A Week In Los Angeles On A UCLA Student's Budget

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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.)

Today, a UCLA student going to vote for her first presidential election.
Industry: UCLA student
Age: 21
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $0
Paycheck Amount: $0, but I take up random house-sitting gigs here and there
# of roommates: One roommate, five other apartment-mates

Monthly Expenses
$828/month plus utilities
Loan Payments: $0 haven’t graduated yet, but thanks to the government, I will graduate debt-free!
Transportation: I mostly walk, though I put about $30 towards gas monthly
Phone Bill: $0; I’m on my mother’s plan
Health Insurance: $0 via Medi-Cal
Gym membership: $0. I can use the gym in my apartment building, the ones on campus, or a class from a Pilates package I bought a while ago
Savings: Normally I work over the summers, and then use that income throughout the school year. However, I spent this summer as a full-time student and studied for grad school exams. I didn’t work, so stretching my savings has been a bit rough.
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Day 1

6:15 a.m. — I would never willingly wake up this early on a weekend, but today I have my graduation photo shoot.

8 a.m. — Time for photos! It’s not the cheesy in-studio photos; rather, I walk around campus with my sash and take photos at the most well-known places. There are many dogs on early-morning walks who join me. $90

9:15 a.m. — My boyfriend came halfway through the shoot, but now we are both sleepy. Nap time.

12:45 p.m. — I wake up famished, but not yet hangry. I offer to make lunch, but he would like to eat out. We walk around Westwood for a while, and then decide to grab a snack at Denny’s. I eat a quesadilla and a slice of French toast, both from the $2 menu. It will fill me up until dinnertime. My boyfriend treats.

2 p.m. — We continue strolling through Westwood, and it dawns on us that he hasn’t been to Hammer Museum yet. We meander through the exhibitions and stumble upon an interpretive dance show. We stay to watch, hoping that the large audience is indicative of its quality.

5 p.m. — The show is finally done. It was fascinating from a dancer’s perspective (my boyfriend and I are both dancers), but I’m not quite sure I fully understood it. Regardless, we always have a great time together.

7 p.m. — My boyfriend heads to dance practice, while I sit on the couch and watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with my apartment-mates. I’m hungry now, so I eat a quick salad. I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s a few days ago to buy some staple foods (eggs, bread, bananas, vegetables, etc.), and I spent $72 then. I usually go grocery shopping every 10 days to two weeks (depending on how often I eat out or go home).

10 p.m. — I meet up with my boyfriend and head over to our team’s turn-up. We direct a dance team, so this party is for them. We bring leftover alcohol from previous parties, so we don’t have to pitch in for this one.

3:15 a.m. — Thank goodness for Daylight Saving Time, because I get an extra hour of sleep tonight.

Daily Total: $90
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Day 2

9 a.m. — I didn’t drink last night because I thought I might be getting sick, so I don’t have a hangover!

11 a.m. — Egg and (perfectly ripe, yes) avocado flatbread for breakfast. I also bake some Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Cauliflower. 10/10 would recommend.

7 p.m. — Today has been a very lazy day. Caught up on some shows, did some homework, spent almost an hour in the apartment gym. Turkey/spinach/Boursin flatbread for dinner.

11 p.m. — FaceTime boyfriend, fall asleep around midnight.

Daily Total: $0
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Day 3

9 a.m. — Rise and shine! Same turkey flatbread as last night for breakfast now.

11 a.m. — Yoga from a YouTube video.

1:30 p.m. — Walk to class.

4:15 p.m. — Back home to do a bit of homework and work on grad school essays. Leftover cauliflower and a carrot cake cookie for lunch.

5:30 p.m. — Drive to Santa Monica for a nanny job interview. I’m graduating early, so I only have a month left of school. Since I’m hoping to go to grad school next September, I’d like to work and save as much as possible in my 10-month gap.

8:30 p.m. — The interview was a success! It turned into me babysitting for a couple hours. Easy $40 pocketed. The usual salad for dinner (spinach, cherry tomatoes, Trader Joe’s chopped veggie mix, parmesan crisps as croutons, avocado, oil, vinegar).

10:30 p.m. — One more carrot cake cookie. They’re not even that great; I just like ending the day with dessert. Since my professor did not assign any homework today, I read random articles (topics ranging from the economy of Kansas to how to pick the freshest salmon at the grocery store) and discuss the election on the phone with a friend. I’ll be asleep by midnight.

Daily Total: $0, and made $40
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Day 4

8 a.m. — It’s going to be a long but exciting day. Banana with peanut butter and a turkey flatbread to start the day — leftover cauliflower is packed as a snack.

10:30 a.m. — Head to class.

1 p.m. — Left class early. Normally I have class until 6 p.m. today, but I’m skipping so that I can go home to VOTE.

2 p.m. — Make it to the polls! This is my first time voting in a presidential election! My mom and I go together.

3 p.m. — Famished. My mom owns Subways, so she brings me a tuna sandwich and a cookie. I hang at home with my mom and the dog. I also pick up a book from the library and a prescription from CVS.

7 p.m. — Dance practice back at UCLA. We keep checking my phone for election updates. My heart is racing. Side note: Our team gear (the customized shirts for the team to wear on stage) was delivered today. My credit card gets charged, and I will charge the teammates on Venmo. $769.57, but $29.57 on my end.

11:45 p.m. — Practice is finally over. I’m physically and emotionally drained.

2:30 a.m. — Finally going to sleep after lots of socializing, discussing, and some crying.

Daily Total: $29.57
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Day 5

9:30 a.m. — I deliberately scheduled afternoon classes this quarter as a #treatyoself gesture to myself for my last quarter as an undergrad. Waking up naturally is great.

10:45 a.m. — Today is not a good day to scroll through social media. I get started on homework and eat a chicken pot pie for breakfast.

1:30 p.m. — Off to class.

4:30 p.m. — Home. Start studying for the midterm I have tomorrow. Mac and cheese for linner (lunch/dinner), plus 40 minutes of “resting my eyes.”

11:30 p.m. — Studying was really half-assed, so it took all evening. Bedtime.

Daily Total: $0
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Day 6

8 a.m. — Midterm today! Fuel up with a turkey flatbread. Last-minute midterm review. Long day ahead.

10:30 a.m. — Walk to class.

1:30 p.m. — Midterm is over. Phew. I have a short gap before my next class. I buy a shrimp burrito bowl from our student union ($9.25) and watch an episode of SVU. I order transcripts for my grad school app ($10). I always do homework during this break, but I’m not feeling it today. $19.25

5:30 p.m. — Done with class. It’s going to be a long practice, so I buy myself a small Jamba Juice. I have a BOGO card so I can get my boyfriend one for free, too. $4.88

7 p.m. — Dance time! It’s gonna be a long night.

1 a.m. — Home, finally. Our complex has a washer/dryer in each apartment unit (what a treat!) so I do a load. I’ll be asleep by 1:30.

Daily Total: $24.13
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Day 7

8:45 a.m. — If there’s one thing I’m willing to wake up earlier for, it’s food. I’ve got brunch with one of my best friends in a couple hours. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

10:30 a.m. — I order a breakfast sandwich. My friend pays. And luckily I found a spot at a meter and avoided valet. I’m already close to home, so I stop by to hang out with my dog for a bit. $1.10

1:15 p.m. — Back to UCLA.

6 p.m. — My boyfriend made some choreo an hour ago for us to perform at a different showcase. Super last-minute, but we killed it!

7:30 p.m. — Our team decides to go to a boba place to hang out. I get house milk teas for my boyfriend and me, and we snack on the foods our teammates bought. $8.25

11:30 p.m. — Home after a busy week! My boyfriend stays a while, so it’ll be another late night, but I love his company, so I don’t mind. I’m looking forward to a calm weekend.

Daily Total: $9.35
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