Button: Pride 2020

A Week In San Francisco, CA, On A $114,500 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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 gameplay engineer working in video games who makes $114,500 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on pie ingredients for her pie party.
Occupation: Gameplay Engineer
Industry: Video Games
Age: 34
Location: San Francisco
Salary: $114,500
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,922
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,095 (I live alone in a rented one-bedroom apartment.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I paid for college mostly by myself.)
Netflix: $10.99
Hulu: $11.99
Pandora: $3.99
Spotify: $9.99
Cell Phone: $83.56
Internet: $49.99
Electricity: ~$35
401(k): $1,409 (15% of salary before tax)
ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plan): $880
Medical Insurance: $92
Dental Insurance: $8
Vision Insurance: $10
Car Insurance: $73
Additional Expenses
Amazon Prime: $119/year

Day One

8:45 a.m. — Normally, I don't get up until almost noon on Sundays, but my mom is flying into town for her uncle's funeral, so I need to get up early to pick her up from the airport. Her flight gets in at 9:45, so I plan to leave at 9:30. I'm already exhausted because I went to a housewarming party last night, and then stayed up until 3 a.m. making nine batches of pie crust, followed by a batch of blueberry hand pies (which I froze before baking). Why this madness? I'm throwing a party at my apartment this coming Saturday and I'm planning on making 11 varieties of pies from scratch. I did this last year for my housewarming party and it was huge hit.
9:30 a.m. — While I'm eating one of my go-to breakfasts, a frozen El Monterey mini chicken burrito, my mom calls me to tell me that she's already off the plane. I'm not in my car yet. Oops. Luckily there is very little traffic on Sunday mornings, so I'm able to get there in less than 30 minutes.
10 a.m. — My mom and I drive to the funeral home for the wake. I don't really feel like going because I have stuff to do, I've never met this great-uncle, and I'm nowhere near appropriately dressed for the occasion (jeans, hoodie, sneakers, and North Face fleece jacket). However, my mom convinces me in a way that only Vietnamese mothers can, so I give in and go with the family.
11 a.m. — It's mostly my mom's extended family members at the wake, who I'm not very familiar with. I'm horribly underdressed, but at least my North Face jacket is black. Mostly I just feel awkward, especially when we do the white headband tying ceremony. In Vietnamese culture, all relatives down to grandchildren wear white headbands to the deceased's funeral, while great-grandchildren wear yellow and great-great grandchildren wear red. There's a reception afterwards with a fantastic spread of Vietnamese goodies — Pâté chaud (meat pies in puff pastry), banh mi sandwiches, sweet sesame balls, and banh gio (meat rice dumplings wrapped in banana leaf). There's a lot leftover, so I grab a few banh mis and banh gio for later.
1 p.m. — We're back at my cousin's house. I hang out and chat with my relatives for another hour before saying goodbye to my mother. My cousin sends me home with bun rieu (crab and tomato noodle soup) that she made this morning.
2 p.m. — Because gas is cheaper in San Jose, I decide to fill up my tank at a nearby Shell station. $38
2:30 p.m. — I'm planning to make Pâté chaud for my pie party, which requires chopped up wood ear mushroom, so I stop by a 99 Ranch supermarket in Cupertino. I grab a small package of dried wood ear and an imported Nissin Cup Noodle in crab flavor. (I have a weakness for instant ramen.) $3.18
3:15 p.m. — I'm finally home, so I start laundry and get started on pie-making. I make two batches of Pâté chaud pies (with ground chicken) — 24 pies total. I put the unbaked pies away in the freezer.
5 p.m. — My boyfriend is coming over soon, so I quickly vacuum and straighten up my place. After he arrives, I start making dinner for us. In effort to clear out as much space in my freezer for all the pies I'll be freezing, I make a simple dinner of potsticker stir-fry — frozen Trader Joe's crab and sriracha dumplings and frozen Asian stir fry veggies. It's actually better than I anticipated, although I accidentally burn some of the dumplings. We eat it with Ito En jasmine tea, which I always have on hand at home.
8 p.m. — After dinner, I make spinach and artichoke hand pies and put them into the freezer. Then I watch an episodes of SNL hosted by Sterling K. Brown. I've recently started binge-watching This is Us, which is not my usual type of TV show, but I'm really enjoying it.
11:30 p.m. — My boyfriend goes to sleep while I go into the living room and work on my LEGO Star Wars set for awhile. I'm a huge Star Wars and LEGO fan, and I own most of the LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector's Edition sets, which I have displayed in my living room. Afterwards, I get ready for bed. My nightly routine involves showering, flossing and brushing my teeth, removing my contact lenses, putting on eye and face cream, and then finally putting in my night guard. The night guard is annoying, but I need it because I grind my teeth in my sleep.
Daily Total: $41.18

Day Two

9 a.m. — Today is a HUGE day for me. For nearly a decade, I've dreamt of becoming a gameplay engineer, but lack of knowledge and experience had prevented me from achieving that dream. But two weeks ago, after years of struggling (even getting fired at one point), I was told that my transfer from quality engineering to gameplay engineering was approved. Today is my first day at my DREAM JOB. I still can't believe it. However, I'm also really stressed out because I only got 10 days advance warning, and I feel like I am not at all prepared. Luckily, I'm staying on the same game (in a very popular game franchise), so I'm already familiar with some of the code base. Dreams really do come true!
9:30 a.m. — After my usual morning habit of checking my social media and emails on my phone, I finally get out of bed to brush my teeth, wash my face, and put in my contact lenses. Then I put on eye cream, face serum, sunscreen (Shiseido's Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector), and a few spritzes of the Fresh Sugar Lychee perfume (one of the few perfumes that I actually like). Next I flat-iron my hair and get dressed. My usual uniform is a hoodie, t-shirt, skinny jeans, and sneakers.
10 a.m. — After getting ready, I have a CalNaturale Svelte protein shake (cappuccino-flavored) for breakfast, and make myself an English muffin sandwich, which I pack up for lunch, along with two banh mi sandwiches from yesterday. I also pack up clothes and toiletries for tomorrow, as I'm staying at my boyfriend's tonight.
10:30 a.m. — I arrive at work and start packing up my old desk to move over to my new one. I don't have to change floors and I don't have a lot of cubicle decorations (just a rolling filing cabinet filled with snacks), so it's relatively painless.
12 p.m. — I eat my English muffin sandwich and one of the banh mis, plus my usual mug of jasmine green tea. I typically eat my lunches at my desk while watching TV on my computer.
6:30 p.m. — After a day of moving cubicles, setting up gameplay tools, and munching on salt-and-pepper pistachios, my boyfriend (who also works on the same game as me, but in a different role and team) and I head to the on-site company gym. My right knee has been giving me trouble lately, so I've been doing mostly elliptical (followed by leg and foot exercises for my bad feet). I also use the gym as an opportunity to catch up on TV shows on my phone. At the moment, I'm finishing up the final season of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica on Hulu.
7:30 p.m. — We drive over to nearby Spanish tapas restaurant to celebrate my first day as a gameplay engineer and our two year anniversary. After toasting with glasses of cava, we have viera con espuma de salmon (smoked salmon and scallops toast), huevos escalfados (eggs baked in spinach, chickpeas, and cheese), carne a la parrilla (sirloin with potatoes), and flan. The flan is so good that all I want to do is lick the plate clean but I suppose we ARE in public. My boyfriend pays.
9:30 p.m. — We drive over to my boyfriend's house for the night. From Sunday to Wednesday, we alternate places, and then from Thursday to Saturday, we stay at our own places, since that's when he has his son staying with him. We just chill and watch Food Network before going to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9 a.m. — I wake up and see on my phone that one of my eBay items, a pair of Juicy Couture hair pins, sold a few hours ago for $15, and I am thrilled. I sell things on eBay as my side hustle. I've accumulated a lot of crap (mostly clothing, beauty products, and geek toys) over the years due to my shopaholic ways, and I've turned to eBay as a way of decluttering but also earning spending money for myself. I make about $500 every two months.
10:30 a.m. — Once I get to work, I have a protein shake and I start working on a new feature.
11:15 a.m. — I get another eBay sold notification, this time for a Hearthstone (the Blizzard card game) stress ball for $5. I always feel so oddly happy getting these “Your Item Sold” notifications, even if it's not for very much.
12 p.m. — Lunch is a banh mi sandwich and jasmine green tea at my desk. I'm still a bit peckish afterward, so I grab a mini Korean noodle salad from the cafeteria to supplement. I'll need it, seeing as today is a long day of meetings, followed by coding. I'm feeling frustrated because a lot of the stuff being discussed is going over my head and honestly, I'm really afraid of failing. I've already been fired once for underperformance before, and it would kill me if it happened again. $1.63
4 p.m. — Midday snack of hummus crisps. I keep my "snack" cabinet under my desk, which I have filled with loads of snacks, instant noodles, and beverages.
6:30 p.m. — Off to the gym with my boyfriend again. After our workout, we head over to my place. I'm too tired to do anything elaborate for dinner, so I pull out a bag of Trader Joe's Linguine with Clam Sauce and throw in frozen cooked shrimp and kale.
9 p.m. — We cuddle up on my bed and watch a Black Mirror episode called “Shut Up and Dance.” It's a really disturbing episode. Afterwards, my boyfriend goes to sleep, and I finish working on my LEGO project. It finally goes up in my display bookshelf and it is BEAUTIFUL. After admiring my handiwork, I get ready for bed. It's only Tuesday, but I'm already mentally worn out. Even so, I have a hard time falling asleep because I keep think about that damned Black Mirror episode.
Daily Total: $1.63

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up, get ready, and pack up my stuff for my overnight stay at my BF's. I also print a shipping label and a packing slip for the eBay items I sold yesterday.
10:30 a.m. — Once I arrive to work, I drop off the eBay package at my floor's mail area, which gets picked up around noon daily. Having this means I never have to go to the post office, which saves me so much time. When I get to my desk, I have a protein shake for breakfast.
12 p.m. — Desk lunch today. Luckily, I have a banh gio in the fridge, so I heat it up and hope that no one is offended by the smell. I'm still hungry afterwards, so I get one of my Nong Shim instant noodle bowls from my snack cabinet and eat that as well.
3 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon is meetings and more coding. I'm very slowly getting the hang of our toolset. I eat more hummus crisps for a snack.
6:30 p.m. — After work, I decide that it might be in my best interest to pick up cheap alcoholic beverages for my Pie Party, so I stop by Trader Joe's to buy some hard cider, those wonderful $4 four-pack canned rosés, a raspberry lambic, and a carton of vegetable broth (for one of my pies). $24.95
7 p.m. — Wednesday is Trivia Night for me, my boyfriend, and a bunch of our coworkers. I was a trivia nerd in high school, so naturally, my head is full of information that serves no purpose other than winning at trivia. It's at a nearby Irish bar that allows you to bring in food, so after I park my car, I walk over to Bonchon to get tteok-bokki (spicy rice cakes with fish cakes and cheese). Then I join my coworkers (including my boyfriend) at the bar. $14.12
10 p.m. — We get seventh place in trivia. Typically there's at least a dozen teams competing at this bar, and some of them are really good. Each game is split up into six rounds, including a picture round, where they give you a handout with pictures of various celebrities, movies, and landmarks that you have to identify. All those years of reading celebrity gossip really pay off! Trivia Night has a two drink minimum, so I get myself a glass of pinot grigio and a Moscow Mule, and my boyfriend gets two Jack and Cokes. I pay for the both of us. $33
10:30 p.m. — I drive out to my boyfriend's house to spend the night. I didn't finish the tteok-bokki, so I bring it with me. We're too tired to watch any TV, so we just cuddle and chat. Once my boyfriend goes to sleep, I browse the iOS App Store to check out some games. To my horror, I realize that a sequel to Monument Valley (a puzzle game that I really enjoy) has already been out since LAST JUNE. I quickly buy it and start playing. $4.99
11:30 p.m. — Right before I fall asleep, I get yet another eBay sold notification on my phone. This time it's an Urban Decay eyeshadow palette, selling for $35!
Daily Total: $77.06

Day Five

9 a.m. — The usual wakeup and get ready routine. I arrive at work and have my usual protein shake for breakfast.
12 p.m. — My new team has a monthly lunch, which happens to be today. We walk over to a sandwich shop, where I get a crab cake sandwich on Dutch crunch bread, a cup of Italian wedding soup, and a bottle of Ito En dark green tea. I absolutely love crab cakes and Italian wedding soups, so this lunch is especially delicious. My new manager pays for everyone's lunch.
1:30 p.m. — Back to work, where I spend the afternoon asking lots of questions and getting closer to finishing my first feature. I also snack away on Trader Joe's ranch chickpeas.
6:30 p.m. — I'm exhausted and have a lot to do, but I still drag myself to the gym. While walking back to my car afterwards, I get another eBay notification — I sold a Fresh gift set for $90! I'm so happy that it finally sold!
7:40 p.m. — I have one last round of grocery shopping to do for the party, so I drive over to Bev Mo for party drinks — a pack of club soda, Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen beer, a bottle of Kahlua, a bottle of Bacardi Light rum, and a tiny bottle of brandy. $58.70
8 p.m. — I drive over to the Whole Foods nearby and buy a pint of half and half, dill relish, macarons, Dufour puff pastry, ground beef, ground lamb, fresh herbs, strawberries, an orange, a lemon, and then on a whim, a dozen limes, because I have this idea that I'll make Moscow Mules and strawberry mojitos at the party. $99.21
8:45 p.m. — I arrive back at my apartment, and after putting all of my groceries away, I start heating up dinner, which is the bun rieu that my cousin sent me home with last Sunday.
10 p.m. — I get started on two batches of cheeseburger hand pies. There're basically like hot pockets, but much tastier. I put them into the freezer. I also chop up most of the vegetables I'll need for Friday and Saturday — several cups of carrots, celery, and yellow onions. These all go into Tupperware in the fridge.
1 a.m. — I finally start getting ready for bed — shower, brush teeth, then relax. I peruse the J.Crew Factory and Nike websites to see if the items that I want are on sale. I'm a casual cosplayer and I'm planning to dress up as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill this year for PAX West (the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle) and Halloween. They're not, so I hold off on purchasing.
Daily Total: $157.91

Day Six

9 a.m. — I groggily wake up. These super late nights are really starting to get to me. After doing my normal routine, I print out labels for the last two eBay items and package them up. For breakfast, I have Lucky Charms with milk.
10:30 a.m. — Arrive to work. I send out a code review for my code change for my very first gameplay feature. It's standard practice for software engineers to send code reviews out to their peers/managers to look at to make sure they didn't miss anything and give suggestions on what they can do better.
12 p.m. — Normally on Fridays, I go out to lunch with my boyfriend, but he needs to head home early today, so I head over to the cafeteria and get a customizable Asian noodle soup bowl, which I eat at my desk while watching Once Upon a Time. $7.56
1 p.m. — I got some comments on my code suggesting some minor changes, so I spend time discussing/arguing them with people before finally making said changes and running more tests. I drink some green jasmine tea from the kitchen.
4:30 p.m. — Finally! All tests passed, so I submit my very first feature to our code repository. I hope to god that I didn't break anything (which would be especially embarrassing for my first week). It's really bad practice to leave work right after a submission (because if something breaks, then I need to be around to fix it), but I have no choice today. I leave early in order to hit the Safeway right by my apartment before the rush hour traffic gets bad, but also so that I can get home early to get going on my pie making. I quickly grab a russet potato and go through the self-checkout. $1.46
5:15 p.m. — Once home, I hit the ground running with my pie-making. I start by making full size chocolate rum custard pie and chocolate bourbon pecan pie. The pecan pie is definitely one of my best pies, but mostly because I make it less sweet than typical pecan pie.
7:30 p.m. — I season chicken breast with salt, pepper, and olive oil and bake it in the oven for a half hour. While it's baking, I eat a Nong Shim spicy ramen bowl for dinner. At this point, I'm really too tired to make myself a proper dinner. I watch an episode of This is Us on Hulu while eating the ramen.
8:30 p.m. — I make the filling for my two batches of chicken pot pie using the chicken breasts that I just baked (although I have to shred them, which takes longer than it ought to) and the vegetables that I chopped last night. I make it with my secret ingredient: curry powder. Since it has to cool completely, the rest of the pie assembly will have to wait until tomorrow. Then I start on the shepherd's pie (using Alton Brown's recipe), followed by the filling for the mini Strawberry pies, and then a pitcher of sangria. I almost never use the same recipe each time I make sangria, so this one has merlot, brandy, triple sec, fruit juice, and an apple (for now). I put it into the fridge to let it sit overnight.
12:15 a.m. — I finally clean the kitchen, followed by a very thorough scrubbing of my shower/tub. My shower has clear glass doors, and they're a bit dingy at the moment. I don't want my guests judging me on the state of my bathroom tomorrow.
2 a.m. — I take a shower, and while I'm waiting for my hair to dry, I put away my clutter and take out the recycling. I finally collapse into bed much later. Even so, it takes me awhile to fall asleep because I'm so stressed and anxious for tomorrow.
Daily Total: $9.02

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I force myself to wake up early today so that I can finish assembling my pies. Getting up this early on a weekend is highly unusual for me, but there is so much to be done before the party starts at 3:14 (Pi time, obviously) today. After doing my normal bathroom routine, I make myself a cup of Starbucks instant coffee. While sipping my coffee, I decide to impulsively buy a digital copy of The Disaster Artist from Amazon Video so my friends and I can watch it while we eat pie. $14.99
9:30 a.m. — I make and assemble curry root vegetable pies (eight individual tins) and mini strawberry pies (nine muffin tin-sized pies), and then add sliced citrus fruits to the pitcher of sangria. Apparently, you can't let citrus fruits sit in alcohol for too long, or the rind will impart a bitter flavor, which is why I didn't put them into the sangria last night. Then I start on the final pie: Fireball apple pie. I peel and slice up eight apples and put them into a large mixing bowl. Then I dump an ENTIRE bottle of Fireball whiskey over the apples and let them soak for four hours.
12 p.m. — I eat a quick lunch of curry cup noodles and watch more This Is Us while eating.
12:45 p.m. — I assemble the chicken pot pies and clean up. I scour the kitchen countertops (which are crusty from rolling out all the pie dough), clean the bathroom mirror, counter, sink, and toilet, and vacuum the floors.
3:14 p.m. — The party has officially started, but thankfully, no one is here yet. I start preheating the oven, and then hastily Swiffer my hardwood floors (using dry, then wet Swiffer pads). Yes, I like my floors very clean.
3:40 p.m. — The first guest has arrived (one of my coworkers), and I am not quite ready, so I excuse myself to get dressed (in my red-and-white gingham check skirt and Grumpy Cat t-shirt) and quickly put on makeup. I have pretty good skin, so all I usually put on is mascara, taupe eyeliner, tinted face primer (I use the one from Dr. Brandt), and light lip gloss. I really don't have time to deal with my hair, so I just plait it into pigtails and call it a day.
4 p.m. — The actual baking begins. The only pie I have ready is the chocolate pie that I baked last night. A steady stream of guests begins arriving. I maintain the flow of pies baking, both in my main oven and in my toaster oven. Unfortunately, because I have to pay attention to multiple timers for my ovens, I'm unable to do anything with the drinks. My previous grandiose plans of making to-order cocktails have failed to come to fruition.
5 p.m. — I drain the sliced apples from the bowl of Fireball, and pour the apple-infused Fireball into a small pitcher. It's actually a huge hit, and even people who don't like Fireball (myself included) actually enjoy it. I make a mental note to make this apple pie more often so that I can bring this Fireball to parties.
6 p.m. — The party is in full swing. I have over 20 guests crammed my living/dining area and they are LOUD. They're playing Codenames (the word association game) and Scrawl (which is kinda like a dirty adult version of Telephone and Pictionary combined). I desperately want to join in on the Scrawl madness, but I gotta focus on the pies. I finally bake the Fireball apple pie (which has a large Pi symbol carved on top). Hot pies are coming out at a steady pace. I put on The Room and then Spaceballs on the TV in the background.
8 p.m. — Some of the guests have left, so I finally get around to eating. I have a Pâté chaud, a spinach and artichoke hand pie, half of a cheeseburger pie, a blueberry hand pie, and a tiny slice of the chocolate rum pie.
10 p.m. — More people leave, so I finally get to sit down with a thin slice of the chocolate bourbon pecan pie and watch The Disaster Artist with the remaining guests.
11 p.m. — The last of my friends leave. My feet and legs are tired, my place is a mess, and I have tons of leftover pies. I quickly put away food in the fridge, throw away trash, and load up the dishwasher before retiring for the night. The dirty counters and pots/pans/trays can wait until tomorrow. Whew! This has been too much of a week, and I am so emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. After showering, I sleep for the next 12 hours.
Daily Total: $14.99
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