A Week In Berkeley, CA, On A $260,000 Income

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.
Today: a software engineer working in technology who makes $260,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on almond milk.
Occupation: Software Engineer
Industry: Technology
Age: 21
Location: Berkeley, CA
Salary: $135,000 base, with $60,000 bonus and $65,000 in stocks ($260,000 total)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,915
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000 for my share of rent and utilities. (I share an apartment with a roommate.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My parents were generous enough to pay in full, and I hustled to finish in three years.)
Health, Dental & Vision Insurance: $0 (covered by work)
Netflix, Spotify & Amazon Prime: $0 (I mooch off of parents.)
Cell Phone: $0 (covered by work)
Transportation: $0 (covered by work)
401(k): $1,475 (taken out of paycheck before taxes)
Gym Membership: $75
Investment Portfolio: $2,000
House Down Payment Account: $2,000
Advertisement

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Up and ready for the day! I normally leave the house around 8:30, but I'm trying to get up a little earlier so that I can move at a slower pace and enjoy my mornings more. I throw on a kettle of hot water, pour myself a cup of green tea, and read through the morning news before getting dressed.
8:30 a.m. — Head out the door and walk down to the train station. My commute is made up of 30 minutes of walking to and from stations and 25 minutes on BART. I prefer it this way, though, because my job has me sitting for most of the day, and this is a consistent way for me to get in physical activity.
9:30 a.m. — Get into the office and grab a coconut chocolate Rxbar from the kitchen. Of all of the protein bars I've tried, these are by far the least offensive, though their texture can make them a little hard to chew. Still, it's a great way to get a good protein boost in the morning — I recommend the coconut chocolate or peanut butter flavor. I settle at my desk to start my work where I left off yesterday.
12 p.m. — My job has a lot of perks, but one of my favorites is that we have lunch and dinner catered every day! I head over to the café with my team and load up on stir-fried veggies and tofu, baby spinach salad, and garlic roasted potatoes. My sweet tooth usually gets the best of me after lunch, but today I'm too stuffed for dessert.
Advertisement
1 p.m. — Evidently I'm not too full for something else! My stomach leads me back to the kitchen, where I grab a cherry pie Larabar to snack on at my desk.
5 p.m. — Whew, finished! Spent most of the day poring over one specific bug in our codebase, and I'm so relieved that I figured out the underlying cause and got it resolved. I reward myself with a cup of freshly brewed chai and take a few minutes to relax before heading home.
6 p.m. — Back home for 30 minutes to grab a bite to eat before leaving again to hit the gym. All of the treadmills are taken, so I kill time on the elliptical while keeping an eye out for a free machine. Finally one clears up! I'm especially enthusiastic as I crank out three miles before hopping off and heading home. I chug a big bottle of water, shower, and watch Chef's Table on Netflix. The Christina Tosi episode leaves me with a newfound desire to become a pastry chef.
10 p.m. — Lie down in bed and meditate for 10 minutes with the 10% Happier app. I know it's a horrible habit to be on my phone right before bed, but I just can't seem to quit it and spend 30 more minutes browsing Reddit before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:05 a.m. — My alarm goes off and my arm shoots out to turn it off before it wakes up my roommate. I lie in bed for a few more minutes, totally content, before springing up to get my day started. Settle in downstairs with my usual cup of tea and the news.
Advertisement
9:30 a.m. — Today is bagel day at our office! Technically we always have bags of bagels on hand in the kitchen, but on Wednesdays we get a fresh order from the place next door. I help myself to a toasted plain bagel with a smoked salmon schmear.
12 p.m. — Lunch today is peppered ahi tuna with rice and sautéed kale. Usually I grab lunch with my team, but I always take at least one day a week to eat alone for quality “me time.” I poke around the kitchen for dessert and come away with a few peanut butter cups to munch on at my desk.
2 p.m. — I get an email notification from Zara that a dress I want is finally back in stock! I mull over whether to buy it, since the dress is pricey, but ultimately decide to go for it because a) it's extremely cute, and b) if it goes out of stock again, it might not come back. $75.84
4:45 p.m. — Wrap up a few last things at work before grabbing my stuff to head to BART. Our company doesn't have set work hours (I don't think most tech companies do), but I prefer to work on a pretty consistent schedule so that my day feels structured.
6 p.m. — Back home before I run out to the gym again. I clock in my standard three miles while bopping to Kendrick Lamar. The man won a Pulitzer! What can't he do? Hop in the shower once I get home and catch up on the YouTube channels I subscribe to while munching on Girl Scout cookies and a kale salad. (Life is about balance, right?)
Advertisement
9:30 p.m. — My run totally wiped me out today. I lie on my bed with the intention of just resting for a minute, but immediately fall asleep.
Daily Total: $75.84

Day Three

7:05 a.m. — I'm feeling hungrier than usual, so I spread apple butter on toast to eat with my morning tea. I grew up on the east coast, where my mom consistently brought me to Amish farmer's markets to get apple butter (amongst other things), so now I always keep a jar of it on hand.
10 a.m. — Get into work a little later than usual today, because my first meeting isn't until 10 a.m. I swing by the kitchen to grab a coconut chocolate Rxbar before heading off to the meeting room.
12 p.m. — Grabbing lunch today with other ladies on the team. Today I get roasted mushrooms and carrots, brown rice pilaf, and Israeli couscous salad. I really appreciate that our office has such healthy and delicious options! Get back to my desk and spend 10 minutes reading Money Diaries before getting back to work.
2:30 p.m. — I'm in desperate need of new razors and there's a Walgreens next to my office, so I pop out for 10 minutes to pick some up. Use my store card and a coupon to save $4 on my purchase. $4.50
6 p.m. — I run three more miles at the gym, followed by a class at Berkeley! I used to go to school here and am lucky that I live close enough to the university to occasionally drop in on classes that look interesting. Today, I attend a human rights lecture with my friend who will be graduating later this semester. We learn about how prevalent child sex trafficking is across the world, even right here in the Bay Area. The conversation is thought-provoking, and leaves me with a lot on my mind.
Advertisement
9 p.m. — Friend from lecture comes over to chat and we hang out for a bit while eating donuts she made. Bid each other goodbye around 10, since I have work tomorrow.
Daily Total: $4.50

Day Four

7:05 a.m. — Wake up to a Mint notification that my paycheck has been deposited! I've already contributed to my investment accounts this month, so I take a chunk of my paycheck and make my monthly contribution to my house down payment savings account. I definitely want to buy a house some day and I know it's going to be exorbitantly expensive, so I'm working hard to prepare for it now!
9:30 a.m. — I feel like I've been eating too much sugar lately, so I switch things up and grab a plain cup of Greek yogurt for breakfast. Definitely not the most pleasant to eat without toppings, but I remind myself of the health benefits and get through it.
12 p.m. — Lunch with the team again today. The only other female engineer is out this week, so it's just me and the guys. It can be intimidating at times to be one of the only women (and the youngest engineer!), but I remind myself that I worked my ass off to get here and am just as competent as everyone else.
4:30 p.m. — I have one more thing left to do but can't muster the brain power to logic through this bug, so I tell myself I'll figure it out next week and grab my stuff to leave. Pop on a podcast and walk to BART.
Advertisement
7 p.m. — I have time for a longer workout since it's Friday, so I head to the gym and run five miles at a slower pace. I definitely think exercising consistently has had an effect on me, because I'm able to get through the run semi-comfortably and my legs don't feel like goo afterwards.
8 p.m. — Race back home to shower before going to a dance showcase my friend is in! There are lots of hip hop dance troupes at Berkeley, and this is her first time doing anything like this, so I definitely want to go and support her. I cheer embarrassingly loud from the crowd as she gets on stage for her set.
10 p.m. — The showcase was amazing, but I'm exhausted and turn down my friends for drinks afterwards. Head home, change into my pajamas, and drink a cup of hot water with lemon before calling it quits and going to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

9 a.m. — I sleep in and then head downstairs to make a fried egg on sourdough toast and a cup of chamomile tea.
11 a.m. — Today is Berkeley's welcome celebration for admitted students, and the whole campus comes out for events and festivities throughout the day. My friends and I walk through all of the booths and stalls — it's really weird watching all of the incoming freshmen experience campus for the first time, and it makes us all nostalgic for our first years. We stop by a small Korean restaurant for lunch. I get a bowl with brown rice, tofu, greens, and teriyaki sauce — yum! $7.59
Advertisement
3 p.m. — Back home after more campus exploration. I'm really sleepy for some reason and crawl into my bed to take a nap, but at the last minute feel bad about wasting time and potentially throwing off my sleep schedule. Get back up and head downstairs where I make tea and crack open a book.
5 p.m. — Gym time! I run another five miles at a slightly faster pace than yesterday, and my body feels weirdly amazing during and after. Is this what a runner's high is?
7 p.m. — I shower after I get back from the gym and tidy up the apartment a little bit. I don't normally get the chance to help out with chores during the week, so I try to do as much as possible to help my roommate out on weekends.
9 p.m. — Roommate comes back from her waitressing job and we get into a lengthy discussion about pie and cake. Both of us are absolutely obsessed with food, and we're always bouncing new recipe ideas off of one another.
Daily Total: $7.59

Day Six

8:45 a.m. — I meant to get up a little earlier to get ready before yoga, but I slept through my alarm. I jump straight out of bed, change into leggings and a tank top, and run out to my class. Make it to the session just as they're about to start, and thankfully they have snacks and water! Grab a Larabar before settling onto a mat and moving into child's pose.
Advertisement
10:15 a.m. — Yoga was great! I don't go regularly because I usually run, but today's class has made me reconsider my stance. I feel so relaxed, loose, and comfortable in my own body. After yoga, I go to the Target downtown to pick up almond milk, plus a sandwich at the shop next door to eat later for lunch. $10.87
12 p.m. — Once I finish up lunch at home, I decide to take on a task I've been avoiding for the last week or so: laundry. I grab my bag of dirty clothes from upstairs and schlep it down to the basement where the machines in our buildings are. I know I'm an adult, but it still scares the crap out of me to be down here alone. Throw my clothes in and swipe my card to pay before sprinting back up the stairs to safety. $4
4 p.m. — Today really is a lazy Sunday. I fold my laundry and put it away, and then spend the rest of the afternoon whipping up a batch of fresh cinnamon rolls out of pure boredom.
7 p.m. — Watch a few episodes of Queer Eye on Netflix before calling it a night and going to sleep.
Daily Total: $14.87

Day Seven

7:05 a.m. — Standard cup of tea and the news this morning — sometimes I feel like I sound like an old lady with these habits.
10 a.m. — Get to my desk and start work when I get an email that a wallet I wanted is on sale (these sale email notifications will be the death of my bank account, I swear). Mull over color options for a few minutes before purchasing one I like. $6.50
Advertisement
12 p.m. — Lunch with the team again. We get into a discussion about the pros and cons of attending Burning Man and the different things people have built/set up over the years there. Some of my teammates have actually gone before (and I've never been), so I'm fascinated by the things they've done there.
5 p.m. — Chug through a couple more bugs and a meeting at work before packing up my stuff to head home. My guilty pleasure is listening to Dave Ramsey's podcast on the walk to the train station, but it can get repetitive after a while.
6 p.m. — Today is my rest day, so I don't go for a run and instead make a kale salad for dinner while watching another episode of Chef's Table on Netflix. Polish off the meal with one of the cinnamon rolls I made yesterday.
Daily Total: $6.50
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.
Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists and interviews with women along the following themes:
Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Want to rep your state? Submit here!
Advertisement
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Documentary
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
Fashion
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Beauty
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
Documentary
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Documentary
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
Documentary
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Comedy
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Documentary
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Politics
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
Film
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.