A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $94,900 Salary

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.
It’s fair to say, 2020 hasn’t been a normal year. Whether you’ve been stuck working from home for months, were laid off, or are an essential worker, COVID has changed the way we spend money. Whether it was a sweatpant splurge or the security deposit on a new apartment, fill out this form to tell us about your biggest pandemic purchase and how COVID has changed your relationship with money.
Today: a producer working in television who makes $94,900 per year and spends some of her money this week on Method Antibacterial cleaning spray.
Occupation: Producer
Industry: Television
Age: 34
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $94,900
Net Worth: $16,532 (All my assets (savings plus a 401k) minus all my debts (credit cards and car loan))
Debt: $18,777 (car loan plus credit card debt, which I am aggressively paying down)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,303
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,024
Car Payment: $264
Credit Cards: $356 minimum across two credit cards, but I try to shoot for $1,500
Renter's and Pet Insurance: $45
Gas: $11 (a bit higher in "winter")
Car Insurance: $179
Internet: $80
Cell Phone: $140 (insane, I know, but I have grandfathered-in unlimited data and you'll pry it from my cold, dead hands)
Electric: $60 every other month (a million times higher in the summer so I can run my wall unit in the Valley and not roast to death)
Health/Vision/Dental Insurance: Covered by work (I was on ACA and Medi-Cal during cancer treatment, more on that below)
401(k): 6% before taxes, company matches 6%
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?
Absolutely. My mom called a college degree "your ticket to the middle class" (you know, when there was one) — a way to get you an entry-level position and get your career going. My brother and I both attended state school undergrad and earned bachelor degrees, paid for by our parents. To be clear, we were not that well off, so I don't know how they pulled it off. We are about six years apart in age, so that might have helped. Neither of my parents finished college, but my dad did end up working in IT starting in the '80s and grew his career from there. Mom did a mix of mostly stay at home and retail management when I was growing up.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Not clear or specific ones that I recall. Occasionally there would be mention of "we can't afford that right now" but my mom did her best to make sure we had every opportunity we could. Brother and I both got to do high school trips overseas and extracurriculars (but quiz bowl doesn't cost money the way sports do, haha). I do know my parents fought A LOT about money, up to and well past their eventual divorce. It wasn't the sole cause, but it was definitely a contributing factor. I was also encouraged to get a credit card in college to build credit it, but it was not explained clearly that I needed to pay it off in full for it to be effective, and so began an ugly cycle of credit cards and minimum payments that has taken me until this year to pay off and learn best practices.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
First "job" was as a student docent at a local historical society that paid out a teeny bit of scholarship money. First real job was as a hostess at a local restaurant, and I thought I did okay, but they didn't think I did, so they fired me. I was a little awkward and nervous and pretty good with people, but not quite fit for a restaurant.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, sometimes. I could see my parents fighting about it and the stress it caused, so there would be times I just wouldn't ask for things because I thought it might cause more problems. Never anything super important, except maybe when I thought about study abroad in college, but realized we were already stretched thin enough without an expensive semester in London. And I worried because my brother went to a private high school and I didn't. The internal debate rages on if they were out of money to pay for it or if they thought I couldn't handle it emotionally (the story they told me) because I was a bit sensitive and easily bullied. But you can't go back and fix the past on that now. I'm in a career I want and love, so ultimately, I guess I wasn't deprived in the long run.
Do you worry about money now?
Yep. It was always a struggle, especially working in entertainment trying to find and keep steady work. But then, I got diagnosed with cancer in September 2019 right in the middle of a job change, and one of the first thoughts after "OH FUCK I HAVE CANCER" was "OH FUCK HOW I AM GOING TO PAY FOR THIS?" Luckily, I had pretty good coverage with the Affordable Care Act and my dad swooped in and paid my big deductible. Then I was able to go on short term disability and switch to Medi-Cal's coverage, which handled everything and I paid no deductibles or premiums for the remainder of treatment until I started back and work and switched everything over to job covered insurance. That being said, television and entertainment is a fickle industry, so if I change jobs/shows again, I'll have to switch everything around again and readjust my budget again.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I'll say 25-ish. My dad did help me with rent when I first moved to L.A. because he didn't want me to stay with my aunt and uncle who already lived there (out of sheer politeness to not impose, they're amazing and like a second set of parents to me). Around 25, I was making enough to live with a roommate and pay all my own bills. (And keep using credit cards like a dumb dumb). At 27, I moved into the studio apartment I've been in for the past seven years and am handling everything solo.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I got one smidge of inheritance from my grandpa when he passed away back in 2013, but I had to immediately use it to fund my trip for my brother's wedding. And that was it.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — Get up and roll out of bed to go to work 10 feet away at my desk. I live in a studio apartment, so it's kind of hard to separate work and home while working from home. I also just recently started back at work after taking 10 months off for cancer treatment. Not how I pictured my triumphant return to the office.
8:30 a.m. — Feed the cat and make myself breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, an apple, and Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast Tea with some sugar and a scoop of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. The collagen is supposed to be good for hair and since I've spent all of quarantine concentrating on growing my hair out after having to shave it for chemo so I'll take any help I can get.
1 p.m. — Work all morning and into the afternoon. I'm a TV producer and making TV from home is very weird. I miss the camaraderie of an office since it's a more creative/comedy/collaborative show, but we're making it work and I've been welcomed back so kindly by the team. I also just miss chit-chatting about stupid shit and I don't want to clog up our group chat with nonsense. I break and make a turkey sandwich with some mayo and a side of baby carrots and green tea. I was, and am, an unrepentant soda drinker, but I'm trying to reform by switching to green tea with lunch. So far this week I've gone four days without soda and it's been fine.
6:30 p.m. — Work is finally done, so I run out to the grocery store (mask on, of course!) and make two stops to stock up for as long as possible before I have to go out again. My immune system didn't get hit too hard by chemo and radiation, but I'm still playing it as safe as possible. At Trader Joe's, I buy bell peppers, pomegranate seeds, champagne grapes (so delicious), celery, frozen green beans, shrimp, green tea, eggs, zucchini, yellow squash, an onion, chicken breasts and thighs, pesto, peanut butter, shredded carrots, cucumbers, spinach, mushrooms, lemon ricotta ravioli, almond milk and some lemon baton cookies ($86.01). At Ralph's, I grab apples, blueberries, blackberries, purple cabbage, green onions, baby potatoes, bread, corn tortillas, yogurt, turkey sausage, hummus, pasta sauce, tortellini, chocolatey rice cakes, dish soap, and Method Anti-bac cleaning spray (since I still can't find Clorox or Lysol anywhere near me!) ($63.77). $149.78
8 p.m. — Get home and unpack everything, and make dinner of mushroom ravioli, jarred pasta sauce, and spinach. I also have a lemon
Spindrift sparkling water and a few of the lemon batons for dessert. I kick back and cross-stitch (shout out to my crafty people!) while I watch Unwell on Netflix and I have some THOUGHTS on the people who claim to have cured their cancer with essential oils, fasting, or BREAST MILK. Our current cancer treatment regimens are hard on the body, so I understand wanting to seek alternatives, especially if things aren't working or the treatment is nearly killing you. But, all these cases are anecdotal at best and I often feel like people are leaving out information when they say the random thing cured their cancer.
1:30 a.m. — Wrap up the whole series (oops) and go to bed.
Daily Total: $149.78

Day Two

8:15 a.m. — Get up and roll out of bed. Go feed the cat, and make myself breakfast. I'm out of hard boiled eggs, so I cook up some Applegate Farms Chicken and Sage sausage and have those with the usual apple and tea combo. I wish an apple a day had kept the doctor away, but sadly it did not. Nevertheless, apples are my go-to morning fruit.
9:30 a.m. — See that my paycheck came in direct deposit and pay my bills (noted above). Slap an extra $1000 on my credit card to help pay it down faster. I also hop on Amazon and order some pillow inserts for my new bedding that came with a set of Euro shams (~fancy~), cleaning wipes (again, not Clorox or Lysol, but handy ones regardless for general cleaning), and a banner to display pins on for above my desk ($63.64) I'm not a committed pin collector, I've just accumulated enough that I like to want to show them off. $63.64
1:15 p.m. — It's a slower day at work on Fridays since we don't have to produce a show, but we do have to prep for the next week. I take a break for lunch and make what I've been enjoying the past week or so, a sandwich and a side of snacking veggies with green tea. I plan on hopefully having leftovers from meal prepping a little this coming Sunday, but I can also be a total creature of habit and enjoy the same thing every day. I'm finding new routines with not only returning to work, but having my studio apartment to myself after my mom stayed with me for 10 months during treatment. I love her, but it was tight quarters for a long time, plus we couldn't go anywhere once COVID hit, so I'm reacclimating to being alone, back at work, and done with treatment. It's a lot!
4 p.m. — Hop on an extended family zoom call with my dad's side of the family. We were doing them more frequently a few months ago, but people got busy over the summer and they're a little more infrequent. It's still nice to catch up with them as we're all pretty far from one another.
6:30 p.m. — Go to a drive-in screening of Moulin Rouge with one of my best friends for her birthday (I bought tickets and pre-ordered food). It's so fun and a nice way to see my friend but still stay safely apart.
11 p.m. — Get home and unpack the surprise Soda Stream my friend gave me! She also works in entertainment news/media and received it as part of a promotion for a movie. It's perfect timing to go with my new found seltzer love.
1 a.m. — Bedtime after some TV.
Daily Total: $63.64

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — Cat wakes me up because he's on a hunt for something above my head. I try to ignore it, but he's bouncing all over me on my bed. I finally spot a small spider on my wall just as he attacks it. We both lose track of it and it disappears to fight another day. I pet the cat and thank him for being a good hunter, then doze back off in spite of the loose spider. They're not scary if you remember they eat lots of other bugs that might bother you!
10:30 a.m. — They shut off my gas for repairs this morning so I have to improvise for breakfast. I have the leftover turkey sausage, buttered toast, some of the grapes, and a Kevita probiotic drink I still had in the fridge.
1 p.m. — It's tidy day! I've been wanting to clear out some clutter anyway, but one thing someone recommended to me as part of post-cancer mental recovery was to do some Marie Kondo tidying and just clear some physical space to help start fresh. I also need to do a deep clean of the whole place. My mom helped me off and on with general cleaning, but I'm talking getting on hands and knees, under furniture, and finding every dust bunny. I get through dusting and tidying my desk, the TV stand and DVD collection (physical media for life!), and the front door area with my shoes and purse station.
3 p.m. — I take a shower. My friend from yesterday was planning a socially distanced picnic in a park, but Los Angeles is going through a major heat wave and she decides to call it off. She switches to a Zoom dance party later in the day instead, which is much more manageable in the heat. I grab some lunch and continue the tidy quest. I get under the bed and attack the dust bunnies (and cat hair) and go through sentimental items I have stored under there. My parents are divorced, and neither has the house I grew up in anymore, so most of my childhood stuff is with me. I did a purge of it last year though, so I don't toss much and straighten the area after it's all sorted and dusted.
6:30 p.m. — Despite all those groceries I bought the other day, it is too bloody hot to cook. I have air conditioning and a fan going in my small apartment and it's still creeping up to 80 inside. I cave and order a margarita pizza from Postmates. With 25% tip, it's $38.50. $38.50
8 p.m. — Zoom dance party begins. We have as much fun as you can over Zoom and then decide as we're wrapping up to watch Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century on Disney+ and play a virtual drinking game over text. I don't have any booze on hand (never been a big drinker) but I'm having fun chatting with everyone. I do get a touch bored during the movie itself, so I finish one more tidying goal for the day by deep cleaning my bedside table. I reorganize books I need to read (an embarrassing large stack) and sort through miscellaneous jewelry. I get rid of a lot because most of it is from Claire's or Target and not exactly in style (not to mention extremely tarnished).
1 a.m. — Go to bed after restarting Crazy Ex-Girlfriend from the beginning and getting a couple of episodes in.
Daily Total: $38.50

Day Four

9 a.m. — Wake up and putter around. After an hour I make breakfast and finally get my Trader Joe's protein pancakes and my beloved Irish Breakfast Tea. They recently changed the packaging and for a minute I thought it had been discontinued. Thankfully it's still there (and I bought a couple of extra boxes).
11 a.m. — More tidying! I finish the last corner of my main living area in the studio apartment — my bookshelf. I cull some books that I've toted around forever but never read or don't feel I need anymore and set them aside to donate somewhere. I still have to tackle my closet, kitchen, and bathroom, but it shouldn't take much longer. I get sweaty again even with the air on, so I take a quick shower to clean up.
2 p.m. — Visit my aunt, uncle, and cousin in another part of Los Angeles. Our respective bubbles have been pretty intact and I feel safe enough because I know they've been committed to being as cautious as I have. I know it seems like I've gone out a lot in the past few days, but I have been a mask wearer since the beginning of this, wash my hands constantly, and keep an eye out for symptoms. I also don't really go anywhere I can't distance with people, other than the grocery store.
6:30 p.m. — Have dinner with the family and continue chatting. We're a talkative bunch and I haven't seen them physically since Thanksgiving!
9:30 p.m. — Head home with some gifted Clorox wipes! Get home and do a quick call with my mom, who's still at my brother's on the east coast. I also do some light meal prepping. I make hard boiled eggs for breakfast, cook up some quinoa for a salad thing I'm making, and set up some shrimp to defrost for the same meal.
12:15 a.m. — Wind down and doze off to YouTube videos. I mentally celebrate one week with no soda.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8 a.m. — Roll out of bed and start the cat feeding/breakfast routine a little later than planned. My stomach is a little upset this morning, not sure what's causing it so I don't eat breakfast until closer to 9:30 after I finish my first assignment for the day. I also take the vitamins I take every day — vitamin D with calcium (so many people are low in Vitamin D, check with your doctor, but it's probably worth adding to your routine), magnesium, Zyrtec for allergies, and HUM Nutrition Hair gummy vitamin (I told you, I'm doing anything to get the damn hair to grow back).
1 p.m. — I make my quick lunch before turning in a script and logging in for a meeting at 1:30.
5:30 p.m. — Work ends early and I decide I have time to join my sketch show's live chat show on Facebook. We used to do a live sketch show in theaters and I've been involved off and on, but during the pandemic, I could join easily during treatment. Since work started, I haven't been able to do it much, but when there's time I join and get in on the fun political talk (and sometimes plain comedy talk).

7:15 p.m. — We wrap up and I do a quick workout. I've been trying to get back in a routine with that after cancer treatment.

8:30 p.m. — Make dinner with the cooked quinoa, sugar snap peas, green onions, shredded carrots, purple cabbage, and a Thai inspired sauce from The Domestic Geek YouTube channel. I also add some shrimp for protein. I've been slightly obsessed with amping up my healthy food and antioxidant intake since beating cancer. We'll never know what exactly caused my non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but I do have some suspicions it could have been an environmental cause, especially since I know several other people who have all worked in the same types of studio buildings I have and also gotten cancer. I'm tempted to Erin Brokovich this and start doing some serious investigating. While I eat, I watch Lovecraft Country on HBO, and it's So. Freaking. Good.

10:30 p.m. — Clean up dinner and go back and watch TV, and get too lazy to shower, so I just get ready for bed before I completely fall asleep and go to bed around 12:30

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — This is one routine I've got down! Wake up, feed cat, breakfast for me, and settle in for work.
10:30 a.m. — Deal with a CAT-tastrophe when my big boy tries to steal a cord off my desk and we both end up knocking over my open water bottle. Luckily no electronics were harmed in the making of this mess, but I have to spend several minutes mopping up water, drying things off, and learning that the water bottle cap should always be firmly on the bottle.
12 p.m. — Pause in the day and do a quick Amazon order of a tub shroom and some Smells Begone odor eliminator. I needed a fresh shroom and a workaround from the lack of Lysol to kill kitty litter odor near his box and in the trash can area. I hope Smells Begone is as good as I remember, my mom used it all the time when I was a kid and I remember it being effective! $28.30
1:15 p.m. — Lunch is the usual sandwich/veggie combo. Take a mental work break again and watch a few videos before going back to researching and pitching topics and overseeing an edit.
5 p.m. — Get a snack of mozzarella cheese sticks and blackberries (the antioxidants tho) as work winds down for the day.
6 p.m. — Finish work and intend to work out, but I sit on my bed and take an hour-long nap by mistake. Wake up and feel a little too groggy to work out, so I get dinner instead and watch some TV, and kick back and watch Birds of Prey on HBO while I do some cross-stitching.
10:30 p.m. — Take a shower (I'm a night shower person, and a late-night one at that. Plus there are no rules anymore, am I right?) Continue to wind down for the evening and go to bed around 12:30.
Daily Total: $28.30

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Wake up but just do not feel hungry and a little off, so I skip my breakfast routine and settle in for work.
9:45 a.m. — Finally get a little hungry, but decide to switch it up and scramble some eggs with cheese and have my tea instead of the hardboiled eggs and an apple. I later grab a little bowlful of the champagne grapes so I get some fruit in there. I'm slightly concerned that my appetite is low today because that was a side effect I had during cancer before I got diagnosed. I doubt it's anything that dramatic again. I have been eating hard-boiled eggs for breakfast almost every weekday morning since I started work, so I might just subconsciously be sick of them and need a change. Routines are great, but it also doesn't hurt to shake them up every once in a while!
2 p.m. — Later lunch because of later breakfast. And the appetite is back and doing fine. I decide to shake it up again and make a salmon salad (canned salmon and a bit of mayo, like a tuna salad, please don't call me gross, I know it's not for everyone!) and a new Spindrift sparkling water, their black tea lemonade. I really enjoy it and will probably add it to the rotation of beverages. Also snack on sliced-up orange bell pepper, my favorite of all the veggies.
6 p.m. — Wrap up work after happily getting in a pitch I like and working with my boss directly to flesh it out. Makes me feel like I'm getting back in the zone already after being out of work for so long. I do a 30-minute workout and immediately shower then grab dinner, which is more leftovers from Monday (the taste is even better on the second and third days because the sauce really soaks into everything).
9 p.m. — Watch some Selling Sunset and do more cross-stitching. Not a show I would necessarily watch, but I kind of need to keep tabs on it for work. Plus, it's kind of fun to see al the crazy expensive homes I'll never afford in Los Angeles and I do kind of love Christine in all her icy glory.
11:45 p.m. — Wind down for bed and start reading the next book for my mini book club (it's just me and two friends). We're doing another romance novel, after starting off with a lot of thrillers. The romance ones are a hoot, and I've actually dabbled in writing one and am in a workshop for it now (but that's a long story for another time). Finish a few chapters and go to bed.
Daily Total: $0
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