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A Week In Northern California On A $140,000 Salary

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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.

Today: a self-employed psychologist working in healthcare who makes $140,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on popcorn at the movies.
Occupation: Self-employed psychologist
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 35
Location: Northern California
Salary: $140,000
Net Worth: $306,114 (checking: $1,225; HYSA: $20,000; Roth IRA: $48,442; 401(k): $37,187; investment account: $17,287; HSA: $4,152; home: $485,000; car: $30,000; minus mortgage and car loan)
Debt: $337,179 (mortgage: $323,634; car loan: $13,545)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month ): $4,303.64
Pronouns: (She/her)

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,015.68 (This includes insurance and taxes. I own a home that I purchased in 2018. My partner lives with me and pays me $1,300 per month to cover rent and all bills.)
Internet: $52
Phone: $60 (I’m on a family plan with my brother and his wife, and this is my portion.) 
Gas: $20–150
Electricity: $50–250
Trash, Recycling & Green Waste: $100
Water: $50–100 (I keep a garden and fruit trees, and we get zero rain in summer, so I pay more during those months.)
Lawn Care: $70
Car Loan: $397.66
Car Insurance: $110
Health Insurance: $450 (I have to pay insurance through the marketplace because I’m self-employed.)
Dental Insurance: $15
Gym Membership: $90
Netflix: $15
HSA: $200
401(k): $1,860
Savings & Investments: $1,500 (I keep $20,000 in an emergency fund. Once I go over that amount, I invest the rest each month.)
Planned Parenthood Donation: $50
Access Fund Donation: $50

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, I was always good in school and enjoyed learning and reading. I assumed that I would go to college and I think my parents did as well. I received a full academic scholarship for my undergraduate education. I had saved about $9,000 from working in high school and that got me through my first year of living in the dorms. For the rest of my college career, I worked two jobs to pay my rent, food, and other bills. I went to a fully funded PhD program and received a small stipend in return for working for the university.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents took a very sink-or-swim approach to teaching me about money. I had jobs starting in elementary school and I was responsible for having the money to do anything that I wanted. One of my earliest money memories is wanting desperately to go to an elementary school carnival but not being allowed because I hadn’t saved up enough money. I was responsible for paying for at least part of every sport or activity that I did and if I didn’t have the money I was out of luck! My dad also taught me the basics of investment, interest rates, and retirement funds.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started babysitting for families in my neighborhood in elementary school. I also had a monthly job stuffing envelopes for a local company. My first W-2 job was at a restaurant as soon as I turned 16. With how my parents approached things, I was extremely motivated to have a job and make money from a young age so that I could do the things my friends were doing.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn’t worry about my family’s ability to provide for my basic needs. We had a comfortable life, and my parents were never on the verge of financial disaster, though they had periods of having more or less money during my childhood. I did worry about my own money! As a child, things felt so big and powerful, and when I couldn’t do an activity that all my friends were doing because I didn’t have the money, I was always very sure that I would never recover from the injustice.

Do you worry about money now?
I worry about money less now than I ever have in my adult life. Since I was in school for so many years, I lived on a tight budget. I always had enough, but didn’t have a safety net. Now, I feel comfortable, able to handle unexpected expenses, and have the ability to save for retirement.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself as soon as I turned 18. I moved out of my parent’s home and have lived on my own ever since. My parents did cover me on their health insurance until I was 19, and then I took over that bill as well. My parents wouldn’t let me die but they aren’t a financial safety net — they wouldn’t help me out of a financial disaster, and I wouldn’t ask. My partner or any number of close friends would help me if they were able to, but my savings are my only real safety net.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I started graduate school, I purchased a home close to the college I was attending. A family member gave me a loan to cover the down payment, and I lived there and rented out the other bedrooms for all five years of graduate school. When I graduated, I sold the home, paid back the loan in full, and split the gained equity with the family member who had loaned me the money (this was agreed upon in advance). So I guess this was a loan, not inherited income, but I think it’s important to mention because it helped me purchase my current home and definitely is a huge point of the privilege that I have.

Day One

6:10 a.m. — I wake up 30 minutes before my alarm. I lay there for a few minutes, then decide to get up and get ready for my run. I eat a Larabar, fill my water bladder, and jump in the car. I drive out to a trail system in the foothills. I’m training for a marathon (and an ultra-marathon after that), and I’m supposed to be meeting some other women to run at 7:30 a.m. I get there at 6:45 a.m. Everyone else is running eight miles, and I need to run 18, so I get started. I run four miles, then circle back and meet up with the crew. We run nine hilly miles, then I run another five on my own. After I finish, I get a text from the running crew saying that they’re at a local coffee shop. I drive over and order a chai tea and a bagel with eggs, cheese, tomato, avocado, and spouts. I’m convinced that this is the best bagel in the entire world. $13.41
12 p.m. — I get home, and my partner, B., is working in the yard. We’ve been working on a yard project little by little for the past year, and he suddenly decided that today is the day to actually complete it. I appreciate his enthusiasm but I have none. I grab a bubble water and rally. We work in the yard for most of the afternoon and finish the project. It looks nice. B. purchased all the supplies for this project because it’s his brainchild. I feel a bit guilty whenever he spends money making my house better because he has no ownership, but we’ve talked it out several times, and he wants to do these projects so *shrugs*.
5:30 p.m. — My good friends are out of town this week, and I’m taking care of their cats. so I drive over to their place and refill the automatic feeder and water bowl. They’re happy to see a human, but I’m allergic so I give them a few pats and then quickly wash my hands. On my way home, I stop at the grocery store to get food for the week: shrimp, ground turkey, bacon, eggs, chicken, peppers, bread, milk, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, onions, spinach, and herbs. $82.27
7:30 p.m. — My day catches up to me, and I’m dead. B. is also dead. We stare at each other and discuss how hungry we are. This is clearly a game of chicken to see who is going to cook. I will not be cooking so I order a pizza, and we make a salad from ingredients that we have on hand. While I pick up the pizza, B. throws rice in the rice cooker and chops veggies for my lunches. After we eat, I cook the ground turkey and put together four lunches for the upcoming week. We watch TV before going to bed. $24.19
Daily Total: $119.87

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm again and convince B. to lift before work. We head into the garage and complete a short workout consisting of bench press, shoulder presses, deadlifts, abs, and kettlebell swings. The dogs watch us and “help” by standing in the exact wrong place at all times. We chat about our upcoming week and debate if we should take our dogs on our weekend trip. We go over some pros and cons but don’t come to a consensus. I make us both toast with romesco, kale, and an egg for breakfast, and then head to work.
12 p.m. — I take a break and eat the lunch that I prepped yesterday: rice with ground turkey, tons of veggies, and a spicy sauce. My morning has been chill, which has allowed me to tackle some of the outstanding items on my running business to-do list.
6 p.m. — I rush home from work because we have tickets to see a movie with friends at 7 tonight. B. has already started dinner, and we quickly eat and hit the road. We make it to the movie just in time, and one of our friends has been panicking while trying to save our seats in the busy theatre. Another friend is in line at the concession and asks if we want anything. I ask him to grab a small popcorn and drink and I venmo him $11 for it. B. eats most of the popcorn, but I guess that’s the cost of love. After the movie, we hang around chatting with friends, then head home and go to bed. $11
Daily Total: $11

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I wake up feeling lazy and stay in bed and cuddle. We eventually get up, walk the dogs, and I make the same breakfast as yesterday: toast, romesco, veggies, and egg. We eat breakfast and play a few card games before I head to work.
12 p.m. — Lunch is another meal-prepped meal. I chat with colleagues about the upcoming holidays, and my coworker gives me leftover Halloween candy. I eat M&M’s and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
5:30 p.m. — I swing by the gas station on the way home and fill up my car. I’m thrilled that I find gas for under $5 per gallon; it’s funny how our perception of gas prices just keeps changing. I get home and do another hour of work before hopping on a Zoom call for a non-profit I volunteer with. We finished up a major project that took a ton of time and effort this summer, and everyone seems happy to coast along before committing to any other major projects. We chat about ideas for 2024 and review the budget. While I’m on the call, B. gets home from the gym and starts cooking dinner. We (mostly him) have been cooking our way through a cookbook, doing one or two recipes per week. This week it’s a gochujang shrimp dish with polenta and kale. He used to be a chef in fine dining restaurants, so it’s 10/10 delicious as always. We take the dogs for a stroll in the neighborhood. $76.34
9 p.m. — I have a weed gummy because I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently, and B. and I go to the hot tub to chill and chat before bed. About 10 minutes into hot tub time, I panic and remember that I was supposed to take care of my friend’s cats again today. We hop out, and B. drives me over to their house. The weed kicks in, and I’m pretty sure I’m on another planet. I get wildly introspective and forget to talk, so I’m not good company on the drive. I take care of the cats, and then we go home to bed.
Daily Total: $76.34

Day Four

6 a.m. — I wake up early to meet a friend for a run. We run six miles and chat about work, weekend plans, and good recipes that we’ve tried recently. I go home, shower, grab a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola, and head off to work.
1 p.m. — I have a hectic morning and haven’t had a chance to eat until now. I’m a very hungry person, so this is not acceptable. I have another meal-prepped meal (same as the past two), then do another hour of work, and go home to take my last few calls from there. I take a brief break to pull up weeds that are creeping in the garden.
6 p.m. — I finish up at work and call an out-of-town friend to chat. I put on headphones for the call and clean up the kitchen and feed the dogs while we catch up. I have lived in several different states so I have many close friends that I don’t see very often. We talk about our dogs, relationships, work, and my friend shares some pictures of an art piece she has been working on. I’m endlessly in awe of my artistic friends. While we are chatting, I get a text from another out-of-town friend who lets me know that they’ve picked a wedding date and venue for 2024! I finish up with friend one and chat for a while with friend two about her wedding plans. I’m very excited to celebrate her next summer, and we make tentative plans for her and her fiancé to come visit in early 2024.
7:30 p.m. — I recently joined a volleyball league, so I head over to the rec center for my weekly game. I don’t love team sports but I have always enjoyed a game of pick-up volleyball so I decided to give it a go. I paid $80 for the league up front, so there’s no cost today. Our team loses, and honestly we played pretty poorly. Oh well! I head home and find that the kitchen smells great, but B. and the dogs are nowhere to be found. I assume that B. is walking the dogs, so I head out on our normal route and catch up to him. We walk and chat about our days. When we get back, B. starts pulling together chicken noodle soup, and I chop up veggies. We eat dinner and play a few rounds of cards. I’m feeling pretty tired and have an early day tomorrow so I read in bed while B. watches TV.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — I wake up early to meet a running group. I truly hate getting up before 6 a.m. I can get up at 6 a.m. everyday and feel great but push it to 5:55 a.m. and I’m unhappy. I really like the women in this running group, so I’ve been trying to go at least once per week to the early runs. I do a three-mile warm-up with the group, then peel off to do a three-mile workout followed by a three-mile cooldown. I head home and find B. in the hot tub. I jump in for about 10 minutes but have to start getting ready for work. I shower, make breakfast (toast, avocado, tomato, and egg), and head to work.
11:30 a.m. — I’m so hungry. I eat my lunch (same meal-prepped lunch as before) and also have a fig bar and peanuts. I do some scheduling over my lunch break, trying to coordinate dog care for an upcoming international trip next month. Having dogs adds a layer of complication to all travel. I think I have everything covered between two different friends, our normal dog walker, and one of my employees who volunteers to dog sit for a few days (I will pay her). I have a few cancellations this afternoon so I’m not feeling motivated to get back to work but I try to get it together and focus.
4:30 p.m. — I leave work a bit early thanks to the cancellations, and I swing by the grocery store on my way home. B. and I are going to Yosemite this weekend, and I pick up some things that we need for the trip. I grab apples, deli meat, cheese, avocados, spinach, sausage, broccoli, sweet potatoes, chips, and yogurt pretzels. B. and I usually split food costs week by week. So one week I will buy all the groceries and the next week he will. Obviously this has been my week. $45.82
6 p.m. — I get home, and B. has made a salad for dinner. Of course it’s not a simple salad like I would make. It’s gourmet with multiple sauces and totally delicious. We eat and play card games, then get ready to head out for a show. A group of six friends all have season passes to the Broadway shows in our area, and we have one tonight. We drive downtown, and I pay for parking. B. swings into the 7-Eleven and buys candy for the show, and we head in. $3.75
10 p.m. — The show is very fun! I love a good musical but I’m tired from getting up at 5:30 a.m. this morning so I crash as soon as we get home.
Daily Total: $49.57

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and try to convince myself that I don’t need to get out of bed, even though I know I do. I eventually get up and head out for six easy miles. I get home, shower, take the dogs for a quick walk, and make breakfast for B. and me: tacos with Brussels sprouts, onions, peppers, and eggs. Today is a half-day of work because we’re heading to Yosemite, and I’m feeling cheerful!
12:30 p.m. — I’m finished with work. I run out of prepped lunches so I grab a quick salad from Chipotle on my way home. I get chicken, rice, veggies, corn, and guac ($12.88). I always skip the beans at Chipotle because they make me feel like I’m going to poop my pants. At home, I pay a bill for a dermatology appointment I had last month. I have a high-deductible health plan, so basically nothing is covered, and I have to pay $199.85. $212.73
1 p.m. — B. has the day off work today and he has basically done all the packing. All I need to do is pack my clothes, double check that he packed all the climbing gear, and we hit the road. We did eventually decide to take the dogs on this trip, so they’re all loaded up. They’re both old and getting a little weird with age. One of them is on drugs and blissfully unaware of where his body is in space, and the other is suspicious about where we are going and having big feelings.
5:45 p.m. — We make it to Yosemite and start setting up our site. It’s extremely hard to get camping sites, and I booked this one about four months ago and paid for it when I booked. We have a small travel trailer, and we get everything unhooked from the car, get the twinkle lights out, and start making dinner. We make a kimchi stew recipe that we’ve been obsessed with for the past few weeks and serve it over rice. We hang out by the fire and are joined by a few friends that are also in the Valley for the weekend. We chat until everyone gets too cold and heads to bed.
Daily Total: $212.73

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I wake up warm and bundled up in bed. It’s quite cold outside, and I’m not motivated to leave my bubble. Of course, I desperately need to pee. I lay there and try to convince myself that it isn’t so bad (it is). Eventually, I give in and head out into the cold. I pee and look in on the dogs (they sleep in the car because the trailer is tiny and doesn’t have enough room for dogs and humans). They’re both passed out, so I get back into bed. I read until B. wakes up and seems motivated to take the dogs on a long walk. Dogs are allowed in Yosemite but only on pavement, so they won’t be going on today’s adventure. After an hour of walking, they’re both dragging, and we head back to camp to make breakfast. We make a sweet potato hash with eggs and bacon, get the dogs settled in the trailer for the day, and head out to climb.
4:45 p.m. — We spend all day climbing with two of our good friends who we met up with last night. It’s a great day — sunny but not too hot, perfect climbing temps! We go back to camp and take the dogs on another walk.
6 p.m. — Our friends hang out to chat, and we make a dinner of pasta with pesto, veggies, and sausage. I make an apple crumble dessert in the cast iron over the fire, and it turns out yummy. We all hang out by the fire until we get cold and then head to bed. I read for a while before settling in to sleep.
Daily Total: $0
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