A Week In Orange County, CA, On $21.20 Per Hour

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.
Today: a receptionist at a law firm who makes $21.20 per hour and spends some of her money this week on Method dish soap.
Occupation: Receptionist
Industry: Law
Age: 25
Location: Orange County, CA
Income: I make $21.20/hour. This comes to $44,100.16 per year pre-tax and $30,041.52 post-tax.
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,251.73
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $880 for my half (I share a one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, B.)
Student Loan Payment: $159
Electric: $20-$50, depending on the time of year, split with B.
Cable/Wifi: $160, split with B., who needed the most expensive package so that he could watch NFL RedZone.
Health Insurance: $0 (I'm still on my parents' plan for another six months, and I'm thoroughly basking in the glory.)
Phone: $32 (I'm on my parents' plan, but I Venmo my dad for my share.)
Car Payment: $256 (This comes out of a separate account that contains the full amount of the loan, which I received from my grandparents' inheritance.)
Car Insurance: $93
HelloFresh: $288 (split evenly with B.)
Netflix & Hulu: I use my sister's account. (Thanks, big sis.)
Spotify Premium: $15
Book Of The Month: $15 (every two or three months)
Roth IRA: $84.81 deducted pre-tax from each paycheck
Savings: Anywhere from $300-$700. It depends on the month and how much I force myself to put away. The rest of the inheritance I received from my grandparents I put in a mutual fund. I'm hoping to use this money one day for my eventual honeymoon and to save for a down payment on a house.
Annual Expenses
Thrive Market: $59.95

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Slowly, and I mean slowly, I get out of bed. My cats are meowing for breakfast and I'm surprised they didn't wake me up around 6 like they normally do. After I feed them, I put some water on to boil and make myself white tea. Turn on a podcast, shower, makeup, curl my hair with my curling wand, and make some eggs with avocado and toast with butter for breakfast. I'm out the door by 9.
9:30 a.m. — At my desk, I grab my phone to see a video from B., who is home this week. He left about four days ago and won't be home until next week. While it's nice to have the place to myself, I miss him tons.
12 p.m. — Snacking on some cheese-flavored cashews from Graze, my absolute favorite midday snack, while catching up on work from last week when I was out sick with the flu. I help with a lot of projects from different departments — pretty much any work that can be done from my desk since I have to answer the phones. It helps break up the monotony of being a receptionist, plus I like the variety, as I'm still trying to figure out what to do with my life.
2 p.m. — Lunch is leftovers from last night: a spinach salad with roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with a chicken thigh. I'm honestly so over chicken at the moment, but I force myself to eat it for the protein.
6 p.m. — Finally off work! Time to head home and get started on dinner. I'm trying HelloFresh because I had a coupon, so on the menu tonight is green chicken curry. It takes about 40 minutes, but it actually comes together nicely! After I finish eating, I pack up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
11 p.m. — It's been a lazy night. After a major kitchen clean, I've mainly been on the couch watching Vanderpump Rules, which I recently started bingeing. I tell myself that I will only watch the first part of the season three reunion for season, but why not finish what I started? I watch the second part and fall asleep by 12:30 a.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — My cat must have sensed that my alarm was about to go off, because she jumped on me and meowed in my face just seconds before it did. Time for cat breakfast! I put water on to boil for some white tea and lie back in bed with my other cat while I wait for it. I know getting ready will be quicker today because I won't be curling my hair since it's a wash day, so I savor the few extra minutes in my comfy bed.
8:30 a.m. — Whip up some scrambled eggs and make toast with avocado on top. I'm not much of a breakfast person, but I've found that this combo keeps me full almost up until my lunch. I watch an episode of Vanderpump while I eat and head out the door by 9 a.m.
10 a.m. — Wow, I am so not in the mood for work today. I have a few things to finish up before the weekend, but all I want to do is read Money Diaries and research oil diffusers. (I kind of want to buy one at Target, but I'm not sure if I actually need it.)
1 p.m. — I'm only just now getting a little hungry. I grab one of my cocoa oat square snack packs from Graze (I just recently cancelled that subscription but still have some snack packs) that I keep at work and pledge to focus on work for the next hour before I take my lunch.
2 p.m. — Made it! Lunch today is leftover green chicken curry from last night's dinner. I get a sudden craving for a Dr. Pepper (I rarely drink soda but when I do, I only want Dr. Pepper) and search through all of our conference rooms for one until victory is mine! I watch the rest of the Vanderpump episode I started this morning, then read my book for the remainder of my lunch. I'm obsessed with Jodi Picoult's writing and have read all of her books, so I'm currently reading her newest: A Spark of Light.
3:30 p.m. — Alright, time to actually focus. I've done some work here and there throughout the day but haven't really gotten much done. My mind has already clocked out. I decide to put on a focus playlist, close all my open tabs, and get shit done.
6 p.m. — Clocking out for the weekend!!! I head home while listening to Ariana Grande's newest album Sweetener. Honestly, she's a force to be reckoned with.
7 p.m. — My cats are very talkative tonight — they must have had a crazy day. I get myself an 805 to honor Friday and get started on dinner, which is a pumpkin and white cheddar grilled cheese with an apple and pecan spinach salad. I have been loving learning new recipes and how to really cook with this food subscription, which I'll probably enjoy for a few more months as I build my recipe arsenal. For now, I'll spoil myself with not grocery shopping and having to put together recipes on my own!
10 p.m. — I've watched too much Vanderpump and need some mental stimulation, so I get into bed and read my book. I don't put it down until I finish it around 12:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

11 a.m. — I woke up so late today, and I'm surprised that my cats didn't wake me up for breakfast super early. I think they wanted to take advantage of the extra cuddle time. I make some green tea with lemon, fry up some eggs, and put them in a burrito with some avocado. My favorite combo.
2 p.m. — After spending half an hour vacuuming all the cat litter around my house, I get my journal and tarot cards and do a year-ahead spread: I pull 12 cards to represent each month and one card that will represent the overall theme for the year. I love reading tarot cards because I use them for journaling — they really help me single out different aspects of my life that I don't always reflect on. My mom gave me a new journal for Christmas, so I use the first few pages reflecting on the cards I pulled for each month. It'll be fun to look back during the year on what these cards really meant.
3:45 p.m. — Quick brow threading appointment ($10 with a $3 tip). I go every three weeks, and it's just my favorite thing. I've been going to the same threader for almost two years, and I can pretty much never leave her at this point. Then I head to Home Depot to make two copies of my apartment key, one for my parents and one for my sister. They've been bugging me about it for a few weeks, so I'm happy to finally cross this off my list ($4.25). $17.25
5 p.m. — Stop for gas because it's cheaper here than where I live. I only need half a tank, but I figure I might as well fill up now, and I'm going to be picking up B. at LAX and will need the gas sooner rather than later. $22.33
6 p.m. — I meet a friend for waffle sandwiches at Bruxie. I usually get the turkey sandwich, but this time I try the mushroom and goat cheese sandwich, and I am so glad I did. Who doesn't love goat cheese? We alternate who pays for our dinner dates, and now it's his turn. We head to Starbucks afterwards for tea, and I pay with money I've already loaded onto the app. I find a cute purse at a boutique next door and have to have it. $46
9 p.m. — I stop by my parent's house because they're having game night with some of our relatives. I tell my mom about my new purse, and she reminds me that I literally just told her I need to stop spending money. I completely forgot about saying that, it's like I blacked out once I walked into that boutique. I promise her that I'll start. After some rounds of charades and some appetizers that everyone has brought, I head home to my cats. Just two more nights without B....I'm so close.
Daily Total: $85.58

Day Four

6 a.m. — Cats are back to their regular eating schedule.
10 a.m. — Get out of bed pretty late again. I fall asleep so late when B. isn't here, and my sleep schedule gets all out of whack. I make some white tea and another egg and avocado burritos for breakfast. I'm pretty starving, so I add a piece of sausage to each burrito.
12 p.m. — My friend sends me a text asking if I can do a year-ahead spread for her as well. I tell her that it would work best if she were here to shuffle and pull the cards herself, but she recently broke off an engagement and asks if I can do it for her. I happily accept and get to work on her spread!
3 p.m. — It was B.'s birthday like two weeks ago and there are still banners and ribbons hanging all around the house. I finally take a few minutes to take everything down and put the decorations away. I check my account and see that my monthly payment for Book of the Month went through. You're only billed for the months you choose a book, and I don't get one every month because I typically get a few books as gifts here or there. My parents gifted this subscription to me for my last birthday, and it's been my favorite thing.
5 p.m. — My friend comes over for some girl talk. She's a friend from my last job, and we got pretty close when we worked together and have maintained a great friendship since. We talk for hours and grab some McDonald's for dinner. I get two cheeseburgers with a Dr. Pepper and large fries. I pay for her meal but she Venmos me as we drive back to my place. $8
9 p.m. — B. is coming back tomorrow morning! I clean up a little bit around the house and then head to the shower to shave my legs. As I rarely shave my legs, I figure it will be a nice "welcome home" gift.
10 p.m. — I've got to try to sleep early tonight because I'm picking B. up at LAX at 7 a.m., which means I'll leave here at about 6:30. I download another episode of A Teacher's Pet so that I have it in my queue.
Daily Total: $8

Day Five

6 a.m. — Wake up so I can check B.'s flight status. He's on time to arrive a little after 7, so I set an alarm so I can sleep for another half hour before driving to LAX. Traffic is nonexistent at this hour, and it's not busy at all at the airport, so picking him up is relatively smooth. It feels so good to hug him!!!! The drive back is quick, and we catch up the whole way home.
10 a.m. — After our reunion, we nap for a few hours, and he heads to work for a bit. I slowly get up and indulge in some chi chi dango that B. brought back for me. Honestly my favorite little treat ever. I try not to eat the entire box.
12 p.m. — I pull the sheets off the bed to much protest from the cats, and grab a few other things to put into the wash. I have to reload our wash card, but it's B.'s turn to pay so I grab the $20 he left me. That will last us about three weeks.
2 p.m. — B. is home from work and goes to take a nap with the cats, so I head out to Sprouts for a few groceries. We're going to a friend's murder mystery party tonight for New Year's Eve, so I grab a few of the ready-made fettuccine Alfredo to-go boxes for my contribution to the potluck. I also grab avocados, bananas, a bag of linguini, a can of marinara sauce, a can of Alfredo sauce, two bags of frozen orange chicken, and a carton of eggs. At checkout, I see a Sprouts chapstick in a mango and coconut flavor. I figure I should get it to keep in my new purse (each purse has its own resident chapstick, as well as my car, my living room coffee table, and my desk at work). Sprouts also does this thing where they make a goodie bag of essentials to hand out to homeless people, so I buy one of those too. It's a little expensive for a market-donation thing, but I'm in a festive, giving mood. $56.35
3 p.m. — Target is right next door, and I need to get some deodorant and dish soap. I decide to try out the aluminum-free brand Native, as my usual aluminum-free deodorant isn't in stock. I grab a bottle of Method dish soap and also a new set of dish towels, since the ones I bought from IKEA when we moved in a few months ago are falling apart already. I grab a bag of cat food so that I can hopefully stay away from Target for awhile and head out. $37.94
4 p.m. — When I get home, I realize with complete horror that the dish soap somehow opened up and, since I had placed it on top of the bag with my groceries, has gotten all over everything. I have to completely rinse each product and I'm left with only ¼ of dish soap in the bottle. I'm immediately grumpy and resign to the couch to watch some Vanderpump.
7 p.m. — After relaxing with B. for a bit and heating up the fettuccini Alfredo, we head out to the party. It's about 15 minutes away and there are zero people on the roads, so it's an easy drive. The theme for the murder mystery is the 1890s, and everyone is thoroughly dressed up except for us. We tried our best with what we already owned, but there don't compare to our friends who really went for it, accents and all!
11:30 p.m. — We leave the party because we are just so exhausted after getting up early this morning, and B. is about to fall asleep. We get home just in time to watch the ball drop and have a mini toast with my favorite champagne (Veuve Clicquot Brut Rose), which I already had in the fridge. We're asleep by 1 a.m. Thank u 2018, next!
Daily Total: $94.29

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up surprisingly early for a day off. B. is still asleep but the cats are calling my name, so I head over to feed them and make my tea for the morning.
10 a.m. — B. is awake, so we watch some Vanderpump Rules on the couch and drink tea. We make breakfast soon after, which is eggs with avocado, toast with butter, and some maple chicken sausage from Trader Joe's. We head back to the couch with blankets and don't move for a few hours.
3 p.m. — Wow, we are so lazy. We've been watching Vanderpump all day, so we switch from the drama and finally watch Bandersnatch. I've been waiting for B. to come home so we could watch it together, and I wouldn't have to make the decisions by myself. It's so intense! Black Mirror always comes up with the best ideas, and we are so amazed. We take some time going through the alternate endings, but we have a few more to explore that we save for another day.
6 p.m. — I pull myself off the couch and make a huge batch of Alfredo pasta with capers for dinner and lunches this week. We love HelloFresh, but there aren't leftovers when you cook for two, and we don't want to up our subscription, so we try to come up with something easy for lunches. Once dinner is made, we finish off my fancy champagne and watch one last movie on Netflix, The Constant Gardener. Super good, but super sad. We clean up the house and get into bed by 10 p.m. Even though we have a short work week, we are absolutely dreading getting back into the swing of things. We want to get to bed early so we can start the year off on a good note!
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — B. is already getting ready for work, and I hear the cats meowing at him. It's funny how much they love to talk. I hear him feed them their breakfast, so I roll over and sleep for another few minutes. I finally get up once he leaves for work and go through my normal routine. Breakfast is as usual: eggs with avocado and toast with butter, with some white tea on the side.
10 a.m. — My work best friend is back from her vacation, so we spend the morning chatting and catching up. The office is pretty slow today and a lot of people are out. My priority for this month is to up my water intake, so I take a lot of bathroom breaks.
3 p.m. — Lunchtime! I have pasta leftovers and half of a donut I find in our office kitchen. I've decided that for the first time ever, I won't make a resolution of trying to lose weight. I'm going to eat healthier and also eat whatever I want at the same time. I'll work out on a normal basis, but I also won't stress about it. Basically my intention for this year is to love myself and accept myself for who I am. So thank you very much, I'll enjoy my donut.
6:3o p.m. — I leave work for the day after finally getting some things done and head home. Our HelloFresh box is waiting for us, so I unpack everything and look at the menu for tonight. I decide to make the one seafood meal tonight, since leaving it for too long freaks me out. Shrimp spaghetti with garlic herb butter and zucchini it is! B. comes home and helps me with the meal. It's relatively easy but we are both trying to brush up our skills.
8 p.m. — With dinner made and put away, we play with the cats for a bit and then cuddle up on the couch to catch up on TV. We have a few weeks of Top Chef to watch, and after our HelloFresh meal, we judge and critique the contestants as if we really know anything. I make some ashwagandha tea for us to wind the night down, and we're asleep by 10:30.
Daily Total: $0
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here. Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:
Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series