A Week In Orange County, CA, On $26.75 An Hour

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.
Are you engaged or married? How did you pay for your ring? Did you save, did you get a loan, are you still in debt? Tell us your ring financing stories here for a chance to be featured in an upcoming story! 
Today: a marketing specialist who makes $26.75 an hour and spends some of her money this week on an açai bowl.
Advertisement
Occupation: Marketing Specialist
Industry: Architecture and Engineering
Age: 26
Location: Orange County, CA
Salary: $26.75 per hour, $2,000–$3,000 in overtime, and a part-time job as a volleyball instructor where I make $30 per hour
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,543.49 (This is without overtime, aka 40 hours a week.)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,127.50 (I live with a roommate in a dual master apartment; we both have the same size rooms with walk-in closets and bathrooms!)
Student Loans: $0 (thanks to scholarships, my parents, and my grandpa)
Car Loan: $0 (paid off, but my car is old)
Internet: $29.99 (my half)
Utilities: ~$75 (Varies depending on the season; we have been cranking the AC, no such thing as fall in California, so it has been higher.)
Cell Phone: $77 (Just moved on to my boyfriend's family plan last month, and I am saving about $50 now!)
Gym: $97 (high interval training style workout “bootcamp” classes)
Spotify: $9.99
Netflix/Amazon/HBO/Showtime: $0 (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
Car Insurance: $1,436 paid every six months (I pay it off in two payments each year, usually using most of the money from my coaching job.)
Brokerage Account: $50 (I just opened an investment fund with $2,000 of my savings, hoping to put in $50 a month.)
Savings: $50–100 (varies, but I'm focused on paying off my credit card right now before the holidays)
401(k): $149 deducted pretax (I contribute 7% with 4% matching)
Health Insurance: $27.73 pretax (I forgot to re-enroll for HSA contributions for 2019; 2020 deduction will be much higher.)

Day One

6:20 a.m. — Does it ever get any easier waking up on Monday morning? Wake up, wash face (Cetaphil foaming cleanser), moisturize (Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream — this stuff is expensiveeeee, but I love it), and put on IT Cosmetics CC cream, Covergirl eyelash primer (this stuff is amazing and I highly recommend!), Too Faced eyeliner, mascara, and bronzer, Benefit brow powder, and Aquaphor because my lips are cracking and dry from the heat.
Advertisement
7:30 a.m. — Breakfast today is a gluten-free bagel and office coffee. Our boss also sends us all $5 Starbucks gift cards for Halloween! I will definitely be using this later in the week.
8 a.m. — My boss comes by to let me know that they increased vacation days to three weeks for anyone who has been at the company for at least three years, which I will be in February! I am overjoyed, because it used to be that they would increase the number of weeks to three once you hit five years, and I always thought that was extremely unfair and way too long, and have been vocal about it to my boss. Glad to see that they are making changes!
10 a.m. — My coworker N. is finishing up a big proposal today, and my workload is light so I help her out for most of the day with double-checking the documents and putting the document together into the largest binders I have ever seen. The most ironic thing is that this is for an environmental-services contract, and this is probably the most paper I have ever seen used on a proposal, and it hurts my soul.
12 p.m. — We are at a stopping point, and I take my lunch from my desk to catch up on emails and eat my lunch of zucchini noodles, kale pesto, and chicken and hummus and jicama and snap peas. During lunch, I also update my enrollment for health insurance for 2020 and give my dad a quick call to ask the difference between an HSA and FSA, and I decide on HSA contributions. Yes, I still need to ask my dad about these things, but hey, health insurance is confusing!
Advertisement
1 p.m. — Back to helping out with the proposal! A project manager from our L.A. office is helping as well, and we chat for most of the day while finishing up the proposal.
6 p.m. — FREEDOM! I stayed a little later than I thought and have to head home quickly for my rec volleyball game! I quickly make myself some scrambled egg whites and two pieces of bacon (my go-to quick and lazy meal) and head out the door.
7:30 p.m. — We won two out of three of our games, pretty good for our team as we just recently moved up into a higher division, but I am definitely going to have some bruises on my arms tomorrow from hard hits. After my game, I usually call my boyfriend, A., and catch up with him on our days. I tell him about how I am going to have more vacation time next year, and he is so excited. We discuss potential places we want to go and are leaning toward Costa Rica during his spring break! A. is in grad school getting his master's in education and is in the middle of his student teaching, where he isn't getting paid but is working part-time. Since he isn't working full-time, we have been cutting back and it hasn't been too bad so far, but it would be really nice to have a trip to look forward to.
10 p.m. — I get sucked into researching Costa Rica and start a Google map to drop pins on cities and places I want to go to, and can't fall asleep till about 11.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5 a.m. — Since I have volleyball coaching after work, I decide to go to my bootcamp-style gym at 5:30. I grab half a Perfect bar to hold me over during the workout. Right before we are about to start, the power goes out and there is only one emergency light on in the gym! The instructor isn't sure if he should do the class for safety reasons (totally valid), but we all convince him that we can do it in the dark and get on with the workout. It is actually kinda nice working out in the dark, but the worst part is no AC and no music.
6 a.m. — On the way home I get gas from the station by my apartment. When I get home I shower, do my skin-care and makeup routine, straighten my hair, and then chat with my roommate for a bit. We are going to a concert on Saturday when she gets back, and we are both really excited. $43.33
7:30 a.m. — Made it to work, and I am the only one here. I have my last bagel and drink a Trader Joe's cold-pressed juice. The juice isn't as terrible as I thought it would be and only mildly tastes like grass? A proposal I was leading now has an extended deadline to next year, so I am moving on to a different proposal. I was requested specifically by the project manager that I get along with really well to work on this pursuit, and that makes me even more excited to work on it. I have built great internal relationships with most of the project managers and other engineers, but I definitely have my favorites, so I am thankful I get to work with this one.
Advertisement
12 p.m. — Each month my boss and I do a catch-up meeting over lunch. We head over to Luna Grill, and I get a chicken kabob plate. We are getting close to our year-end review, and I have been pushing for a major raise because I know I am getting paid below the market value, and she knows that too. She tells me that she has been talking with HR and our director of marketing, and I should get approved for a higher-than-average pay raise. YAAAAAAAS! We talk about my goals for the year: leading larger proposals, taking a certification test called the CPSM, and being promoted to senior marketing specialist in 2021. Movin' on up! $12.88
3 p.m. — I get a text from my best friend, N., who is getting married in a few weeks, and I am a bridesmaid. She asks me if I want to get my makeup professionally done that day for $75, plus another $15 for airbrushing if we want to, and she will be covering the cost of our hairstyling. Seventy-five seems like a lot for makeup (I don't get my makeup done that often), but since I know we will be taking a lot of photos, I say yes. I ask her if I need to Venmo her, and she says not yet.
4:30 p.m. — Off to volleyball coaching. We are in the last week, and it is fun to see how much the kids have progressed since September. Today was bring-a-friend day, so I help get forms filled out, and it is so cute to see the players showing their friends how to play. At the end of practice, I give my site director assistant a Starbucks gift card and thank-you note I bought last weekend to thank him for all of his hard work, because his position is volunteer.
Advertisement
7 p.m. — Back at my apartment and HUNGRY. I cook up some turkey-stuffed bell peppers, as well as more zucchini noodles, chicken, and pesto for lunches this week. I start watching Schitt's Creek, since I've heard a lot of good things from friends, and it's pretty funny so far.
10 p.m. — Before I go to bed, I pack up my overnight bag because I will be staying at my parents' tomorrow night; they live about 30 minutes from me. Since Thursday is Halloween, I dig through my closet to find something to wear to work. I find a black flower headband from a skeleton costume I did a couple years ago and pair it with a flower-patterned, flowing skirt and black shirt. Dead hippie? Trendy skeleton? I tried.
Daily Total: $56.21

Day Three

5 a.m. — Bootcamp again. Eat half a Perfect bar and head out. The Santa Ana winds are in full force this morning, and I am worried about the wildfires up in L.A. getting worse. Get back from bootcamp and get ready for work.
7:30 a.m. — My work wife, L., is back from vacation! We immediately go walk over to Starbucks and chat about her trip to Seattle for her first wedding anniversary. I order a grande blonde flat white and use my $5 gift card from earlier this week. We chat with the Starbucks staff for a bit while we wait for our drinks. I love them. When we get back, I spend the majority of my morning working on a workflow diagram graphic while catching up on my podcasts (My Favorite Murder, Armchair Expert, Natch Beaut, and Chatty Broads).
Advertisement
12 p.m. — I quickly eat my leftover stuffed bell pepper for lunch because the marketing team has a “meeting,” aka we are painting pumpkins for the pumpkin-decorating contest tomorrow. We huddle into a meeting room with no windows, so no one sees our masterpiece. Our theme is Trick or Treat Yo-self, and we paint mini pumpkins to look like doughnuts that we will be placing in a pink doughnut box. Tonight I will be carving a pumpkin face eating some of the painted doughnuts with my dad and A. to complete the lewk.
2:00 p.m. — Finally finish my workflow diagram from the morning and spend the rest of my day providing a compliance review of a coworker's proposal to check for missing pieces and overall compliance. With most proposals, if you are not 100% compliant, you are automatically disqualified, which is the absolute worst when you work for weeks on a proposal.
4:30 p.m. — Off to my other volleyball coaching site. At the end of practice, I give both of my site director assistants a Starbucks gift card and thank-you note to thank them for a great season. I get the phone number of one of the assistants so I can play in the offseason with him and his family.
7 p.m. — Get to my parents' house, and my mom and dad have already cooked two of their Hello Fresh meals and saved some for A. and me. (Ugh, they are the best.) We eat quickly and get to work on carving the pumpkin. I feel like I am having flashbacks of working on school projects with my dad. He ends up doing all of it and won't let us help at all! My brother, T., gets home from work, and we reminisce on doing school projects and my dad inevitably taking over. I am glad T. is home while I am here, because he is moving out of state on Sunday. We make plans to do something on Friday.
Advertisement
9 p.m. — I say goodbye to A., who has to work on lesson plans for his student teaching, and I get sucked into watching Survivor with my parents (I can't believe this show is still on television).
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:20 a.m. — SPOOOOKY HALLOWEEEEEEN! My mom lets the dogs into my room as my wakeup call, and they attack me with kisses. I am running late this morning because I get sucked into watching the news of the fires with my mom. One of my best friends lives in the Simi Valley area, and I shoot her a text to make sure she is okay. I change into my sad attempt of a Halloween costume and am out the door by 7:30. YIKES, I am going to be late.
8 a.m. — I make it to work, and we start to assemble our pumpkin creation in one of the conference rooms. Our pumpkin doughnut creation is pretty cute, but there are some amazing pumpkins and I don't think we will win. One of my coworkers brings in doughnuts decorated with Halloween movie characters that are adorable. My coworker and I split a Scream Face doughnut.
9:30 a.m. — Ugh, we actually have to work today, and I get on a call for a kickoff meeting for my proposal. We go over our schedule and due dates for information. After my call, my coworker and I walk over to Starbucks. I am out of money on my app and reload $15 to my account. The Starbucks staff are all dressed like pirates and yell ARGGG when we walk in. I order a grande blonde flat white. When I get back to the office, I check my personal email and see that the spin studio I go to when I like to mix up my workouts is doing a sale on class packages for Halloween. I only buy classes when they have flash sales, and I go ahead and buy five classes for $90. The classes at full price are kinda expensive ($27 for one class), but I really enjoy going and usually go once every other week, so the passes should last me a while. $105
Advertisement
12 p.m. — I am not really hungry, because I have been eating candy and doughnut holes all morning (whoops), but I eat part of my leftover stuffed bell peppers. Voting is open for the pumpkin contest, and I cast my vote for the pumpkins that are painted like Disney queen villains, but in a sugar skull design.
2:30 p.m. — Time for our monthly meeting with the entire office. They give us pumpkin pie slices for our Halloween treat. They announce the contest results, and our pumpkin didn't win (not surprised), but the team that won did a Trump theme (ugh, eye-roll, can he please be canceled) that said, Make Pumpkin City Great Again, had a “wall” made with squash, and fake pumpkins using persimmons on the other side. I did NOT like this one and can't believe they didn't get in trouble for this and won. I don't think politics and work should be mixed, even if it was supposed to be funny.
3:30 p.m. — I have to leave a bit early today for a dentist appointment. Yes, I was dumb and scheduled a dentist appointment on Halloween. He tells me that people usually cancel their appointments on Halloween and then tells me that no one asked him what his favorite Halloween candy is, so I ask and he says, "I don't eat candy!" He's so weird. I need to get a new dentist… He also once told me he's never had Chick-fil-A and won't let his kids have it, so I think he's low-key a psychopath. I leave my appointment cavity-free and drive back to my apartment to drop off the rent check. My brother and his friend are going out for Halloween in Newport Beach, and I live in a neighboring city, so they will be staying the night. I put some pillows and blankets out for them and blow up my air mattress.
Advertisement
6 p.m. — After setting everything up, I grab a bottle of wine from my bar cart, leave a key under the mat, and go to my friend/work wife, L.'s, house to make dinner and pass out candy. We play with her cats and have dinner with her husband when he gets home.
10 p.m. — Head back to my apartment. I send my brother a text saying that I left the key under the mat and a light on for when they get back. When did I turn into such a mom?!
Daily Total: $105

Day Five

5 a.m. — Up and ready for bootcamp. My apartment is really cold this morning, and it is a struggle to get out of bed. I quietly leave my room so I don't wake up T. and his friend H., and grab half a Perfect bar. Once I am back from my workout, I shower and get ready for work. T. and H. are still passed out asleep when I leave for work at 7. Must have had a fun night!
7:30 a.m. — Get to work, and L. wants to get Starbucks. I have been limiting myself to only getting coffee at Starbucks twice a week max, so I walk with her to Starbucks but resist the urge to get anything, even though the sausage-and-egg breakfast sandwich is calling my name. When we get back, I eat my sad oatmeal and raspberries that I brought from home and even more depressing office coffee. Ballin' on a budget is a hard life.
Advertisement
8 a.m. — I am the social media and graphics chair for a professional marketing organization for our industry, and I made a funny meme yesterday for Halloween that sparked a lot of engagement! I email the board asking for meme ideas specific to our industry that we can post weekly, and the memes start flowing to the point where we have a long thread of emails and content galore! We have such creative and hilarious board members this year.
9 a.m. — I should probably start working on actual work and switch over to a proposal I am assisting with. I am mainly just copying and pasting information into InDesign today, so I catch up on more podcasts from this week (Page 7 — their Riverdale recap makes me laugh so hard, Why Won't You Date Me, and Last Podcast on the Left). I have lunch around 12 (leftovers again) and go eat outside with a coworker.
4:30 p.m. — FREEDOM. I drive down to my parents' house so I can hang out with my brother and stay the night so I am closer to the volleyball site. Since I have plans this weekend, I take my brother out for dinner tonight. We decide on a poke place, and I treat him to one of his last meals in Orange County for a while. We fight a lot, but I am going to miss him. $27.91
5:30 p.m. — I call A. and tell him we are back from dinner and to come over so we can watch the Great British Bake Off finale. A. lives a lot closer to my parents' house than my apartment. No spoilers, but all I will say is, I am happy with the winner they chose. After that, we watch the Ducks hockey game and the Lakers game.
Advertisement
9:30 p.m. — I keep falling asleep, so A. leaves so he can work on his grad-school work. Normally on a Friday, we would probably be out at a brewery or bar. Our dating lives have changed a lot since he's been in grad school. I scroll aimlessly on Instagram, checking out everyone's Halloween costumes from the week, and then I finally call it quits and go to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $27.91

Day Six

10 a.m. — Today is the last day of coaching, and it is very bittersweet. I have a coffee and chat with my mom and dad a bit before heading to the site. While I am setting up, I run into my high school volleyball coach, who is watching her son play soccer, and we catch up a bit. Today we do some scrimmages, a parents vs. kids game (always a hit), and a water-balloon fight. A lot of the kids and parents tell me they are signing up for the spring season, and I am looking forward to seeing them again.
12 p.m. — Finished with the fall season! I call my dad to see if he wants anything for lunch, and we decide on açai bowls from Nekter. I also get a 24 oz. pressed juice as well. $25.80
2:30 p.m. — I hang out with my brother while he packs. I can't believe I won't be seeing him until Christmas! I head back to my apartment, clean my room and the kitchen, and get ready for our concert. We are seeing the Growlers!
Advertisement
5:30 p.m. — Time to head up to Hollywood. My roommate, F., is driving, so I pay for parking. On our way up, F. stops at El Pollo Loco to get a quick dinner. I got dinner the last time we went out, so she pays for my overstuffed quesadilla. $7
7 p.m. — We made it! One of my best friends works here and got us these tickets for free (I sent her a Starbucks gift card as a thank-you a few weeks ago because she's the best), so we head over to will call to pick them up. Once we get in, F. gets the first round of beers. We didn't realize that the concert was a Halloween-themed event called Beach Goth, so 1. Everyone is in costume 2. They have a ton of very strange acts before the main band. We both wish we had known about the costumes, because we would have loved to dress up.
9:30 p.m. — I grab the second round of beers right before the Growlers come on, and they are fantastic and sound even better live. F. and I have fun dancing and people-watching. $36
10:45 p.m. — We decide to leave a little early to beat the crowd and stop by the merch table on the way out. F. gets a shirt and record. I get a patch. $10
11:30 p.m. — We make it home quickly and debate getting Del Taco, but decide to just go home and call it a night.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $78.80

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Wake up and make egg whites and bacon, and have half a bagel for breakfast. Today I am going to my first ever Dapper Day at Disneyland! Dapper Day is a twice-a-year event at Disneyland where you dress up in vintage and old era clothing, and this is my first year attending. I am going for a dapper Minnie Mouse look, and I end up wearing a vintage red-and-black polka dot dress from Pop Killer Vintage in L.A., a black fascinator hat from Amazon, pearls, a black clutch purse, and black short heels (I will regret this later).
11 a.m. — Heading out to Disneyland. I am meeting up with about eight of my friends, and we look dapper AF. We meet up and then use our friend's parking pass to get into the parking structure. I am loving everyone's outfits; this is one of the absolute best days to people-watch at Disneyland. Once we are in the park, we head over to Star Wars Galaxy's Edge to get lunch and show friends who haven't seen it yet. I get a Ronto Wrap (it is a pita wrap with sausage, pork, and a spicy slaw, and it is delicious) and use my annual pass to get 10% off. $12.60
1 p.m. — We go on the Smuggler's Run ride, Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and the Mark Twain Boat. I wish I had put Band-Aids on my feet before we started walking around, because I am struggling. I have comfy shoes in the locker, but I suffer for the lewkkkk.
Advertisement
6 p.m. — Our group has dwindled down to about four, and my blistered feet and I decide to go home instead of staying with them for dinner. I change into my comfy shoes, and while I am walking out I check out all of the new Christmas stuff. I definitely want to get some fun Christmas ears next time I come.
7:30 p.m. — I stop to get gas for the week, and when I get home I make my dinner and lunches for the next couple days that consist of turkey meat and the frozen Trader Joe's harvest squash. I also cook up some broccolini in the oven with olive oil and garlic on top. I am running low on food and need to go grocery shopping in the next couple days. $42.44
10 p.m. — I look through the photos from today and post a couple to my Instagram. I also take the time to pack my bag to stay over at my parents' (round three for the week, I feel like I am barely at my apartment lately) and put out workout clothes for the morning. Hopefully the time change will help me wake up easier!
Daily Total: $55.04
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences 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.
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series