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A Week In San Francisco On A $65,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of The Ordinary.
Welcome to Money Diaries where we’re 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 legal operations associate working in tech who makes $65,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on glycolic acid from The Ordinary.
Occupation: Legal operations associate
Industry: Tech
Age: 24
Location: San Francisco
Salary: $65,000
Net Worth: -$87,723.09 (checking: $1,737.52; travel savings: $846.78; HYSA: $1,265.61; minus student loans)
Debt: $91,573 (all student loans)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,093.46
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (I currently live with my parents. I moved in with them after completing my master’s in Europe about a year and a half ago. They moved from Texas to California while I was away at school, so I’ve felt a lot of culture shock moving from Texas to Europe to California in a short period of time.)
Student Loans: $0 (My student loan payments are currently $0 because I was unemployed the last time I set up my payment plan, about two months ago. When I started my new job, I had to wait until I got a bank statement with my paycheck included. I have everything required to update it now, I just haven’t gotten around to it.) 
Apple Storage, FaceApp, Spotify: $18.97
HYSA: $1,295 (I started saving this month since getting the new job. About 30% of my salary automatically transfers to my HYSA because I’m saving to move to New York in April. I’ll add extra depending on the amount in my checking account.)
Travel Savings: $200 (I also just started this. I’ve added more lately because I’ve felt financially comfortable enough to do so.)

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 knew I would attend college from the time I learned what it was. I didn’t consider any other options. All of my three older sisters went to college, so it was just expected. My dad went to college, but my mom didn’t finish college, and my dad, an engineer, was the “breadwinner” of the house, while my mom was a stay-at-home mom. When she did need jobs, she had trouble finding them, and that was also a big motivator for me to go to college. I used student loans to pay for my education.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn’t have conversations about money. My parents had the attitude that their money and finances weren’t their kids’ business, so we never spoke about it or about financial literacy. I think a large part of this was because they didn’t want me to know the full financial situation when my dad was unemployed when I was in middle school. My dad was always there to help out if I didn’t understand something but it wasn’t something he purposefully sought to teach.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
Technically, my first job was at a Hawaiian shaved ice place. My sister, who occasionally worked there at the time, got me the job when I was 15. My parents were already hounding me about getting a job for extra spending money, so I worked a couple of shifts there. The first job where I was regularly on the schedule was PetSmart. I worked there the summer before college to save up spending money. I worked in the kennel area and loved playing with dogs everyday.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. My family’s financial situation drastically changed during the 2008 recession, so it was hard to understand why my lifestyle changed, especially when my parents wouldn’t talk about finances and I was left in the dark about our financial situation. I understand why they hid it from me, but it left me feeling helpless.

Do you worry about money now?
No. I currently live at home with my parents, so I have almost no expenses and no one is dependent on me. However, in the first few months of moving back home, they put a lot of pressure on me to find a job, which negatively affected my mental health. They didn’t initially understand when I tried to communicate that I wasn’t doing well with this pressure, however they backed off when my mental state became visually apparent. Now, it’s very relaxed at home. I have my own space (for the most part), frequently go out to dinner with my parents, don’t have house rules, and we live in a luxury building. I’m very grateful that they allow me to stay with them and cover most of my living expenses. I realize I’m very spoiled and privileged. All that said, I do feel like I should be worried about my student loans, but growing up and always hearing about student loans has kind of numbed me to them.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I’m not yet financially independent. I’m planning on moving out of my parents’ place in April 2024. I don’t have rainy-day savings but I know I can always get support from my parents if needed.

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

Day One

6:30 a.m. — I wake up next to my sister and her chihuahua, B. They drove here from LA on Thursday after leaving a meditation retreat and are staying at our parents’ place for Thanksgiving. Normally, I wake up around 7:30 a.m. but I can’t fall back asleep so I decide to lean into the early morning.
7:45 a.m. — I get up, make coffee with the Keurig, and eat a leftover slice of pie straight from the container (it was the last slice) while watching TikTok. My feed is currently a lot of Day In My Life, Brittney Reynold’s credit card payment management, and Free Palestine content.
9:46 a.m. — It’s time for a second breakfast — brunch? I can’t wait until lunch to dive into the Thanksgiving leftovers and I make a sandwich with mayo, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey covered in lemongrass broth. It’s a 9/10. It would be a 10/10 but the broth kinda ruins it, and I don’t have any cranberry sauce :(
10:07 a.m. — I take my biotin supplement with water. I started taking them to help with hair growth because I’m noticing some thinness on my hairline. I’ve only been taking them for a week so I can’t tell if they’re making a difference on my hair, but it does seem like they’re giving me a breast lift, so that’s a plus.
10:37 a.m. — I start on my Black Friday shopping. Technically, I started on Wednesday. I bought a pair of jeans from Madewell’s 40% off sale, a bra that was reduced to $26 from Macy’s, and, on Thursday, I bought another pair of jeans from Madewell that were 50% off. Today is just for home office stuff so it’ll be reimbursed. I recently got a new job — my first full-time job after college — and the company offers a $1,500 stipend for home office purchases. I already have everything I want written out in my notes app (very Type A). I’m having laptop troubles, so I restart my 2017 MacBook and take it to my dad for some engineering help. Miraculously, it starts working fine once he looks at it. I go on Amazon and buy a monitor ($217) and wireless keyboard and mouse ($26). All are reimbursed. $243 (expensed)
11:25 a.m. — I hop in the shower to start getting ready to see Saltburn with my sister. We should be out the door by 12:50 p.m. for the 1:15 p.m. show to catch the previews and get snacks. The getting-ready playlist of the day is “Y2K Night @ Barb’s”. Think: “Blame It” by Jamie Foxx and T-Pain; “Me & U” by Cassie; and “Hot in Here” by Nelly vibes.
12 p.m. — I scroll on Hinge while waiting for my sister to take a shower and get ready. As per usual, Hinge is very humbling. San Francisco’s Hinge is not really my vibe, and I don’t think I’m its vibe. I’m not a techie, a granola, or even a super artsy person, so that really diminishes my options. I often switch my location to LA just to make it more interesting. Everything they say about people being insanely hot in LA is true.
12:20 p.m. — I get up from scrolling and snuggling with B. to finish getting dressed. The outfit of the day is a black short active dress, a grey cropped zip-up hoodie, ankle socks, and New Balance 550s with mega chunky gold hoops. I’m a big advocate of athleisure. If I’m not comfortable in it, it’s not going on my body.
12:50 p.m. — I take half a gummy, and my sister and I walk to the movie theater. It’s only a 15-minute walk.
1:10 p.m. — We arrive at the theater, and my sister sees her friends so we stop and chat with them before going in. They’re older, but my sister is five years older than me, so I guess her friends are gonna reflect that age gap. They’re nice, but my sister and I don’t have the same taste in people — friends or guys.
1:15 p.m. — I bought the tickets yesterday, so we go straight to the concession. The only time I really ever eat popcorn is at the movies so I get an Icee, a popcorn, and my sister’s water. $23.12
3:54 p.m. — We come out of the movie and, OMG, it’s flawless: So complex and layered, visually appealing and beautiful, and the acting is amazing. I could write a 50-page essay on how every little detail is perfectly crafted. Definitely a must-see.
3:58 p.m. — We stop at Target before walking home. My sister wants to get groceries, and the Target is inside the same center as the theater. Afterward, we walk the 15 minutes home.
5:45 p.m. — I make another Thanksgiving sandwich with the same ingredients, plus gravy and cranberry sauce. The gravy is a nice addition, but the cranberry sauce makes it too sweet.
5:51 p.m. — Time for more TikTok scrolling and horizontal relaxing. Being comfy while horizontal is my favorite pastime. Peak comfort is always the goal.
6:34 p.m. — I get my robe and a blanket and snuggle up with A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas while intermittently checking TikTok and Hinge. I don’t think the book series is for me. The first book was one of the worst books I’ve ever read and, though the second book is a lot better, I still don’t find the characters realistic.
6:40 p.m. — I fresh start my Hinge so hopefully that gets things moving.
7:22 p.m. — I text my sister to ask if she still wants to go to a nice hotel downtown because we’re planning to scope out the basketball players there before the game. She said she’s too tired. I am too, so we decide not to go. There’s no rush; we have the rest of the season ahead of us.
10:00 p.m. — I call it a night.
Daily Total: $23.12

Day Two

7:23 a.m. — I get out of bed after scrolling on TikTok for about 30 minutes. I’m so sore from Pilates and running I can barely walk. My sister convinced me to go on a short run on Thanksgiving, and I’m still feeling it in my calves.
7:30 a.m. — I make my coffee, take my biotin supplement, and relax on the couch. The only other person awake is my sister. She woke up at 6 a.m. and is working on her portfolio.
9:24 a.m. — I get up to make myself breakfast. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy for this morning.
9:45 a.m. — I play with B. for a bit. He doesn’t quite have the hang of fetch, so we wrestle for the toy, I throw it, and then he brings it back, and I have to wrestle with him for the toy again.
11:24 a.m. — After relaxing in bed and scrolling through TikTok, I hop in the shower. My mom, sister, and I are doing a bit of shopping today. I absolutely do not need to spend any money right now but I want to see the Goodwill boutique my mom keeps talking about.
12:26 p.m. — Ready and out the door.
12:58 p.m. — We stop at Macy’s. I don’t buy anything, but my mom gets $25 off her purchase by loudly complaining to no one in particular in the hopes that an employee might notice.
1:46 p.m. — We take Muni to a neighborhood on the other end of the city to go to the Goodwill boutique. I have $11.26 on my Clipper card, so I use that for the subway.
2:45 p.m. — We stop at a nearby Mexican restaurant for lunch. I order chicken enchiladas and a crispy taco. Mexican food is my favorite, but California Mexican food never hits the same as Tex-Mex. My mom pays, and we take Muni home.
4:15 p.m. — I greet B. and put on sweatpants and my robe, then relax in my bed.
5:45 p.m. — I ask my sister if she still wants to go out tonight since she mentioned it earlier. She said she’s tired again, which is fine with me because I would always prefer to be cozy at home.
7:21 p.m. — My friend, G., texts and asks if I want to go out tonight. At this point, I’m relaxing in bed so I’m not in the going-out mindset. I think I’m just more of a going out/social person in the spring and summer. I tell her not tonight but next time.
7:30 p.m. — I start watching The Morning Show with my parents and make my TikTok of the day. I started a TikTok competition with my sister in October, so now it’s kind of a routine.
10 p.m. — After watching Regular Show in the living room, I call it a night and go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8:10 a.m. — I wake up and stay in bed for 20 minutes before getting up to make coffee and take my biotin supplement.
9:13 a.m. — I start a shared note to plan for Christmas in Mexico with my family. We’re going to Tulum for Christmas, and my parents aren’t planners, so I’m trying to make sure we have a few things planned out to tell our concierge.
9:50 a.m. — I start putting together my new office chair and only need assistance twice. Call me Bob the Builder.
11:37 a.m. — I make another Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich because, other than the leftovers, the fridge is barren.
12:25 p.m. — I submit my chair purchase for a reimbursement of $114.05. I bought it last week but waited to do this until I knew I liked the chair and wasn’t going to return it.
1 p.m. — Back in bed because rotting is my favorite Sunday pastime.
3:01 p.m. — I start to get a little hungry so I order chicken tikka masala with basmati rice and garlic naan on Uber Eats. The last time I ordered this it lasted me two meals and it was on the cheaper side, so I figure it’s a safe bet. It was also the best Indian food I’ve had in the city, so that’s a plus. I feel guilty every time I Uber Eats food, but there’s not much in the house other than Thanksgiving food and frozen fish so that eases my guilt. $25.81
3:26 p.m. — Food’s here. It’s okay. The chicken’s a bit dry. I give it a 6.5/10.
3:43 p.m. — Back to rotting but this time on the couch in the living room. I see that season 2 of Rap Sh!t is out so I put that on. I love Issa Rae’s shows.
5:15 p.m. — My sister comes home and wants to go out to dinner. I’m not that hungry but decide to go out and take home the leftovers because she says our dad has agreed to pay. She’s unemployed, and my dad likes to support “sister bonding time.”
6:04 p.m. — Our parents join us for dinner but they just get drinks because they ate dim sum already. We get in a big debate over how to handle the homelessness issue in San Francisco. I’m a big believer in blaming the system rather than blaming the victims of the system. I’m also well aware that this is not my area of expertise so I know, out of everyone who analyzes this issue, I’m probably not going to be the one with the solution.
7:15 p.m. — We walk home because the restaurant is basically just below our building. I get started on laundry and take a shower once I get home.
9 p.m. — Get in bed and read until I go to sleep at 10:15 p.m.
Daily Total: $25.81

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — My alarm wakes me up, and I stay in bed scrolling on socials until 7 a.m. when I get up and get ready for the day.
7:28 a.m. — I wash my emotional support water bottle and make coffee. I’d love to kick my coffee addiction, but I’d rather not willingly go through the withdrawal.
7:58 a.m. — I light a Christmas Cheer candle from Bath & Body Works and sit down to start work. I like to have a warm scent throughout the workspace so I don’t feel like a robot.
10:15 a.m. — I take a 15-minute break from work to eat my Indian leftovers.
1:48 p.m. — Lunch time. Work is especially irritating me today, which is odd because I’m never personally affected by work. Maybe I’m getting my period soon. I spend an hour scrolling on TikTok and laying on the couch, hoping my bad mood will go away. I try to do laundry, but the machine isn’t working.
4:47 p.m. — I eat cacio e pepe leftovers from last night for an early dinner before going back to work. I’d normally be done at 5 p.m. on the dot but I want to create some learning materials for myself.
5:58 p.m. — I’m done with work for the day. I do some more laundry since my mom got the machine working.
7:15 p.m. — I work on adding my current role to my résumé. I want to start looking for other roles in the next couple of months so I just want to update it now rather than later in case an opportunity comes up. After that, I take a shower.
8:15 p.m. — I can’t tell if I want something sweet or if I’m hungry. I eat the rest of my Indian leftovers just in case it’s the latter. I’m in bed just after 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:45 a.m. — My alarm wakes me up, and I have the worst cramp/pain in my lower abdomen. It woke me up last night and has since mellowed, but I’m still not feeling great.
7:00 a.m. — I get up and see that someone on Depop bought a jacket I posted. I have no idea where it is because my mom moves things every chance she gets. I get up, make coffee, look around for the lost jacket, and then fold laundry.
7:30 a.m. — I find the jacket! It’s hidden in my closet.
8:05 a.m. — I sit down to start work. At 9:30 a.m., I have an all-hands meeting, so I take the opportunity to make breakfast: scrambled eggs with cheese and turkey bacon topped with salsa.
12:00 p.m. — Break time. I lay on the couch with B., scroll on TikTok, and do some laundry. I see that the front desk receptionist dropped off my package. It’s the bra from Macy’s I bought on Black Friday.
5 p.m. — I’m done with work and scroll in bed for a bit.
6:00 p.m. — I work a bit more because I have nothing else to do. I need to pick up a post-work hobby. Around 6:30 p.m., I make a quesadilla and have some chips for dinner.
8 p.m. — I try on my bra before taking a shower. It fits but just barely. I keep it because I can’t see myself going bra shopping in the near future.
8:30 p.m. — I buy glycolic acid from The Ordinary because it’s on sale and I’ve needed to repurchase it for a while ($13.04). While I’m already thinking about repurchases, I check sites for any sales on things I need. I only end up buying rosemary oil and shampoo from Mielle ($15.22). Hopefully, they help rejuvenate my hairline. $28.26
9:00 p.m. — I’m in bed and scrolling on TikTok until I pick up my book. I’m asleep by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $28.26

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — My alarm wakes me up, and I get up and make coffee. I’m working by 8 a.m.
10:15 a.m. — I take a break from work to eat. There are no groceries in the house, so it’s leftover stuffing and Costco rotisserie chicken covered in gravy for brunch. I also make a protein shake and have an ice cream sandwich.
12:03 p.m. — I have a quick call with someone who is interested in working at my company. She was referred to me by someone else who was in my spirit group in college. I don’t know how helpful I am, since she’s looking at working in a different area than mine, but hopefully she at least got a sense of the company culture: The workload is heavy, but it’s fully remote, everyone is laidback, and there’s pretty open communication.
3:15 p.m. — I take a break and make my bed. One of my pairs of Madewell jeans came in so I try them on and they fit really well (they’re the ones for 50% off). I waited months for these jeans to go on sale so I’m happy I got them at such a good price.
5:11 p.m. — Done with work for the day. No idea what to do for dinner. I wanna go for a walk or at least just be outside but it’s already dark out. It’s one of those days when I feel like crying for no reason. I love being a woman.
6:15 p.m. — I look at Uber Eats for way too long and finally make a decision and order chicken strips and fries for a whopping $27. I’d love to cook dinner instead, but the only options for dinner are frozen fish and potato chips. $27.65
6:45 p.m. — I take a shower. When I get out, I see a notification that my monitors from Amazon are here. Yay! I go downstairs and haul them up.
7:15 p.m. — My food is here. It’s not bad, but I’m not really in the mood for greasy fried food.
7:30 p.m. — I set up my monitors but I need to buy another cord because I have a MacBook Air and got two monitors.
8 p.m. — I get ready and snuggle into bed and remember I need to order the cord. I check my bank account (like I do before almost every purchase) and see that I was reimbursed for my office chair. Feels like free money :)
8:30 p.m. — After looking at monitor stands, I buy the cord but wait to buy a monitor stand because I can’t find one I love ($10.90 expensed). While I’m on Amazon, I buy a belt since I’ve been meaning to. I also take way too long looking at those but finally decide on one ($18.24) and go to bed. $18.24
Daily Total: $45.89

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — My alarm wakes me up. I get up, make coffee, and get dressed. Today is a Cer-100 (like off-brand Olaplex) bun day because I need to wash my hair tonight.
7:28 a.m. — I look online for things to make my room more festive. My room is very bland in general, and I want something to give it warmth. I look into rebuying my Christmas Cheer candle from Bath & Body Works, but I don’t think they make it anymore. I start work at 8 a.m.
9:47 a.m. — I heat up chicken and stuffing for brunch. This is the last of the stuffing and rotisserie chicken, so I take out some frozen chicken to thaw for lunch or dinner.
10:31 — I leave a team meeting and check my email to see that I just got paid. After 30% goes into my HYSA, $1,465.42 is added to my account. This is one of my first full paychecks from my new job, and I’m realizing how little I’m paid. Life is so expensive — and will be even more so if I move to New York in the spring. I’m still on the fence about whether I should move or just find an apartment here in San Francisco because housing is so expensive in NY, and it’s hard to find a good deal. I also don’t think I could live at my preferred standard of living with my salary in NY so I’d have to find a new job pretty quickly, and the move would just add even more pressure to the job search.
3:35 p.m. — Snack time. I reheat fries from last night’s dinner in the oven.
3:52 p.m. — My mom gets her, my dad, and I flights to Mexico but the departure is a day earlier than our Airbnb booking. She says she expects me to pay her back for the $800 flight, which is fine with me. Immediately after, she starts looking at hotels in Cancun for the one night, and I know it’ll take her forever to book because she always waits until the last minute to try and find a deal. I offer to pay for an airport hotel so she doesn’t have to talk about hotel prices for the next four weeks. $271.23
5:12 p.m. — I log out of work for the day. I really need post-work activities. I would ask friends to hang out with me but I live far away from everyone.
5:26 p.m. — I think about getting back on ClassPass because I’m not an everyday gym girly anymore and I need to do something active. I do get $10 Pilates classes because I technically still work at a Pilates studio (I was going to quit when I started my full-time job, but my manager said I could just pick up shifts whenever I want to work). I don’t want to go to Pilates multiple times a week, though. I forgot that my ClassPass account is linked to Facebook, and ClassPass doesn’t use Facebook anymore so I send support an email.
5:35 p.m. — I go to my downstairs gym and walk on the treadmill before washing my hair. I need to catch up on podcasts and the only time I listen to them is while on the treadmill or in transit. I do my version of the 12-3-30 (9-2.5-30).
6:27 a.m. — Done with my workout. Shower time.
7:19 p.m. — My dad calls me and says he’s going to the grocery store and will pick some things up for me so I make a list and text it to him: Mexican cheese, American cheese, breaded chicken tenders, rigatoni, heavy cream, red pasta sauce, Parmesan, ground turkey, shredded lettuce, frozen mixed peppers, salsa, English muffins, bagels, turkey bacon, peach oatmeal, vanilla bean ice cream, ranch, multigrain bread, cinnamon, pepperoncini, mac ‘n’ cheese, and frozen mixed fruit. It’s a bit of a long list but I figure there will be some overlap with what he’s already getting. Now that I have a full-time job, it’s expected that I buy my own groceries, however, I still have free range on whatever my parents buy. I do some laundry so I can drop off my jacket at the post-office tomorrow and eat an ice cream sandwich for a pre-dinner snack.
8:15 p.m. — My dad comes home and says my list is “ridiculous and inconsiderate.” He has a car, so I figured he wouldn’t have an issue getting everything, but he also hates going to the grocery store. He ends up getting about 35% of the list and doesn’t ask me to pay him back. Thinking about it now, I don’t think my dad has ever asked me to pay him back for anything.
8:42 p.m. — I text my friend, K., to ask if she’s doing anything tomorrow night and if she wants to go to a new natural wine bar in her neighborhood. I’m constantly struggling between wanting to go out on weekends and wanting to stay in. I don’t actually want to go out and go to bars but I do want to meet more people, specifically guys. I’d love to get into a relationship but I also never put myself in positions to meet people. It’s gotten even worse since the weather has gotten colder, but I’m gonna try to push myself out of the house.
9:27 p.m. — I eat chicken and rice soup my mom made for dinner, then get ready for bed.
9:35 p.m. — I get in bed, scroll on TikTok, and read some of A Court of Mist and Fury. I’m asleep by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $271.23
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