A Week In Long Beach, CA, On A $58,000 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.
Family holiday gatherings can be stressful — especially if your family is judgmental. Are you unemployed/struggling financially and dreading how your family will bring it up during the holidays? Tell us how you’re preparing here or email us at moneyquestions@refinery29.com.

Today: an immigration attorney who makes $58,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Essie nail polish.
Occupation: Immigration Attorney
Industry: Law
Age: 27
Location: Long Beach, CA
Salary: $58,000
Net Worth: Roughly -$110,000 (I have $75,000 in investments and my car is worth $15,000, but I also have $200,000 in debt.)
Debt: $200,000 (no interest currently accruing due to COVID)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,683.75
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,425 (studio by myself)
Loans: $0 right now
Utilities: $115
Spotify Premium: $9.99
iCloud Storage: $0.99
Cell Phone: still on my parent's family plan
Streaming Services: mooching off boyfriend
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. I grew up knowing college was the next step after high school. I went to a public university. My parents started saving for my college before I was born, so they were able to pay for my tuition and support me through college. Thankfully I never had to take loans out in undergrad because I relied entirely on federal loans for law school. My amazing parents were still able to help me stay afloat during law school because I wasn't making any money, but they told me if I wanted to go to law school that was my financial burden to bare. I am grateful that the only loans I have are from professional school because if I had loans from undergrad, I probably would not have considered law school.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I don't remember too many conversations about money growing up. My mom is definitely better with finances than my dad, so she always tried to teach me the importance of money and how to handle it. She would give me and my siblings little weekly allowances that she would encourage us to save for a time when there was something we really wanted to buy. As I got older and got minimum wage jobs and a credit card, she would always be on me about paying my credit card balance and having emergency cash on hand.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was when I was 16 as an assistant at an insurance office. I got paid $8 an hour under the table and worked a few hours every day after school. It was nice to have some extra spending money because at that age I started to go out more with my friends and could pay for eating out, movies, etc.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really, and the older I get the more grateful I am for that. My family was and is very comfortable — my parents could always afford to pay for necessities and our wants, but my parents were never the type to buy us something just because we wanted it. In high school, my parents assured me that my job was to do well in school and get into college, and they were prepared to help me once I left to undergrad.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I think my comfortable upbringing has given me some bad spending habits that I still carry with me even though my salary does not necessarily always allow for it. I don't have credit card debt, but my savings always takes the hit. What worries me most is my student loans. I'm on year one of a ten-year track for Public Interest Loan Forgiveness, and as long as I make minimum payments on my loans for ten years while working for a non-profit or the government, the balance will be forgiven. But I'm nervous that the program will go away before the tenth year comes, or some other unforeseeable thing happens and I'm stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay back on my public interest salary. I've spoken with representatives from my loan management company who have told me the requirements and I've done lots of research and filled out the necessary forms, so fingers crossed it all goes accordingly.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I didn't become financially responsible until after I took the bar exam and started a paid internship, so I was 26. I didn't have a paying job or internship at all in law school because they were all with the government, so my parents helped me pay for some everyday necessities. I lived at home for the last two years of law school so that helped save some money. I haven't had a conversation about this with my parents ever, but I know they would be willing and able to help me if something happened and I needed some kind of financial help from them.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. Not to get into too much detail because of #trauma, but when I was in college my siblings, my grandma, and I were involved in this freak accident that injured the three of us and killed my grandma. What ensued was a long-drawn out lawsuit that provided settlement money and compensation for our medical bills. That and the inheritance from my grandma provided a really nice cushion for me. I was able to buy a car a few years ago and I have a good chunk of money invested.

Day One

7:15 a.m. — After several snoozes, I finally get out of bed. I slept terribly last night, but I want to get a workout in. I watch and follow a cardio HIIT video on YouTube, then jump in the shower.
8:30 a.m. — I make myself a little yogurt parfait using almond and coconut greek yogurt from Trader Joes, strawberries, and granola. Last night, I tried a new method to keep my strawberries from going bad after a few days — I soaked them in a mixture of white vinegar and water, then dried them in my salad spinner, then put them in a paper towel-lined container with the lid on top (not sealed) to be stored in the fridge. Hopefully it works! Will keep you updated through the week.
9 a.m. — I open my laptop and start work for the day. I'm a new attorney working at an immigration firm and I'm super grateful to have even found a job during the pandemic, but it's still hard to start a job virtually. Today is a pretty light day so it'll be a nice ease into the workweek.
12:05 p.m. — An exterminator comes to treat my unit for termites. Yes, termites. If things couldn't get any worse, I started seeing termites pop up in my kitchen window last week. The Southern California heatwave apparently invited the little buggers out and they chose to terrorize my apartment. Thankfully, they will be dealt with today, but I have pretty much avoided my kitchen as much as possible because it has been freaking me out. The exterminator is very nice and he tells me that he took care of all the suckers so I shouldn't worry anymore. Phew.
1:30 p.m. — I make some tuna salad and spread it onto cauliflower thins from Trader Joe's for lunch. Such an easy and satisfying savory meal. While I eat, I watch a video of Whitney Port and her husband reacting to the reality show The City from the late 2000s. I used to love that show (along with The Hills and a slew of other MTV reality shows during its heyday) and Whitney and her husband are just really fun to watch.
5:30 p.m. — I finish work around 5 and my little brother and sister come over to have dinner. My sister makes the Caesar salad and my little brother is on garlic bread duty while I throw together the pasta and the sauce. For the sauce, I carmelize onions and add minced garlic, tomato paste, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Once I finish boiling the rigatoni, I add the pasta to the sauce, add some pasta water, and a hefty amount of parmesan cheese and my little bro mixes it all together.
6:30 p.m. — The pasta turned out so delicious! We each eat several plates. My sister makes us watch a dumb tween movie on Disney+ and we have some raspberry and vanilla frozen bars for dessert.
9 p.m. — The siblings are gone, so I wash all the dishes and clean up. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is ten years younger, so I'm happy to get closer and closer to them as we get older. For the longest time I couldn't relate to them on many things, so I'm grateful to have these moments together.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I stay in bed a little bit and then I'm up. I brush my teeth, jump in the shower, make my bed, and drink a glass of water mixed with some Emergen-C powder.
8 a.m. — I open my laptop and answer some e-mails. I have a hair appointment later this afternoon so I want to get an early start on work. My sister brought some cupcakes last night from my favorite cupcake place, but we didn't eat them because we were too full from dinner, so I eat a strawberry cupcake for breakfast. I also make an iced chai using chai tea concentrate, oat milk, and a splash of hazelnut creamer.
12:15 p.m. — After editing documents and filling out forms all morning, I take a break to eat some lunch. I take out a Trader Joe's salad kit and mix up all the ingredients in a bowl. After my salad, I have a handful of powerberries.
4:15 p.m. — On my way to the salon, my stylist tells me that she's running a little late so I stop at a Target nearby. I head to the nail polish section and grab an Essie top coat because I am in desperate need of one. Another Essie polish catches my eye so I get that one too ($25.16). Then I head to the salon. I'm so excited to get my hair done. It desperately needs a refresh. She washes my hair, gives it an ashier tone that's a little darker for fall, and styles my hair. She charges me $50 and I give her a $12 tip. $87.16
6 p.m. — On my way home, I listen to the beginning of the first presidential debate in the car. Let's just say there are many sounds coming out of my mouth and faces being made at every word Trump says. Once I'm back in my apartment, I grab some pita chips and hummus to eat while I finish this hot mess of a debate. I am getting more furious by the minute so I turn it off. I grab some green grapes and watch an episode of Singapore Social. I am obsessed with every reality series Netflix does and this one is no different.
9:15 p.m. — I brush my teeth, put on my pajamas (which is really just an oversized t-shirt), and get into bed. I fall asleep around 10:15.
Daily Total: $87.16

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm and start scrolling through my phone. Twitter is ablaze with all of the thoughts from last night's trainwreck/debate. I decide to channel my emotions and donate to Biden's campaign. $10 donation plus a $1 tip. Since I'm getting paid this Friday, I'll probably donate a larger amount later this week. $11
8:30 a.m. — I brush my teeth, get a quick arm workout in, shower, and then make myself a yogurt bowl (strawberry update: they still look great! No sign of squish or rot). I get on my laptop and watch some YouTube vlogs while eating my breakfast.
10 a.m. — It's kind of a slow workday today because a deadline was just announced for many of our clients to adjust their status to get legal permanent residence so a lot of my colleagues are scrambling. Since I'm a newer attorney, the deadline doesn't apply to any of my clients' cases. I contact some clients to check-in and fill out some forms. I mix some Trader Joe's coconut cold brew concentrate with water and add hazelnut creamer (clearly this is a TJs household).
12 p.m. — I grab a Trader Joe's Asian chicken salad out of the fridge and eat that for lunch. I get a package delivered and it's my new fan! I bought a tall oscillating fan last week and it came at the perfect time. I take it out of the package and assemble it.
5 p.m. — Done with work! I throw on some tennis shoes and grab my mask to walk to the post office. I'm returning a dress that didn't work out. It's so hot outside that once I finally take off my mask my face is wet with sweat. Ew.
5:45 p.m. — My stomach starts grumbling so I decide to make an early dinner. I put on Love Island USA to watch while I cook. I decide to make Banza chickpea pasta with meat sauce. I FaceTime my boyfriend, V., after I eat. He's currently on a camping trip with his dad so we catch each other up on our days and he sends me pictures of their campsite. V. brings up my birthday, which is in a few days. I start to get emotional because I don't really feel like celebrating because of everything that's going on. Normally, I love my birthday because it's an excuse to bring all my friends together and have a fun night out, but obviously that is not an option this year. I never thought that these circumstances would last all the way through my birthday but that's the reality.
9:45 p.m. — Get ready for bed, scroll on my phone for a bit and then fall asleep.
11:45 p.m. — I wake up and I'm sweating balls. I adjust my fan to just stay directed at me and increase the airflow.
Daily Total: $11

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Happy October! It's my favorite month! I laze around in bed for a little and then brush my teeth and hop in the shower. I grab a granola bar and make a chai for breakfast, pay my rent (included in monthly expenses), and then get on a call with my supervisor.
11:30 a.m. — I'm super hungry, so I head to the kitchen and grab some pita chips and hummus for a snack.
3 p.m. — I edit some documents and then take a short YouTube break. Since I've only been an immigration attorney for a few months, I often think about the current and future state of my career. Pre-COVID, I was on track to being hired as a public defender and my entire resume consisted of criminal defense experience. COVID derailed that entire track and I was forced to find a job in the middle of the pandemic because the office I was at went into a hiring freeze. This attorney job pays significantly less than what I would have made as a public defender, so I think about how shitty it is to be in a salary situation that I did not anticipate. I never went to law school for the money, and never considered throwing my life away to do big law, but it just sucks spending so much money on law school to then get paid so little because I am working in public interest.
4 p.m. — I remember that I've been wanting to buy some floating shelves to put above my desk area. I find a three-pack of different-sized shelves on Amazon that are very affordable so I get those. $18.73
5:15 p.m. — Closing my work laptop for the day. I'm participating in a virtual mixer for undergraduate students who are interested in graduate or professional school. I get ready by putting on a little bit of makeup, brushing my hair, and putting on a nice blouse (aka professional Zoom attire).
7:45 p.m. — Just got done with the virtual mixer! I love doing things like this — speaking on my experiences and giving advice to aspiring law students. I will always tell people how much I loved law school, it was one of the best decisions of my life. Even though my career is in the beginning stage, I feel like I was meant to be a lawyer.
10:30 p.m. — After scrolling on my phone for a bit, it's lights out.
Daily Total: $18.73

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Good morning! Going for a quick run to get some fresh air. I usually go two miles, but this morning I only do about 1.5 because some bad cramps start to set in. I'm supposed to get my period soon so I'm not worried. Also, I realized I never ate dinner last night so that could also be the reason! Either way, it's good to get outside and exercise a bit.
8:30 a.m. — I shower, blow dry my hair, and make myself a cold brew and yogurt bowl. My strawberries still look so great! This method is amazing and was so easy, I highly recommend it.
12 p.m. — Log off for my lunch break. I head to Whole Foods nearby to grab a pack of seltzers ($12.49) and then go to a plant store next door to get a small vase and an arrangement of dried flowers I've been thinking about. The store is adorable and I'm happy with my little selection so I head home and put together the arrangement to go on my nightstand ($22.05). $34.54
6:30 p.m. — My brother and sister come over for a sleepover and bring dinner courtesy of my mama. We eat some spicy ramen and watch The Greatest Showman. It's such a heartwarming movie and the songs are so great.
9 p.m. — We pop on Midnight in Paris (another fave) and I make my siblings their makeshift beds on the couch and floor and we doze off around 11.
Daily Total: $34.54

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Surprisingly, we're all awake. I suggest breakfast and I order coffee and pastries on the Philz App, add a $1 tip, and we make the five minute walk over to pick it up. $29.15
10:30 a.m. — We get back to my apartment and hang out for a few hours. I help my little brother with one of his college admission essays and we all chat about our lives.
3:30 p.m. — After my siblings leave, I clean up a bit. I clean the kitchen, sweep the floors, and put things away. I head to Trader Joe's and stock up on some frozen strawberries and mangoes, yogurt, veggies, frozen orange chicken, cauliflower fried rice, spaghetti squash, eggs, sausage, power berries, pita chips and hummus, almond milk, cold brew concentrate, and a few pre-made salads. $82.54
5 p.m. — I pop some Trader Joe's butternut squash mac and cheese (the best) in the oven for a late lunch/early dinner. Since this item is seasonal, I try to keep a stock of at least two at all times in the freezer. I then proceed to watch Love Island for an embarrassing amount of hours.
7:30 p.m. — V. is here! He's back from his trip with his dad and ooh I've missed him! We have a steamy reunion and then while V. eats some takeout he brought, he debriefs me on his trip. V. and his dad both love the outdoors so I'm glad they were able to have a nice father-son bonding trip, especially because I'm still warming up to the whole camping thing.
11 p.m. — Goodnight!
Daily Total: $111.69

Day Seven

8 a.m. — It's my birthday! I am 27 today, wow. I get right in the shower because V. and I are meeting my best friend, K., and her boyfriend (whose birthday was yesterday) for a birthday breakfast. K. lives three blocks from me so her and her boyfriend, P., are two of the few people in our bubble.
9:30 a.m. — V. and I walk over to the brunch place to meet K. and P. K. made a reservation for 9:30 but apparently, they gave our table to someone else while we were standing there waiting? So eventually we get seated and the hostess tells us that they'll comp a few appetizers for us. Since we're celebrating two birthdays, we order a bottle of champagne that comes with a variety of juices and fruit and cheers to yet more quarantine birthdays.
10:30 a.m. — We order a stack of pancakes and crab avocado toast for the table and then we each get our own breakfast entree. We end up getting another bottle of champagne and just chat and catch up. K. and V. split the bill since it's their significant other's birthdays. The mimosas made me so sleepy so we walk home to take a nap.
3 p.m. — After a nap and lazing around for a bit, V. and I head out to pick up his dad at his hotel. In the car, V. tells me his present for me got delayed but that he's excited to see my reaction once it comes. (From future me: it was a bar cart and V. says my reaction was 10/10). V.'s dad is meeting my family for the first time so it's a big day! We are going to have a casual birthday barbecue in my parent's backyard with my dad's amazing homemade burgers.
5 p.m. — We get to my parents' house and my mom decorated the backyard so it's very festive (this kind of stuff is her jam). She has balloons and a lot of alcohol set out. My siblings are there and two of my uncles so it's a small gathering. My dad brings out a platter of crab cakes for an appetizer that are to die for. I pour myself a little bit of tequila with some blood orange soda.
7:30 p.m. — After burgers and fries are consumed, my mom brings out a bundt cake and we all eat a slice with some ice cream. I open some presents — my parents got me an air fryer, my siblings got me a blender, and my uncles got me a kit of wine tools. You know I am growing up when all my birthday presents are household appliances! My mom pulls me aside to give me a small box that has a pair of beautiful chunky gold hoop earrings inside! She tells me they were hers and she knows how much I've been wanting some so now they are mine. I am so excited I put them on right away! Jewelry is my favorite and I am slowly building my fine gold jewelry collection so I am ecstatic.
9:30 p.m. — V. and I dropped off his dad at his hotel and we head back to my apartment. I am exhausted, but grateful for a wonderful birthday with my loved ones.
Daily Total: $0
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series