — I'm leaving work late because I had a lot of charting to catch up on. As I'm walking to my car, I'm heartbroken to hear from my friend that one of the sweetest nursing instructors I had is extremely ill with COVID and has been transferred to another hospital to get ECMO, which will basically oxygenate her blood since her lungs are failing. I cry, I listen to Buddhist chants, and I pray for her and my patients and all of us on my drive home. Sometimes the long drive is therapeutic to have some time to just feel all my feelings. I pick up Chick-fil-A for my boyfriend and parents because both my mom and dad find their Chick-n-Minis to be a treat but don't venture out for fast food. $24.05
8 a.m. — My dad texted me to please pick up some cold medicine and lozenges at a drug store because he wants to be prepared for this tickle in his throat. My HSA covers about 2/3 of the purchased items. $16.14
9:30 a.m. — Same old shower and wash hair first thing when I get home. I enjoy my Chick-fil-A and rehash my night with my mom as she rehashes her previous day. We are nurses at the same hospital but in different units and shifts. We used to carpool when I worked the day shift and it was helpful for both of us to vent on our drive before getting home. It's still helpful now, but I hate bringing work stress home. I sleep on and off in front of the TV with my boyfriend, skipping lunch.
5 p.m. — My mom cooks salmon, eggs, and garlic yam leaves for dinner. We finish season 2 of The Good Place with some popcorn and hot cocoa (thank you, Costco).
Daily Total: $40.19

Day Six

9 a.m. — I put together some avocado toasts and my mom makes some porridge. We all have a little bit of each for breakfast. The day before, our neighbor at the old house called and said he noticed the front door was ajar and that the bottom lock wasn't working. He walked through and saw some rabbit poop but everything else looked okay. He was able to lock up on his way out and said he would help us when we had time.
11 a.m. — I knock on the door and ask him if he is comfortable coming over knowing that boyfriend and I work in the hospital and he is a retired senior citizen. He says he just needs his mask and comes over. Together, we fix the lock. We have a nice chat in the garage about the stressed-out state of our country and how people should be better to each other. He keeps lingering after we say bye multiple times, but not in a bad way. I feel grateful to have grown up with such a kind, sweet neighbor.
2 p.m. — I'm feeling down on the drive home and boyfriend asks if I've been doing my yoga teacher training (I am finishing up online teacher training and the community is very positive), but between feeling the side effects of the vaccine the last couple days and being wiped out from work, I just haven't been able to. We call my parents to ask if they want any lunch and they say they ate already, so we pick up El Pollo Loco for two and go home to browse security systems and watch TV. This is the most time I've had to watch TV in years. $10.33
6 p.m. — I cook some rice and put the Trader Joe's orange chicken in the oven. I add green onions because they make everything better. I grill some zucchini spears with garlic salt, pepper, and parmesan. Back in front of the couch we go, but this time, we opt for Record of Youth, a lighthearted Korean drama on Netflix.
Daily Total: $10.33

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up and my boyfriend checks the garage camera. Seeing my mom's spot empty, he says sadly, "I guess your mom had to go to work." Little things, like his wishing my mom were home too, warms my heart. I toast some blueberry waffles and heat up some soy milk. After eating, we get ready to go return some purchases.
11 a.m. — While we wait in a long, socially distanced line outside the mall to return his shoes, I scroll through Facebook for updates on my nursing school teacher. They've made a GoFundMe and CaringBridge for her. I donate to show my appreciation for the woman who showed me that you can be a kind, sweet nurse, but still be strong and advocate for your patients (and nursing students). An associate walks through the line asking if there are any returns. We get to hop to the front and get out quick. $100
1 p.m. — We stop by a branch of the tea shop I used to work at to pick up boba and dinner for my parents. We get a poke bowl (boyfriend's treat) and eat on the sofa before he has to drive back to his place for a stretch of work. We get so sad when it's time for one of us to leave because it usually takes us the first day or two to decompress from work, and then when we are back to being our normal happy selves, it's time to part again. $35.35
6 p.m. — I eat some of the food that we had picked up earlier, scrapbook, and then browse the Madewell sale. I find that three sweaters I had purchased for 50% off during the holidays are now 70% off. I ask for a price adjustment but am told my only option is to return my original purchase and repurchase the current sale items. I end up adding a couple of dresses to my repurchase but will end up saving money still. $139.95
Daily Total: $275.30
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