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A Week In The Bay Area On A $235k Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Gap.
Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

This week: a physician who makes $235,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a new workout shirt.
Occupation: Physician
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 34
Location: Bay Area
Salary: $235,000
Net Worth: $216,689 ($17,969 cash savings in HYSA and emergency fund; $160,000 investment fund; $53,000 retirement and HSA, minus debt. I do not own any property, but I’m hoping to save up for a down payment after I pay off my student loans. My partner and I have separate checking and savings accounts. However, we split groceries, trips, utilities, and other household bills. Our rent is split evenly since we have similar salaries.)
Debt: $14,280 in student loans. I started with more than $250,000 but have been aggressively paying this down.
Paycheck Amount (2x month): $5,385
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $2,100/month (my share after splitting with my partner)
Monthly Loan Payments: $1,500
All Other Monthly Expenses:
All inclusive gym: $170, with extra payment of $50 for the spin studio. I realize this is a lot of money to spend on fitness, but it is the one thing that keeps me sane, it’s conveniently located, and I view it as an investment in my health since I do far more intense workouts when other people around me are absolutely killing it.
Spotify Premium: $11
Cell Phone: I have remained on a family plan since college.
Netflix: I mooch off my family.
New York Times subscription: $8.95
Amazon Prime: $6
Savings: I put $4,000 towards my investment account, and $300 towards my “play around with stocks” account every month.

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
There was definitely an expectation for me to attend higher education. I grew up in a family that valued higher education, and my parents had graduate degrees. My family was both a source of pride and anxiety for me because everyone seemed so accomplished. I was always taught that education was very important and a pipeline for success as an immigrant in this country. I was also very studious and it seems like the natural course for me to pursue higher education. I dabbled around and I did not know what I wanted to pursue after college, but I knew that college was a non-negotiable. I was fortunate enough to have college paid for by my family and I went to a public school, which was cheaper than the private schools I was considering. Graduating without loans from my undergraduate program was a tremendous blessing, and I will never take it for granted. Later, when I decided to go to medical school, I knew I would have to take out loans. I took out about $25,000 from my family, which I still have to pay back, and the rest from federal student loans with astronomically high interest rates.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were always frugal with their money, but they paid for summer programs and enrichment activities that they viewed as an investment in my future. We never spent money on luxury items, and our house was filled with items that were what Redditors would refer to as “buy it for life." We did take larger trips every few years, but this slowed down as my siblings and I got older and busier. My parents spoke about money as something that we should use to be comfortable and secure, but never something that we should spend in excess. They tried to teach us financial literacy early, but since I had no money of my own, I found it difficult to grasp some of these abstract concepts. My father helped me open up a savings account in high school when I got my first job as a way to help me build credit. I put all of my savings from my job into this account, and any money that my grandparents would send me for birthdays (to the order of $40 to $50 a year).

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working at a restaurant in high school. I also worked as a sport instructor and an academic tutor in high school. I decided to take on these jobs because I wanted to earn some extra cash and wanted to do something besides school and sports. My parents never forced me to get a job, but they always encouraged me to pursue the jobs I was applying for.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I did not worry about money growing up until the 2008 recession. At that point, my father lost his job, and our finances felt more tenuous. I stressed quite a bit about money in high school and college as a result.

Do you worry about money now?
I do worry about money now because I live in such a HCOL place. I worry that I will never be able to afford my own home and pay for higher education for my future children. I realize how fortunate I am but I do wonder if I should diversify my income more in case I cannot practice medicine in the future for whatever reason.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I worked for a few years after college and before medical school making less than $50k a year, and was financially independent at that point in time. I became more financially dependent on my parents during medical school as a result of the loan they gave me. However, after medical school, I regained my financial independence. I know that if something truly catastrophic happened, my parents would help me out with whatever limited funds they have (there is definitely a cultural component to this as well) but I hope to never rely on them or their limited retirement funds. I would rather be able to take care of them in their older age.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I have never received any inheritance. My parents did give me $50,000 to help make a dent in my loan payments a few years ago, but I am expected to pay them back for this.

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up at a reasonable time today and stick with my usual skincare routine (St, Ives scrub, La Roche Posay triple lipikar lotion, rosehip seed oil for moisture, and Supergoop Play sunscreen). I head out to a local cafe, where I get a vanilla latte and catch up on some work emails and tasks. $5.75
11 a.m. — I finally pull the trigger on a new pair of glasses. They cost $150 but am hoping to get 50% of this reimbursed. I wear contacts most of the time, but I have had some issues with my eyes drying out and I am going to try to wear glasses more at work. However, driving on sunny days will be an issue. Surely not everyone has prescription sunglasses too? Do people just drive with two pairs of glasses on their head?! Because that is what I will be doing since I’m not about to drop even more money on an additional pair of glasses. $150
12 p.m. — I get some spicy udon for lunch while waiting for my optometrist to send my prescription over to the retailer. $12.50
2 p.m. — I stop by Trader Joe’s to purchase salmon, soy sauce, beans, onions, yogurt, and milk chocolate. The total cost is $36, but this will be split between me and my partner, A. $18
5 p.m. — I get ready to go to the gym and realize that there is about to be a large, gaping hole in my favorite workout shirt. I have had this shirt for over six years and it has held up beautifully until now. I mourn the demise of my favorite shirt and go onto the Gap website to see if I can find a replacement. I find something similar, pray the quality hasn’t gone down, and buy two on sale for $20 each. Shipping is free. I have been trying to limit clothing purchases, and try to buy everything secondhand, but workout gear is where I draw the line. Plus, I think this is a very fair purchase given that it replaces something I have absolutely worn to death for over six years. $40
8 p.m. — I finish my brutal workout and get gas on the way home. I shower, make salmon for dinner, and read some more of my book that I am rereading, The Book Thief, until I fall asleep. $38
Daily Total: $264.25

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I go to a local cafe to do some more work. I try not to spend money on coffee unless I am working at a cafe (it becomes a worthwhile expense since I tend to be more productive there). The music in this cafe is incredible and I can’t stop singing along. I work on some clinical pathways and do a literature review for a project that I would like to start working on. I also plan a backpacking trip A. and I are going to take, look into some running races I’m interested in, and catch up with a friend who moved to Southern California, whom I miss dearly. $6.29
2 p.m. — I get a notification that I table I have been trying to sell has an offer! I coordinate to meet with the buyer later today and we decide on a sale price of $65. Finally! I use this sale to justify getting a gel manicure. I was trying to avoid getting one, but it is the only thing that prevents me from picking at or biting my nails (gross habit, I know) and I am trying to grow them out a little. I listen to a podcast about the partition of India and Pakistan while getting my nails done. The manicurist does a great job and I tip a little more than usual. $50
4 p.m. — I cave after my manicure and grab some Panda Express chicken, which makes me feel really gross and bloated. I question why I do this to myself as my stomach does somersaults. I go the gym and ride the stationary bike for an hour while watching a culinary reality TV show as a guilt ride after that fast food. Right after, I go to a bootcamp class that absolutely kicks my butt. I’m going to be sore for days but I feel really good. I eat leftover chicken, cheese, hummus, and pita crackers for dinner while cuddling with A. and watching an episode of Narcos. I spend a long time reading The Book Thief and go to bed around 10:30 p.m. $12
Daily Total: $68.29

Day Three

8 a.m. — I head to work where we get free breakfast. I get some eggs and pay for a macchiato. I break my own rule as I am not working at a cafe, but here we are. My patient asks me for my credentials because I “look too young.” I ponder whether this is genuine skepticism or casual sexism, and I make a mental note to wear makeup and my white coat to work. I’m actually really efficient at work today so I am able to fit in a couple of meetings and get out at a reasonable time. $5.17
2 p.m. — My pens are running of ink and I take a lot of notes on my patients and during meetings throughout the day, so I buy a pack of MUJI pens on Amazon. They are $13, but I have a gift card, so the cost is covered.
5 p.m. — I go to the gym and do a short but brutal spin class. After heading home, I eat kale and broccoli salad, sweet potatoes, some cuties, and a milk chocolate bar. I drink a glass of a red wine but I know I’m going to have a headache tomorrow. I don’t handle more than half a glass of wine well, even when I stay hydrated.
Daily Total: $5.17

Day Four

8 a.m. — I eat free breakfast at work again (this time an egg and cheese burrito with coffee I brewed at home). I realize I forgot to book my dog-walking sessions for this week and quickly book all four. They are $25 each which hurts, but doggo needs an afternoon walk and potty break and unfortunately working from home isn’t an option. $100
12 p.m. — I pay for soup and fruit for lunch at work and eat it at my desk while reviewing patient charts. I realized early on that I would rather work through lunch and get home earlier than take a leisurely break mid-day, but today I definitely feel like I am losing steam. $5.89
5 p.m. — I go the gym for a quick spin class and some weights, and then head home. Dinner is a salad at home and a cookie. A. is at his gym, so I cuddle on the couch with my dog and watch an episode of Griselda. I realize half the characters overlap with the Narcos episode we watched earlier in the week and go down a massive Wikipedia rabbit hole looking up everyone’s biographies.
Daily Total: $105.89

Day Five

7 a.m. — I do not wake up well at all and take a very long time to get moving. Once I get in the car, it’s not so bad, and I wake up ever so slightly after listening to The Daily and my partition podcast. I get my breakfast bagel from the cafeteria and get to work. I end up eating some snacks from the physician’s lounge for lunch, so I don’t pay anything. I have tried meal prepping for work but it never works out and I always end up wasting the food, so I have resigned myself to paying for a work lunch on most days. I finish seeing patients, wrap up documentation, do some CME questions (these are required to keep our licenses up to date), and head home. I get stuck in horrendous traffic, but use the drive to catch up with one of medical school friends who moved out of state.
5 p.m. — I get home and go for a quick three-mile run. A. and I decide to go to Costco, where we pick up tomatoes, bananas, chicken, a variety of cheeses, Greek yogurt, a salad kit, fruit snacks, frozen berries, pasta sauce, noodles, allergy medicine for me, socks for A., and toilet paper. We spend $236, and my share is $118. We unload the groceries, and I head over to my friend’s place for a casual get-together. It’s so nice to see a bunch of old friends from residency, and we catch up on how everyone’s doing, hear about our friend’s big upcoming travel plans, and pester another friend for details on his new relationship. He seems really happy and I leave feeling very warm and fortunate. $118
Daily Total: $118

Day Six

9 a.m. — I was on call and was very nervous I was going to get called in, but luckily I didn’t and got to sleep in! I get up slowly, eat the breakfast of eggs, fruit, and coffee that A. has so kindly prepared already, and get ready for my day. I still have go into work today, but since it’s later, I take my time with my skincare routine. A. troubleshoots a problem he is having at work. It’s stressing him out, and I get the sense he wants to concentrate fully, so I take the dog for a walk while listening to my partition podcast. I head to work shortly after.
12 p.m. — I grab a spicy chicken sandwich for lunch that is HUGE and easily serves as both my lunch and dinner. I eat this sporadically while seeing patients and triaging calls, hoping that it won’t lead to a food coma. Fortunately, the day isn’t too bad and I head home on time. $15.98
9 p.m. — I realize my dog’s food is getting low and put in an order on Chewy. My dog stares at me with judgment, as if he knows I am ordering dry food for him instead of giving him the fresh chicken and eggs he begs for on the daily. I resist his puppy-dog eyes and promise him fresh chicken as treats on his next walk. $35.72
Daily Total: $51.70

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I have a day off today, so I sleep in and wake up slowly. I watch random YouTube videos on the costs of fast fashion and answer messages about my patients while drinking coffee and eating sweet potatoes to carbo load for the long run I have planned today. I also book flights for my friend’s wedding in Europe later this year. I have been stalking flights and finally see a great deal for under $500. I use miles to cover the whole trip so it doesn’t cost anything extra. I text my friend the details and let her know how I excited I am!
11 a.m. — I go for my 10-mile run which is brutally hard. I take 30-second walk breaks during miles five, eight, and nine, but keep the timer going. This means my pace is not great, but I feel really good about completing my run. I try to analyze why the run was so hard and realize my legs got really tired and I started putting too much pressure on my knees rather than using my glutes to extend. I make a note of this to track my running progress. I pick up a water bottle at a gas station ($1.25). I take an Uber ($16.97) back home because I ended up somewhere in the neighboring city and was not about to run eight more miles back. Normally, I’m very introverted and don’t like chatting with ride-share drivers. However, I really enjoy connecting with the driver this time! She is awesome and we bond over being from immigrant families and the high expectations our families set for us and we subsequently set for ourselves. $18.22
3 p.m. — I go to a coffee shop to catch up on more work and pay for parking: $4. I feel like I could use some more practice reading EKGs and ultrasounds, so I review a bunch of images. I get a cappuccino and overnight oats which hits the spot after my run ($11.75). $15.75
3:30 p.m. — I fill up gas on the way home. $38.50
6 p.m. — I make a spicy lentil soup for dinner, and spend the the rest of the evening icing my knees, reading The Book Thief, and walking the dog with A. And that’s a wrap on my week!
Daily Total: $72.47

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