A Week In Los Angeles On A $52,000 Budget

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. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.) This week, a copywriter working in fashion who makes $52,000 per year and is currently on the hunt for a new job.
Industry: Fashion
Age: 28
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $52,000
Paycheck Amount (4x month): $760 Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $950. (Total is $1,900, and I split it 50/50 with boyfriend.) We also had a "free rent month" deal in January as a part of our lease agreement. I make it a point to adjust my spending so that I always "rollover" into the new month with at least $1,000, and that free month of rent helps.
Monthly Loan Payments: $0 in student loans for now — deferred 'cause grad school, but savings plan will turn into loan payments later.
Utilities: ~$40
Cell Phone: $131. I just got a new phone and I'm making monthly payments on top of the data plan.
Internet: $40
Spotify: $13
Netflix: $8
Rock Climbing Gym Membership: $81
Savings: $840
Joint Account: $452. We each deposit 20% of our take home income to spend on groceries, dining out, travel, home goods, etc.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Boyfriend has a flight today, so we're up early. We make coffee to-go and are out the door. 8 a.m. — We stop by the expensive-ass gas station downtown 'cause it's close to the freeway entrance. Boyfriend pays for a few gallons of gas and I grab a pack of cigarettes. I don't have a car, so I'll intermittently use my boyfriend's car while he's away. I've driven it plenty of times before, but he advises me on some of its newly acquired "quirks." $6 10 a.m. — I freelance remotely, so I make a new pot of coffee and stick myself on the couch to write some product descriptions. (I know, so much fun, right?) My company is currently going out of business, though, so I take a few breaks to look at my spreadsheet (I use it to track where I've applied, who the contacts are, where I'm getting interviews, offers, etc) and check the market for any new listings. There are none... if you know anyone in LA looking for a fashion/beauty copywriter, holla! 12 p.m. — I toast myself a bagel with butter and honey and cut up about two cups worth of sweet mini peppers with greek yogurt dip for lunch. Then, I take note of what I need to grocery shop for later today. My kimchi is smelling ripe AF, so I'll make some stew tonight with white rice for dinner. I've got a number of meet-ups this week (which means dining out), but I'll also be having a friend over Friday morning for a museum interview so I should have something stocked to feed her, right? Right. 1 p.m. — I take a mid-day break to make a grocery list and head to the American market. For breakfast and lunch for the next week, I purchase avocados, greek yogurt, cheese, red wine, cava, coffee, baguette, and prosciutto. Boyfriend isn't here, so I use my personal debit instead of our joint debit, but this is typically where that card/monthly budget would be put to use. $45 1:30 p.m. — I stop by M.A.C. to buy a day cream since my Laneige is almost out. I hear good things about their Mineralize Timecheck Lotion. I also dip quickly inside Victoria's Secret to see if they have my favorite bralette in stock. (They don't.) $49 4 p.m. — I get a little hungry, so I eat some canned pineapples. To be fair, my boyfriend and I eat real pineapples when they're in season. Also: have you ever rubbed a piece of pineapple on your nose to clear up blackheads? No? Thank me later! 4:30 p.m. — My skin has been terribly dry and flakey lately with the added Tretinoin gel I've been using. There's only one superhero that I've ever come across to help with dry, flakey skin: SQUALANE. Amazon Prime that shit for next-day delivery! $15 5 p.m. — I put a pot of rice on, and I head over to the climbing gym and put in work. 8 p.m. — Go to the Korean market and purchase yellow onion, green onion, more kimchi, natto, pickled plums, enoki mushrooms, and dumplings. This'll be dinner's supplemental ingredients for the next week. I also get $10 in quarters for laundry this weekend. $29 9 p.m. — I put on Netflix while I wait for the kimchi stew to simmer. I use ripe and new kimchi, leftover onion from my last bulb, leftover sausage, tuna, sesame oil, red pepper paste, crushed red pepper, enoki mushrooms, and green onion. I eat stew with white rice and a glass of cava for dinner. 10:30 p.m. — Shower and videochat the boyfriend before going to bed. Side note: Damn. Today was a spending day! Daily Total: $144

Day Two

8 a.m. — Get up, make coffee, extensive morning skincare routine, drag myself outside for a cigarette. 10 a.m. — While getting settled into my work for the day, my squalene from Amazon comes in the mail! So stoked. 12 p.m. — I have an interview this afternoon, so I re-do my skincare routine and eat lunch while I let my skincare sink in before makeup application. I toast a bit of baguette with butter and add a slice of prosciutto on top, cover half an avocado with salt, cayenne, and tanjin seasoning, and a few dollops of 2% greek yogurt with granola and honey. 12:30 p.m. — Change for my interview, apply my makeup, and I'm out the door! 3 p.m. — What an awesome company. What awesome people. Had a great interview with three very chill people — wish me luck, y'all! 4 p.m. — My essence and eye cream came in the mail from Sephora. So. Happy. I spend of all my disposable income on skincare products, can you tell? It's not even my industry! 4:30 p.m. — Email the recruiter to say what up, thanks, you guys are great, hope I hear something good soon, wink wink. I'm like, in a really good mood. 5 p.m. — I have plans tonight so I take some time to wash the dishes and tidy up the apartment before I come home drunk to a huge mess. (I hate that feeling...) 6 p.m. — Meeting up with some friends for dinner tonight to catch up and see their new house! We decide to grill some meat for the occasion, so I'm headed back to the Korean market for some pork belly, lettuce, eggs, Korean soda, and six bottles of soju. I'll be bringing rice and a bottle of red wine just in case they don't have any. (They're bachelors, I love calling them "the delinquents.") It's $56 but they Venmo me $30 each. I Venmo them $10 back each. $16 7:30 p.m. — It's a feast! We have too much meat, and we finish four bottles of soju plus some wine and beer. We cook pork belly, thick cut pork belly, pork jowl, wrapped in lettuce with some fermented soy paste, garlic boiled in sesame oil, kimchi, steamed egg casserole, purple rice, raw bell pepper dipped in red pepper paste, vinegar, and Xxtra Flamin' Hot Cheetos to snack. Handful of cigarettes and stories. Call it a night. 12 a.m. — Video chat the boyfriend, take off my face, put on my skincare, and get ready for bed! Daily Total: $16

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — My friend's little sister and friend are interviewing me for a project. I get up and put a pot of coffee on while I wash up and tidy up the apartment before they come over. Apparently they are going to film it. I am so dehydrated. 10 a.m. — Frantically refreshing my email for any word about the interview yesterday. I hope I get the job! 10:30 a.m. — I get an email from the recruiter with a writing test attached. I've got two days to turn it in. Piece of cake! 11 a.m. — I meet my friend and her friend outside while I smoke a cigarette. I'm exhausted. Inside, I toast some baguette slices with butter and lay out some cheese and prosciutto for them to nibble during the interview. 1 p.m. — Interview/filming's all done and my friend returns two out of four poetry books I lent her from a few months ago. I lend her some new poetry books and a few works of fiction before she leaves. 1:30 p.m. — Time for my lunch! I eat some yogurt with honey and granola, eat the other half of my avocado, have a few bites of cheddar cheese, and toast some buttered baguette and prosciutto for myself (I am obviously no stranger to repeat meals for days on end). My fridge is beginning to reek of kimchi from the stew so I know what I'll be trying to finish tonight! 3:00 p.m. — I hit a midday hangover (very rare) and go chug lots of water. AND I just remember that it's payday! I log into my bank account and subtract my savings ($196 per week) from my take-home and then transfer 20% of that into my boyfriend and my joint account. 3:30 p.m. — My boyfriend flew back to his hometown of Chicago earlier this week and it turns out he'll be there for a while. Since I'm still freelance, I book myself a one-way ticket this Sunday. We'll book our return flight tickets in probably two weeks, but it's uncertain for now. We use the joint account to pay for the fare. $118 4 p.m. — I decide that no work is being done in a timely matter until this hangover it gone. I check myself into bed with Netflix and a big glass of water and set an alarm for 8 p.m. to finish my work for the day. It's Friday, and no one's doing anything with my assignment until Monday anyway. Also, there is no way in hell I'm making it to the climbing gym tonight. Soju is a killer. 6:30 p.m. — I heat up some rice and kimchi stew and eat in front of some Grey's Anatomy. Also, I get my tax refund back! I do my taxes the moment I get all my paperwork in. I had back taxes from years ago when I was freelancing and got $2,000 taken away. I only receive about $280 back, but this at least makes up for my skincare shopping the other day! 8 p.m. — The alarm goes off. I ignore it. 10 p.m. — Tomorrow's going to be a long day. I try to sleep early, so naturally I pour myself some cava with pineapple juice, get the munchies, fry a few dumplings, and chat on the phone with my boyfriend. I don't sleep well without my boyfriend so I end up going to bed at 4 a.m. Daily Total: $118

Day Four

10 a.m. — I sleep in (after waking up every two hours...) and put a pot of coffee on and have a cigarette outside before getting the mail. 11 a.m. — I make a wax appointment for later in the afternoon, shower, and sort the laundry. 12 p.m. — Brazilian appointment! It's $43 and I tip $20. $63 1 p.m. — I eat some Greek yogurt with granola and honey then start the laundry with the quarters I got back from the grocery store. $6.50 1:30 p.m. — I need to eat all my perishables before I leave tomorrow, so I scrape out the last of the rice, add some natto and pickled plums, then heat up some kimchi stew. 3 p.m. — I fold laundry, run to my boyfriend's car to get my climbing shoes out of the trunk, pack, tidy up, and finish my copywriting test. 7:30 p.m. — I eat some frozen pasta that my boyfriend and I keep in the freezer for lazy meal days (usually when we get back from the gym late). 10 p.m. — My friend is celebrating his birthday tonight, so I start to get ready and meet them at a bar in little Tokyo. I take a Lyft line and meet some people already in the car that are headed to the same place! $7 11 p.m. — I order a shot of Jameson for the birthday boy and a Jameson ginger for myself. I tip $6 'cause it's super crowded and I got service pretty quickly. I always overtip the first round in the hopes that they'll remember me and get me quick for the following rounds. It works 75% of the time. $24 12 a.m. — We leave the bar and go to a friend's place for the rest of the night. They have a handle of Jameson there and a case of beer. I sip on a beer for the rest of the night. A new friend drives. 2:30 a.m. — We get the late-night munchies and remember there is leftover meat in the fridge from our pork and soju night. 3:30 a.m. — It's time to go home! I take a Lyft (no carpool this time 'cause I want to be home!) and tip the driver $3. I'm in bed by 4 a.m. and realize I'll only be getting 4.5 hours of sleep before my flight... $10 Daily Total: $110.50

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — It's so early. I'm so tired. I call my boyfriend to let him know I haven't overslept and put on a pot of coffee while I get ready. 9:30 a.m. — Everything's already packed and ready to go, but I realize I haven't done the dishes yet! I load everything into the dishwasher to save some time and schedule a Lyft to pick me up. 10:15 a.m. — I smoke a cigarette outside while I wait for my scheduled Lyft to arrive. Driver's super nice and asks if he needs to be speeding if I'm late to the airport. I'm giving myself a lot of time so I decline and dip in and out of sleep for the rest of the ride. I leave a $5 tip. $30 11:30 a.m. — TSA line is a breeze (there's nobody here!) and I find a grilled cheese truck inside LAX. I grab a cheddar cheese grill, a tomato soup, and a bottle of water. $14 1 p.m. — Boarding! I took the last seat on the flight, so I'm in a middle seat between two strangers. The airplane has screens for every seat and free movies. I watch Girl On The Train and re-watch The Devil Wears Prada while sometimes falling asleep. 7:30 p.m. — The flight is 4 hours to Chicago, but they're 2 hours ahead and I land at 7:30 p.m. My boyfriend picks me up, and we go straight to his cousin's place in Wicker Park, where we'll be crashing. 8:30 p.m. — His cousin and fiancé brought back some empanadas from earlier that day (I'm so hungry at this point). We nibble on the couch while watching T.V.
9 p.m. — Our hosts have also cooked dinner (pesto chicken with feta and spinach). My boyfriend and I share a plate since we're not too hungry anymore. It's amazing! We all sit around and watch a movie. 11 p.m. — We head to bed. My boyfriend's cousin has a huge couch (bigger than a full size bed). They bring some sheets and blankets and we knock out. Daily Total: $44

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — We oversleep. I head to a cafe in the neighborhood to get some work done. We walk together toward the train and I go to the cafe we often visit while here. It has a ton of old couches and chairs and tables, free WiFi, and they serve food! 9 a.m. — I order a medium latte and have a smoke outside before grabbing a table. $3 12 p.m. — I take the train into downtown to meet up my boyfriend for lunch. I purchase a new card ($5 fee!) and add $10 to it. $15 1 p.m. — We share a chicken sandwich and two soups. We pay with our joint account. $17 2 p.m. — I meet up with a friend while she's on her lunch break and we walk around the riverwalk to catch up. I stop by Sephora to purchase a beauty blender. $20 8:30 p.m. — We watch Moonlight before heading out to the city for our early Valentine's Day dinner. We grab drinks at a neighboring bar. We order three cocktails and wine. We use our joint account and tip $5. $40 10:30 p.m. — We order just the right amount of food for once! Oysters, pork belly, braised pork shank, green beans, and one drink each. We put it on our joint account and tip $20. $120 12 a.m. — I drink a crap ton of water and sleep. Daily Total: $215

Day Seven

10:00 a.m. — It's Valentines Day! I oversleep. Our hostess makes us some coffee. We get ready and stop by Starbucks for an extra morning pick-me-up before our drive to my boyfriend's parents' place. We order two espresso-based drinks and put it on our joint account. $8 1 p.m. — At his parents' place, my boyfriend, his brother, and I are on our computers doing work. I got an email reply from a company I applied to the other week asking for some more information about my work experience. Yay! I still haven't heard back from the company I submitted my copywriting test to. Bummer. I follow up with the recruiter to make sure that she received it. 2 p.m. — My boyfriend and I get a little hungry so we nibble on a salmon his mother [made] and some homemade papaya salad. I then I go back to re-budgeting my spreadsheet. (I have a sheet with "goal" spending amounts and savings and expenses and what not, for every month until the end of the year. I decide I'm going to start paying off my student loans while they're deferred so some rows need to be moved around!) 4:30 p.m. — I finish some reading for school and my boyfriend and I go on a walk through the nature preserve behind his parents' neighborhood. The last time we came in November and it was just too cold to be outside. It's still very cold but at least the sun's out. 6 p.m. — We have Korean BBQ with my boyfriend's family. It's his nephew's 24th birthday. We order three huge mains of meat, three appetizers, and some soju and beer. There's eight of us and we're stuffed. Had to pack up some food. The tab is $173 (pretty good!) and my boyfriend pays. You'd never be able to feed eight people for under $200 in Koreatown in L.A. 8 p.m. — We drive back to the apartment and join our hosts while they watch a movie. I look into a new shower curtain for our bathroom and we go to bed by midnight. It's been a low-key Valentine's Day but we don't really celebrate V-day! Last year we were on a climbing trip and this year we used it as an excuse to try a new restaurant with a day-early reservation, hah. Daily Total: $8
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