How One San Francisco Woman Saves $1,500 A Month

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennial women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar. (Thanks, New Yorkmag, for the inspiration.)

Today, a San Franciscan in biotech saving $1,500 a month for a down payment.
Industry: Biotechnology, data analytics, and strategy. I am extremely lucky to work for a company that has great perks (transportation, subsidized food, cell phone, and a gym — although I don’t use it), not to mention good health care and benefits. My monthly spending would undoubtedly be significantly higher if I switched jobs. It also helps that my office is a big campus/office-park setting where there isn’t a lot of temptation to spend money on lunch.
Age: 26
Location: San Francisco
Salary: $115,000 with $24K pre-tax bonus last year (bonus went straight into savings,minus a $150 celebratory dinner)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,638, after taxes, healthcare, HSA account contributions, and maxing out my 401(k) deductions for the year. I consider my monthly take-home pay to be $5,000 and keep the extra $138 in my checking as a cushion.
Number of roommates: 1 (my fiancé) Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,675, my half. We live in decent, but by no means luxurious, one-bedroom apartment (i.e., no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, bathroom with atrocious '70s tile and colors, etc.)
Loans: $0 (very fortunate to have gotten a scholarship and parents paid for room and board)
Utilities: $40, internet. We actually do have cable, because my fiancé likes to watch baseball. If it were up to me, we would just have HBO GO, so he pays the TV portion.
Cell Phone: $0, work pays for it. (I had the option of either getting a second iPhone just for work, or have work pay for my personal phone — clearly chose the latter).
House Cleaning: $100 a month. We have a housekeeper come twice a month and she charges $100 for each visit, so we take turns paying.
Netflix: $8
Future Fun: $450. At the beginning of the year, I tallied up the costs of all the trips, travel, weddings, major gifts, and expenses I knew I had to pay for, and then divided that by 12 to understand what I should be “saving” each month. That way, the big expenses don’t skew the picture of what’s really going on every month and that I don’t overspend in months where I don’t have to buy a plane ticket or gift and feel more flush than usual. As for my own wedding, we are planning on having a small, low-key ceremony at city hall followed by dinner out. Our parents will be graciously picking up the tab for that.
Transportation: $0 fixed. My company runs private shuttles from S.F. to our campus, located in South San Francisco near the airport. My fiancé also has a car (I contribute towards his car insurance, which is included in “Future Fun,” but usually not gas, unless we are taking a trip out of town). Monthly savings for down payment: $1,500. I’ve got about $45,000 in savings so far, but the median home price in the Bay Area is like $800K, so it feels like chump change at this point. Leftover discretionary money: ~$1,200

Day One

8:45 a.m — I make tea at home (20 cents per bag) and bring a Fage 2% yogurt to eat at my desk ($1, on sale from Safeway). $1.20

10:50 a.m. — I get hungry and swing by the office kitchen for an apple (we get a weekly fruit delivery on Monday that normally lasts until Wednesday or Thursday). 2:15 p.m. — Was too busy to stop and take a lunch break, so I eat some Mexican leftovers in the kitchen from an earlier meeting. 6 p.m. – Go for run in Golden Gate Park. 7 p.m. — Fiancé makes dinner: a layered salad of avocado, tomatoes, onion. We also make a flatbread out of half a ball of prepared pizza dough from Whole Foods (which are so good and only $1.29!) and eat it with some hummus. He pays for most of our dinner groceries and I pay for wine and booze. We are recovering from a boozy weekend, so no wine tonight. Catch up on HBO shows (Veep, Silicon Valley, GoT, and John Oliver) and go to bed. Daily Total: $1.20

Day Two

8:45 a.m. — Tea (20 cents per bag) and Fage ($1). $1.20 10:30 a.m — Grab another pear from the office fruit basket and also sneak a handful of peanut M&M's. 12:45 p.m. — Head over to the cafeteria, which is actually pretty decent (same food company as Google has); while not free, is subsidized, so the prices are pretty good. Get a large bowl of soup and some crackers. $2.56

1:30 p.m. — Our office is freezing, so make myself a bland, but free, cup of tea. 5:10 p.m — Walking home from shuttle, stop at CVS for a Diet Snapple, box of granola bars, face wash, Ziploc bags, and hand soap: $22.32 8 p.m. — Same dinner as last night, with the second half of the pizza dough as flatbread. Open up a bottle of red wine, $14. Prep for a big presentation tomorrow and go over my notes until bed. $14 Daily Total: $40.08

Day Three

8:45 a.m. — Same as other days, tea at home and yogurt at desk. $1.20 12 p.m. — Meeting during lunch, which is always catered. Today is sandwich boxes from Boudin Bakery. 2:15 p.m. — My friend has posted online asking for donations to fund her city’s chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, so I donate: $50 5:10 p.m. — Walking home from the shuttle and it’s gorgeous out. Stop for froyo, because I’m relieved my presentation went well and is over. $3.86 5:20 p.m. — Stop at public library to pick up a book that has been put on hold for me. 6 p.m. — Go for run in Golden Gate Park. 7:30 p.m. — Fiance makes bucatini all’amatriciana, one of our favorite meals. We probably eat pasta once a week to keep costs down, as well as have something simple. I picked up a bottle of red to have with it. $11 Daily Total: $66.06

Day Four

8:45 a.m. — Tea and yogurt. $1.20

12 p.m. — Go to office cafeteria for a BLT with avocado. $4.45 12:30 p.m. — Craving something sweet, so stop by snack cabinet for three mini Reese's. 4 p.m. — Perusing Madewell’s website and see a cute top that’s on sale, $38. Apparently, I normally spend about $120 per month on clothes according to my spreadsheets. 7 p.m. — We meet some friends at a bar to celebrate our recent engagement. I have a cocktail and two glasses of wine, along with some bar snacks. They are sweet and pick up the tab and we UberPool home, $6.75. Daily Total: $50.40


Day Five

9 a.m. — Between the drinks last night and not eating a full dinner, I’m feeling not-so-hot and treat myself to a cappuccino and at the fancy office coffee bar. I also eat one of the granola bars I bought from CVS the other day. $2.85.

1 p.m. — Office cafeteria chana masala and rice. $4.15 2:45 p.m. — Read an article about Trump being more racist and misogynistic than normal, am prompted donate to HRC. $10 7 p.m. — We invite friends over for dinner and end up ordering pizza for everyone, since no one wants to cook. Everyone else brings wine, so no money spent on booze. I split the cost with my fiancé, so I pay $29. 10:15 p.m. — Some folks leave and want to go to a bar for another drink, but I’m feeling tired from last night and the week, so I crawl into bed, instead. Daily Total: $46

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — Go out for bagels and coffee. $9 11 a.m. — Stop at Nordstrom Rack to get a new bra and manage to get out of there without buying anything else. $18.45 1 p.m. — Burrito and a Diet Coke from a taco truck for lunch, fiancé pays. 3 p.m. — We ended up walking all the way to Ocean Beach, because it’s sunny and warm out, but are too tired to walk the six-and-a-half miles home, so I call an Uber, $9 4 p.m. — Book a rental car for a wedding we are going to in Hawaii in September, but it’s already been planned for in the “Future Fun” budget. $48 7 p.m. — Eat leftover pizza for dinner, along with a salad fiancé made to supplement, and start watching OITNB season 4. We split a bottle of wine and have a quiet night in. $12. Daily Total: $96.45

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Peanut-butter toast and coffee at home for breakfast. 11 a.m. — Go for a run and stop at a deli on the way back to pick up sandwiches and chips for myself and fiancé for lunch. $17.56 2:15 p.m. — Do laundry and nap. We have laundry in our basement, which is not coin-operated — huge perk! 3:30 p.m. — Walk to Whole Foods and buy a few things for the upcoming week, such as avocados, cheese, crackers, etc. $16.82 6 p.m. — Fiance’s family lives in the Bay Area, so we head down to Palo Alto for dinner at a steakhouse. We probably have family dinner two to three Sundays a month. His dad graciously pays for everyone. Daily Total: $34.38
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.
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