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A Week In Los Angeles, CA On A $162,000 Joint 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.

This week: a project analyst who makes $70,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on repairing a leaking pipe.
Occupation: Project analyst
Industry: Telecommunications
Age: 29
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $70,000. My husband, N., and I have combined finances. N. is prior-enlisted military and is in grad school full time which is covered by the military. He receives $2481/month 12 months a year and $3636/month prorated for when he is enrolled in school. Both these payments are not taxable; due to the untaxed stipend element of N.’s salary, our joint salary amount is approximate.
Assets: Checking account: $10,000; emergency fund: $42,000; investments: $65,500; my Roth IRA: $110,000; N.’s Roth IRA: $40,000; my Roth 401(k): $3000; my HSA: $500; rental property: $430,000. We also just purchased a new-to-us car worth $17,000.
Debt: Mortgage: $296,000
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,692 (pre-tax)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $2,499 (N. and I rent a 706sqft one bedroom/one bathroom apartment which includes one parking space.) We recently moved from the Washington, DC area where I had a home I purchased before we met. We lived in the home for a year before we moved to LA and converted it into a rental property when we left. The property is rented out at $2500/month (this is included in the joint salary amount).
All Other Monthly Expenses
Insurance: $337.31 (This includes car insurance for two vehicles, renters’ insurance, landlord insurance for our rental property, jewelry insurance for my engagement ring, and umbrella insurance)
Gym: $56 (My work reimburses me $20/month)
Spotify: $5.99 (I have a student rate. N. is part of a family plan with his brothers, but they don’t make him pay.)
Water: $100
Electricity: $50
Internet: $30 (We get a military discount with T-Mobile.)
Mortgage Payment: $1276 (for rental property)
HOA: $278 (for rental property)
Property Management Fee: $197.50 (for rental property)
Biweekly Expenses (Paid Per Paycheck):
Health Insurance: $44.47 (pre-tax)
Dental Insurance: $10.67 (for N. and I, pre-tax)
Vision Insurance: $4.28 (pre-tax)
Annual Expenses
My Roth IRA: $7,000
Roth 401(k): $23,000 (my company matches $2,800)
HSA: $3,850 (my company contributes an additional $300/year)
Property Taxes: $4,100 (for rental property)

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?
Yes, it was really not an option to not go to college after graduating high school. I originally went to an out-of-state public school that was not a good fit for me. After a year there, I transferred to an in-state public school. My parents saved in a 529 college fund for me when I was really young. Both my parents are engineers and my parents budgeted to have our family living on just my dad’s income which left my mom’s income to be saved for various things, including 529 accounts for me and my brother. They put a lump sum in my 529 when I was a baby and let it grow over time. I had more than enough to graduate and still have $5,000 in the account.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I wouldn’t say my parents and I had any real important conversations about money but I learned a lot from observing how my parents managed their money. It wasn’t a topic that was off the table though. As I got older, when I had questions I felt very comfortable going to my dad.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was a summer job in college working at a retail store. I hated it but I did it mostly because I knew I needed to do something with my summer. I didn’t need the money so I saved all of it.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. My mom immigrated to the United States after being a refugee for six months and she really paved a way for herself. She put herself through college and became a very successful engineer. But I wouldn’t say her worry for survival stayed behind when she came to the US. As a child, I could feel her worry even though we were financially stable, which made me worry. That was pretty polar opposite from my caucasian father who didn’t worry. As I got older, I realized that wasn’t a reflection of my parents’ financial state — it was a reflection of my mom’s upbringing in her country.

Do you worry about money now?
Because there have been many years of my adult life where I have worried a lot about money, I still worry now even though I know we’re in a really good place financially. It’s that scarcity mindset: It doesn’t matter how much money I have, I will always think that I would be safer if I had more saved.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say it was at 22 years old that I started becoming financially responsible for myself — but because I knew my family would be my financial safety net, I have leaned on them off and on since I graduated college. I made very little money out of college for the first couple years and really scraped by financially. I could cover my basic needs but anything additional was difficult — like for holidays, my parents would pay for my flights to come home. I grew up playing competitive golf and had always wanted to see how far I could go as a career playing golf, so when I was 25 I decided to pursue that. I quit my full time job and for two years, my mom supported me by giving me $3,000 a month and for another year $2,000 month while I was not working full time. When I got married was when my mom lowered how much she was giving me from $3,000 to $2,000. At that time, it didn’t feel right to spend money from my family when I was sharing my finances with someone else, so we saved the $2,000 a month that my mom was giving me and survived off my husband’s income. A year after getting married, I decided to enter back into the workforce and asked my mom to stop helping me financially. As of now, we don’t rely on my family financially on a regular basis. However, I know in the future if something major came up, I could rely on them.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. I received an inheritance from both my grandmother and my aunt, a total of around $40,000. My parents also assisted in helping me purchase my home in the DC area. They gifted me about $50,000 for the down payment.

Day One

6 a.m. — I make a Nespresso coffee. N. goes to a men’s group that meets at 6:30 a.m. so I get the apartment to myself. My work is fully remote so I don’t have to commute anywhere in the morning. I drink my coffee on the couch while reading Have I Told You This Already? by Lauren Graham (aka Lorelai Gilmore, my favorite TV mom). The book is from the library.
7:30 a.m. — I make breakfast before starting work: two eggs with spinach and cheese, half a bagel with butter, and some fruit.
9:30 a.m. — A couple weeks ago there was a water leak in our rental property that cost $1,200 at the time to fix. I filed an insurance claim and just received $958 (after deductible) from insurance for a portion of the damages. I’m still waiting on an estimate for the rest of the damage before submitting to insurance for the rest of the payment.
10 a.m. — N. buys a book on Amazon written by a therapist who hosts a podcast he likes (N is in grad school for marriage and family therapy). N. finished his undergraduate degree when he was still in the military and the military covered all his tuition. $24.12
10:45 a.m. — I finish up the other half of the bagel I ate for breakfast and make a cup of peppermint tea while continuing to work.
12 p.m. — I break for lunch. My go-to has been making a chicken Caesar salad wrap which is what I did today. I eat that with a clementine and some crackers. I’m almost done eating when I get called into a meeting.
2 p.m. — Today has been a pretty chill work day. I take a break for some iced coffee that I make in a French press and keep in the fridge throughout the week. I try to have decaf in the afternoon but I ran out, so caffeine it is! I usually stock up on our sugar-free coffee syrup at Marshalls or TJ Maxx because it’s a fraction of the price compared to anywhere else.
6:30 p.m. — It’s Friday and we’re having some friends over for dinner and board games. N. made shredded chicken for tacos that we served with chips and guac. We are a dry household, but we keep a plethora of sodas and sparking waters on hand.
10 p.m. — Our friends leave and it’s way past our bedtime. N. cleans up while I head to bed.
Daily Total: $24.12

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up with N. and I make my typical Nespresso coffee with a scoop of collagen. I’m headed to a workout class this morning that’s not included in my gym membership. I don’t like to eat a whole meal before these classes so I just eat a small snack bar at home. $13.50
9:30 a.m. — N. and I head to Chick-fil-A for breakfast because we’ve been talking about going/craving it. $20.87
10:30 a.m. — Last year, N. and I bought a Yakima cargo box for my car thinking we were going to do a lot more outdoor things and we realized that we weren’t using it like we thought we were going to. It’s been on the top of my car since then which has been a hassle because I can’t get into most covered garages. And living in SoCal, we don’t have the space to store it, so we decided we needed to get rid of it. Originally, we were going to sell it on Facebook Marketplace and lose a few hundred dollars on it but I remembered we bought it from REI and we have an REI membership which includes a one-year return policy. So today we were able to return the Yakima to REI and get a full refund for it.
12 p.m. — While we’re already out, I’d been talking about getting a new pair of sneakers and I’ve been eyeing the New Balance 574 Core classics, so we stop by the closest New Balance store and buy them. It has a military discount so we get them 15% off. It was also my birthday last week and we were walking by a Sephora so I stop in for my free birthday gift. $82.42
1:30 p.m. — We get home and eat a late lunch of a mosh posh of leftovers: I have one chicken taco from last night and a single slice of leftover pizza leftover, N. has steak he grilled a few days ago with rice.
4 p.m. — N. and I head to a regional park to go on a walk because it’s beautiful outside. We get in for free because N. has a free veteran annual pass. We talk about where we’re at: We moved to LA about seven months ago for N. to go to grad school and I was looking for a job when we got here, which was incredibly difficult. I was unemployed for five months and we were barely getting by financially until I started a new job two months ago. This week was the first week I didn’t feel an immense amount of money stress.
6:30 p.m. — I have a work trip this week up to San Francisco and I’m finalizing my flights. $159.10 (Expensed)
7 p.m. — Tonight we’re eating a pre-made lasagne that was on sale at Costco with a side salad. We’re watching Gilmore Girls together (it’s N’s first time and my 100th) so we watch an episode of that while eating dinner. We mooch off my parents Netflix account (we actually mooch off friends and family for all of the streaming services we use). I have some gummy bears and Toblerone for dessert. We have an emergency family event that we’re heading out of town for later this week, so we prepay for airport parking — we’ve trialed all the ways to get to the airport and this is most cost effective way we’ve found in LA. $37.82
8:30 p.m. — I think between the workout class and going on a long walk, I’m feeling extra hungry. I search the kitchen for food and settle on a stroopwafel that I saved from a flight I took last week and some trail mix.
Daily Total: $154.61

Day Three

6:45 a.m. — I stumble to the bathroom and I’m confused because I can hear N. messing with the buttons on the oven. It takes me a second to realize it’s daylight savings and he’s adjusting the clocks. I go to the bathroom and then lie back in bed on my phone for a while. I’m super super sore from yesterday’s workout so my body doesn’t really want to move.
7:45 a.m. — I make coffee for N. and I. We sit and talk while drinking our coffee for a bit. We talk about what we each have planned today: N. has some school work and I need to organize my notes and prep for a quiz I’m taking tomorrow in my grad school class.
8:30 a.m. — I make breakfast for myself. Our fresh groceries are running low but I’m leaving on a work trip in a couple days so I don’t know how worth it it would be to go pick to stuff up. I have two eggs with spinach and cheese, half a bagel with butter, and two clementines. I eat that while catching up on a podcast by Dani Austin called De-Influenced. N. makes breakfast for himself a little later.
9:20 a.m. — Since we took off the cargo box from my car, I’m taking off the cross rails. I’m planning on listing these on Facebook Marketplace (these aren’t from REI so we can’t return them). I’ve been wanting to repot one of my plants and since my hands are already dirty, I go ahead and do that. We have a small balcony with all my plants and doing these tasks has really made me want a garage/yard, but I don’t know how likely that’s going to come in the near future.
12 p.m. — I eat some leftover lasagne for lunch and decide that I don’t like it but I hate wasting food. I finish that with some carrots and tzatziki dip and a clementine. I also realize that we desperately need a few groceries to hold us over so I think I’ll head to the store later today. N. goes to the gym and gets a haircut after. $25
1 p.m. — Coffee #2! This time decaf. I sip on that while reviewing some notes from my class that I’m taking. My work covers up to $5,250 annually for tuition and fees if we take any courses related to our job. I took advantage of that and enrolled in a class this semester at a public university nearby. It’s honestly been a lot to work full time and manage this class along with everything else I enjoy doing, so I’m pretty certain I won’t be taking a class next semester.
2:30 p.m. — I take a break to walk to the grocery store since it’s not far and I need at least a little bit of physical movement today. I pick up some things just to get us through the next few days: chicken, milk, Caesar salad kit, berries and some frosted cookies that I saw on sale. $31.40
3 p.m. — N. is home when I get back. I desperately want to do anything other than my homework. I continue procrastinating. For dinner tonight, we really consider going out but begrudgingly decide against it. N. is going to make spaghetti with ground turkey and marinara sauce. We kind of spontaneously decide we want garlic bread — which we don’t have the ingredients for — so N. heads back to the same grocery store I was at to purchase a loaf of bread. $1
6 p.m. — I finally get myself to finish my classwork while N. finishes up making dinner. We eat that while watching a couple episodes of Gilmore Girls. Daylight savings has my body all confused but I try to get to bed before 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $57.40

Day Four

7 a.m. — This is a late wake-up time for me but daylight savings is really getting the best of me right now. I make my coffee for N. and myself and we sit for 20 minutes.
7:45 a.m. — Before starting work, I throw a load of laundry in. When N. and I moved here, one of the top things on our list to have in our apartment was an in-unit washer/dryer. At the time it was really important to us but we downsized when we moved here and I really miss having more space. I think wherever we live next, more bedrooms will be more of a priority.
8 a.m. — Because I woke up late, N. makes breakfast for me while I start working (the usual thing: two eggs with spinach and cheese, berries, and half a bagel with butter). I have a meeting at 9 a.m. so I’m just catching up on anything that happened over the weekend. I hop on the meeting and roll out my walking pad to walk on while the meeting is going. I try to get 10,000 steps everyday even though I sit at a desk all day. My walking pad has really helped make that much easier.
12 p.m. — I’m getting hungry and I have a meeting at 12:30 p.m. so I want to finish lunch before that. I made the same lunch from a few days ago, which is a go-to for me: a chicken Caesar salad wrap with a clementine and some pita crackers.
1:30 p.m. — I make myself an iced coffee from the French press. I also made coffee ice cubes so my iced coffee doesn’t get watered down and that is perfection *chef’s kiss*.
2 p.m. — My meeting wraps up and I decided I’m going to break early to go to the gym. I’m leaving tomorrow for my work trip and I know I won’t be working out this week as much as I’d like.
4 p.m. — Monday nights I have class but my class is hybrid so I do it from home. At the beginning of the semester, I went to class in-person and I really enjoyed doing that but I was getting so stressed with how little time I had for myself during the week (driving to and from class took two hours out of my weeknights), so I decided from here on out that I’d do the class remotely.
6 p.m. — Classes on Monday end with a quiz so as soon as I was done with that I put together dinner for myself. I had the last of the leftover lasagne with some chicken that N. grills, and a frosted cookie. N. heads out to meet with friends (he eats dinner before he goes out).
6:30 p.m. — We need to book a return flight for N. for the family event that we’re going to later this week — I had already gotten my flight back. $253.11
8 p.m. — Since I dipped earlier to go to the gym, I log back in to do a some more work. I’m super super hungry still so I get a variety of snacks: trail mix, clementine, a cheese stick, carrots, and dip.
10 p.m. — I watch YouTube videos until N. gets home and we go to sleep.
Daily Total: $253.11

Day Five

4 a.m. — I wake up from a wild dream but couldn’t tell you a thing that happened in it. I can’t go back to sleep immediately so I’ve accepted that when I do eventually fall back asleep I’ll probably be sleeping later than normal. I finally fall back asleep around 5:30 a.m.
7:30 a.m. — I finally wake up because sh*t’s gotta get done. I make coffee and start the morning. I get “ready” — meaning I brush my teeth, brush my hair and apply SPF moisturizer.
8:30 a.m. — I log in. Today some of my team is traveling (including me later today) but we also have a deadline in a couple days so we are grinding to get that together. N. makes breakfast for me again which I’m very thankful for.
12 p.m. — I make my go to lunch: a chicken Caesar wrap with a clementine, crackers, and carrots but I felt full after the wrap and clementine so I put the crackers and carrots back.
12:30 p.m. — I have counseling. I’d say a good majority of our income goes to our individual therapy. It’s really important to both of us (as mentioned, N. is studying to be a licensed therapist). I went to therapy every other week when I was looking for a job because money was tight, but I’m probably going to go back to every week very soon. $100
2:30 p.m. — I do some last-minute packing and decide to wash my hair before I leave because I get in pretty late and I don’t want to worry about it tonight. I don’t normally blowdry my hair but today I do because it’s going to make tomorrow morning much easier.
4 p.m. — I order an Uber to the airport and it’s not my favorite Uber ride. It’s long, bumpy and traffic-y but I make it. $67.16 (Expensed)
5 p.m. — I have access to some airport lounges with my airline status so I head to the lounge, which is pretty much empty. Sometimes I get to the airport early to hang out in the lounge just because it means I’m not rushed for my flight and I can get a free meal. I grab a decaf latte and a sparkling water. I watch some YouTube videos. Later for dinner, I have chicken tacos with a side salad and they have an array of sides so I try them all (my favorite was the pesto pasta). Tacos were okay. I finish off with a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie which was surprisingly really good.
6:15 p.m. — I head to the terminal my flight is flying out of and make sure to fill my water bottle up before getting on the plane. On the flight, I read a couple chapters of Have I Told You This Already?
8:30 p.m. — Finally landed and off the plane. I order an Uber to the hotel. The traffic is gnarly. $93.50 (Expensed)
9:30 p.m. — I unpack enough to take a shower and snuggle into bed. Something about staying in a hotel alone makes me feel uneasy. When I first got into the room, I propped the door open with my suitcase and checked any place in the room that a person could hide. I saw a flight attendant video that showed what she does when she gets to hotel rooms. You prop the door open so you can escape in case there’s someone inside. Some may call me paranoid.
10:30 p.m. — It’s bedtime.
Daily Total: $100

Day Six

4:30 a.m. — Not a good night of sleep. I could hear everything happening outside my hotel room. I lie in bed until I need to get up.
5:30 a.m. — We have a proposal due today and since half my team is in all-day meetings with another client, this is the only time that works for everyone. I do the meeting while still in bed. Genuinely not something I want to become a habit (doing work that early). I get ready while this call is going on.
7:30 a.m. — I meet the rest of my team (three other people) in the hotel lobby. I eat a sub-par hotel breakfast and coffee before we head over to meet our client.
8 a.m. — There is the cutest café outside where we are meeting. My colleagues get coffee and those who didn’t eat breakfast order food. I haven’t drunk all my coffee because it’s not good, and my manager jokes and tells me to throw it out and order a “real” coffee. I order a 12oz latte with whole milk. My manager pays for it with his corporate card. I note in my head for tomorrow to not eat the hotel breakfast.
8:30 a.m. — Our meetings start. My coworker and I are the most junior level people here. I feel a little imposter syndrome. I’m pretty sure my manager brought us so we could learn under him but be able to charge it to the client. So far, I really enjoy working for my manager, which I’m thankful for. They had me working with someone else when I started, and I had a lot of issues with him (I came to find out that a lot of people have issues with him). I am learning a lot in this meeting, but our other work hasn’t slowed down, so I have to focus on other things while in these in-person meetings, which isn’t ideal.
12 p.m. — We break for lunch. My team and I go out together to a restaurant. I order a turkey sandwich that’s way too salty, with a side salad. I eat the salad and half the sandwich. My manager pays with his corporate card.
1 p.m. — We head back to our meeting place for part two of meetings. Someone brings Girl Scout cookies which taste divine.
4:15 p.m. — Our meetings end. My team works in telecommunications, so we visit some sites where utility poles and internet cabinets are located.
5:30 p.m. — We head back to our hotel and say we’re going to reconvene in an hour for dinner. I get back to my room and feel like I can breathe. I’m an introvert and prefer being by myself which was part of why I prioritized finding a remote job. I was willing to take a pay cut if that meant I could work from home. I can handle work trips in short periods of time but anything more than that and I think my job would drain me.
6:30 p.m. — One of my coworkers used to live here so he brings us to a place he recommends for dinner. It’s a taco place that he’d raved about. It’s not that great to me. I get a burrito that I don’t finish. We sit and talk for a while. Then the same coworker suggests we drive into SF (we were closer to San Jose), which we agree to. Little did I know we were going to take an hour-long drive, with a grand tour of the Bay Area, all to sit in a bar/restaurant for 30 minutes and drive an hour back. I think I would’ve rather taken the night to myself in my hotel room. Meanwhile back home, I think N. is running low on food — he goes to get Chipotle because we have a gift card.
10:30 p.m. — I finally get back to my hotel room. I quickly shower and get into bed. I popped a couple ZzzQuil tablets and fall right asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

5:30 a.m. — I wake up to people hustling and bustling outside my hotel room. I don’t have to get up for another 45 minutes so I’m definitely staying in bed.
6:15 a.m. — I finally get up and start getting ready. I feel pretty well rested, surprisingly. Probably because I took ZzzQuil. This is our last day here, so I pack up all my things and I head to check out. I take a quick shower because I’m not going to be able to shower tonight. $583.54 (Expensed)
6:45 a.m. — Today is an earlier start to the day because we’re meeting with a vendor at 7:30 a.m. We head over to meet the vendor — which is in a different location than where we were yesterday — but I’m told we’re going to go back to where we were yesterday (to where the yummy coffee café is), so I hold off on breakfast/coffee.
8 a.m. — After meeting with the vendor, I’m told we’re staying here for our meetings today (i.e. not only no yummy café but also no breakfast for me). Someone goes and grabs coffee for us but none of my team eats breakfast. I probably should speak up for myself more but I settle for eating a protein bar and some nuts that I had packed from home.
10 a.m. — I hear from the property manager of our rental house that there’s been another leak. My heart drops because I know that just means more $$$. Fortunately, I have a contractor that did work on my family house growing up who I really trust. He repaired the original leak after the property manager brought in a plumber who wanted $800 just to diagnose the leak. That was a ludicrous number to me so I called my contractor who diagnosed and repaired for $1,200. My contractor heads over very promptly and he sends me video updates as he finds the issue. Now I’m just waiting to hear how much it’s going to cost.
12:30 p.m. — Our meeting ends earlier than I was expecting. My team goes out to lunch and I get a really delicious chicken pesto sandwich with tomato soup. My manager pays with his corporate card.
2 p.m. — I get a text from my contractor for the leaking pipe repair and pay him via Zelle. $450
2:30 p.m. — My manager orders us an Uber to the airport together to head home. My flight isn’t until 9 p.m. so my manager and I do some work at the airport before his flight leaves.
4 p.m. — I head to the airport lounge I can access. My boss leaves to catch his flight and I just breathe. I feel like I’ve been go, go, go for the last couple days and I’m so tired. I go change into comfy clothes, get a cookie and watch some YouTube videos to relax.
6 p.m. — I missed class yesterday because of our meetings so I watch the Zoom recording of it. I didn’t do well on my quiz on Monday and I’m kind of stressing about it even though I’m just trying to finish the class so I can get reimbursed.
7:30 p.m. — I’m only semi-hungry so I have two cups of soup from the lounge buffet. I also have Coke Zero and sparkling water. I remember that the lounge has showers and I get excited for a second because that means I could shower before my redeye, but both showers are out of service.
9 p.m. — I board my redeye flight to DC for my family event. N. took an earlier flight from LA and he just landed in DC. I take a couple ZzzQuil and try to get as comfy as I can to sleep.
Daily Total: $450

The Breakdown

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