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A Week In San Francisco On A $310,000 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 registered nurse who makes $310,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Mega Millions ticket.
Occupation: Registered nurse
Industry: Healthcare, intensive care
Age: 40
Location: San Francisco
Salary: Rather than earning a salary, I have a base rate of $114/hour. I work in a dynamic ICU that can be difficult to staff, so there are a lot of overtime and call shifts (both of which are entirely voluntary), for which I make time and a half. On the occasions I work 16-hour shifts (the maximum in California), hours 12 to 16 are double time. Last year I earned $310,000.
Assets: $135,000 in savings; $210,000 in a 403(b); $12,000 in an IRA; $15,500 in an investment account; and $18,500 is being held in escrow for a condo I’m trying to buy.
Debt: $18,300 for student loans from grad school.
Paycheck Amount (bimonthly): $6,000
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $2,150 for a pretty decent-sized studio with garage parking included.
Monthly Loan Payments: $500 (student loans, paying double the minimum)
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Internet & Phone: $135
Electric: about $15
Health Insurance: $546 (about 90% of this is reimbursed)
Netflix: $12.99 (shared with my mom)
Max: $15.99
NYT: $12.9
Washington Post: $4
Spotify Family: $16.99 (shared with my mom)
Car Insurance: This varies according to how much I drive, but usually about $55.
403(b): I contribute 30% of my check pre-tax until it maxes out (I think it’s $23,000 this year), which happened around mid March this year.
Vanguard Account: $1,000 automatically invested
Traditional IRA: $300 (I’ll roll this into a Roth at some point.)
Amex Platinum: $695 (annually)
Chase Sapphire Reserve: $550. I’m thinking of changing this to the Preferred because the fees are high and there is a lot of redundancy with my Amex when it comes to benefits (I put everything except rent on my credit cards and pay off the balances in full every month).
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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. Both of my parents went to college and I always did well in school without having to try very hard. I received a full academic scholarship for my first bachelor’s which I promptly lost after freshman year because I didn’t know how to study and my grades weren’t great. My parents then paid for two years and I took out loans for the remaining year. I paid for my second bachelor’s (nursing) with student loans; I paid these off years ago. A few years ago I went grad school. I paid for most of my tuition and living expenses myself but still had to take out about $40,000 in loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents didn’t talk to me about money, though it was the main thing they fought about before they got divorced. Credit card debt was the only thing I remember being talked about. My parents were never in credit card debt but I remember being warned that it was easy to get into and that it would ruin one’s life. Otherwise, we were comfortably middle class and I never wanted for anything. If anything, I was pretty spoiled and generally clueless about money.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I babysat in high school just for spending money.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
No.
Do you worry about money now?
A bit, yes, for a few reasons. First, I was totally broke and wrecked my credit in my 20s. I’ve obviously turned things around financially but I know I could have done better with saving early on. Secondly, my position at the hospital is per diem. The biggest perk is that I get to make my own schedule and can take time off (unpaid) whenever I want without even notifying anyone. The downside is that I’m not guaranteed hours. So there are times when the census is down and we are overstaffed and I am not able to work when I want to. But honestly, this has been my only job for the last seven years and I’ve never had trouble getting enough hours. My ICU is dynamic and hard to staff and I’m very experienced, so I can pretty much work when I want to these days. If I were unable to get enough hours long-term, I could always just take a full-time staff position. I’m also technically a nurse practitioner, so I have that option as well. Thirdly, my lifestyle and priorities have changed over the last few years. For several years in my 30s I took full advantage of my flexible schedule and spent three to four months every year out of the country traveling for fun. I kept my living expenses very low at home (no car, lived with housemates, big on minimalism). While I still travel a lot I don’t feel the need to be gone for months at time and am more focused on putting down roots at home in SF. I’m in the process of buying a condo; it will more than double my monthly living expenses. I know I can afford it but it’s still kind nerve-racking.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was mostly responsible for myself at 21, but had periods throughout my early to mid 20s when I lived with my mom without having to contribute anything to the household. I could always move back home with my mom if something were to happen, but would not expect any major financial help.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

6 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm. I’m definitely a morning person and between that and my work schedule, I am usually up by 6 a.m. I’ve been on a road trip to LA and Albuquerque to see friends and family. I stopped in Bakersfield overnight and will drive the last few hours to SF this morning. I make the coffee provided in the hotel room, which is terrible but at least hot and caffeinated. I look at the NYT and check in with my mom and a guy I’ve been seeing, J. I do my usual morning routine (Youth to the People face wash, Banana Bright eye cream, Proven moisturizer SPF 50) and put on jeans and a clean T-shirt. Packing up is easy since I only brought the essentials up to the room. There’s a free breakfast buffet so I grab a couple of spinach and cheese quiche things and refill my coffee thermos. I get gas before getting back on the 5. I also get a Mega Millions ticket because I always get one on roads trips. $49.74
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10:30 a.m. — I eat the quiche things on the road — they aren’t bad actually. The drive is easy and I’m making good time. I stop at Trader Joe’s in Livermore and get Power to the Greens salad mix, broccoli, vegan dill salad dressing, chicken, half and half, canned tuna, eggs, blueberries, and couple of kinds of cheese. $57.63
2:15 p.m. — I make it home, park in the garage and unpack. I take a quick nap in my own bed, hurray! I get up and make coffee and look my emails while I eat a handful of cashews. I get an email saying I need to pay to have a master copy of the HOA insurance policy sent to the bank that’s underwriting my mortgage. I also get another email saying that instead of closing Wednesday as planned, it will be more like Friday or Monday. Hmmm. I call EIC and pay for the insurance to be sent over. A friend texts to ask if I’m home yet because a few of my friends are over at her place doing board games and take out if I want to join. Sounds fun but I need to unpack and stuff so I have to pass on this one. $85
9 p.m. — I spend the afternoon unpacking from my trip. I’m also planning to move in about 10 days so I start packing up my apartment. I’ve already bought boxes and duct tape. I use most of my boxes packing up my books (the vast majority of my possessions seem to books and clothes, with scuba and backpacking gear thrown in). I also pack up the kitchen stuff I rarely use. I’m watching the second season of Tokyo Vice so that’s on in the background for most of the afternoon. I’m on call tomorrow morning, which 95% of the time means I’m working. I’m always in bed by 9 p.m. if I’m not out doing something, so I wash my face and put on Differin gel (still having acne at 40 is delightful) and floss and brush my teeth. I check in with J.; he was in Europe and then stopped in Colorado to pick up the rest of his stuff and his dogs (he recently moved back to SF) and is driving back. He had a rough day yesterday, but it sounds like things are going more smoothly today. I get in bed to read before going to sleep.
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Daily Total: $192.37

Day Two

5:45 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm and look at my phone. No one at work has called or texted. I give them another 15 minutes and then call the unit because sometimes the charge nurse is really busy and they forget to actually call me in. The charge nurse confirms that they do not in fact need me at 7 a.m. I’m thrilled! The way our call works is that you have to be available within an hour of being called in for the whole time you’re on call, which is 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for me today. I’ll make half my hourly rate if I don’t get called in and time and a half if I do end up working. I get up and make coffee and have a slow, leisurely morning reading the news and doing Wordle and Connections on NYT.
7:30 a.m. — I drive over to NOPA and go for a six-mile run in the park. It’s a super nice day.
11 a.m. — At home I eat a few eggs and have coffee and take a shower. I have some clothes to take back to Zara and H&M which are about a mile away so I get dressed and put on a podcast (Pivot) to walk downtown. While in Zara I get a call from AAA; I’m getting home insurance from them and I have to buy a membership to get insurance. It’s a bit of ordeal but eventually I’m able to pay via credit card over the phone. The agent sends me the policy and I forward it to my lender. $54.99
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11:15 a.m. — I finally get off the phone with AAA and return a pair of white jeans I bought for a themed party but didn’t end up wearing; I also buy a short-sleeved black sweater (which was covered by the return).
12 p.m. — I head over to H&M and return a trench coat, skirt, and two tops. I buy a jacket and a crocheted tank top. Still no call from work; if I haven’t heard from them by 11:30 a.m. I’m generally safe. I’m tempted to stop by Sephora but I’ve been trying to cut back on my shopping and there’s nothing I actually need there, so I skip it. $7.46 (difference from returned items)
12:15 p.m. — I’m starving. I go to Walgreens and get salt and pepper cashews and a milk chocolate and caramel Ghirardelli square for the walk home. I eat a couple of handfuls of the cashews and save the chocolate for later. When I get home I read for a while and take a nap on the couch. Naps are, if not my favorite thing, then at least in the top three, and I take at least one a day if I’m not working. $5.78
5:30 p.m. — I consider doing laundry but decide to wait until more of my scrubs are dirty. I watch Netflix, text J. and basically barely get off the couch for the rest of day. I make a chicken thing from NYT Cooking. I’m not a good cook, but I try. It turns out ok. There is enough left over for a couple more meals.
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8:45 p.m. — I’m on call again tomorrow morning so I wash my face and brush my teeth and read for a while before I fall asleep around 9:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $68.23

Day Three

5:45 a.m. — I wake up and check my phone and have no calls or texts from work. I don’t bother calling the unit to check today. I get up and make coffee. I work in healthcare so I’m soooo not picky about my coffee but I like grinding my own beans and making pour-over when I’m at home. I look at the news online and do the Wordle and Connections on NYT.
7:45 a.m. — I head over to NOPA to run in the park again. I run into a friend in the Panhandle and stop to chat. We work together and she confirms that the census has been low for a couple of days. She’s also on call and didn’t get called in, so we congratulate each other on getting paid to do nothing (it’s a rare occurrence for sure). I finish my run and head home.
10:30 a.m. — I fry a couple of eggs and have a handful of blueberries. I have nothing I need to do today. Between putting in an offer on the condo and applying for a mortgage and going out of town, it’s been a stressful couple of weeks. I was also working a lot in the lead up to my trip. I think about going to SFMOMA; I’m a member so can go for free. But I just went a few weeks ago. I decide to just take it easy today. I still haven’t heard anything about my mortgage and we’re supposed to be closing in two days so I email my lender. I finish the book I was reading (the new Tana French, it was decent but not amazing) while eating dark chocolate-covered almonds. I take a nap on the couch.
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2 p.m. — I wake up to a long email from my lender saying that the bank is having trouble getting some info they need from the HOA and everything is on hold. If they can’t get this information they will not be able to give me a mortgage. I thought everything was going smoothly so this is a massive shock. If this doesn’t go through this will be the second time in a couple of months that I’ve been in escrow and had things fall through because of problems with the HOA. I give myself 20 minutes to basically have a meltdown and cry out of sheer frustration. I text my realtor to ask what the eff I’m supposed to do here. He replies immediately and says that I can’t do anything and that the seller is also super pissed and is putting pressure on the HOA. I call my mom to vent and text J. about it as well.
4:30 p.m. — J. made it home around noon and is finished unpacking for the time being. I drive over to his place in the Sunset; there is thankfully easy parking where he is. He’s been gone for a couple of weeks and we only started seeing each other a few weeks before that, but things have moved pretty fast. After dozens and dozens of first and second dates over the last few years I’ve pretty much given up on finding anything serious. J. and I met on Feeld where I was looking for something casual, but we have more of a connection than I was expecting. I’m not sure what to make of it. I enjoy his company and the sex is great so I’m trying not to overthink it (mostly unsuccessfully). We catch up and engage in, um, adult activities and then head out in search of dinner.
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5:30 p.m. — I want sushi and J. is fine with that. There are a bunch of shops and restaurants and whatnot a couple of blocks down from J.’s, so we walk. We decide to get a quick drink before dinner and go to a bar I know. I get a sauv blanc and he gets an old fashioned; he pays.
6:15 p.m. — My favorite sushi place in the city is about three blocks from J.’s and I promised to take him after he moved in. It’s early so we get seated immediately. We get a half-dozen oysters and a small sake to share. I get chirashi, which is what I always get there, and he gets a few rolls. It’s great, as always. He’s been paying for most things so I get dinner. $174.95
9 p.m. — We pick up a bottle of wine (he pays) on the walk back to J.’s and hang out at his place for a while longer. I only have a couple sips of the wine because I’m driving. I’m scheduled for work in the morning so drive home and wash my face, brush my teeth and am in bed early.
Daily Total: $174.95

Day Four

6:40 a.m. — I get up at 5:35 a.m., take a shower and make coffee and look at the news. I pack some leftovers and a salad for lunch, plus string cheese and carrots to snack on, and boil a few eggs for breakfast. I keep what I take to work pretty healthy because patients kindly bring us a lot of food, mostly baked goods, which I have a hard time resisting. It’s a 15-minute walk to the hospital. It’s chilly but nice with the sun coming up. I listen to the new Taylor Swift album on the walk in. It’s not my favorite but it’s growing on me.
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7:45 a.m. — I have an easy assignment and a bunch of my friends are working today, so it’s going to be a good day. I make a pot of coffee on the unit. The hospital provides Peet’s which is surprisingly decent. Every six months or so management says they’re taking it away, but then everyone pitches a fit and they back down. It’s idiotic. I’d thought my assignment today was going to be easy but my patient is extremely grumpy when I go in to introduce myself. I don’t take it personally as it sucks to be in the ICU and it’s very difficult to sleep well. I check his lines, drips and devices and quietly leave. He’s stable so I’ll leave him be for an hour and hope he’s able to sleep.
9:30 a.m. — I eat my eggs and a string cheese for breakfast. The coffee I made earlier is gone so I make another pot. When I went back to check on my patient and give meds, and, you know, do my job, he was very nice, a total 180. I’ll take it. The team rounds and we talk about the plan going forward for my patient.
11:45 a.m. — I remembered mid-morning that it’s the day that the cafeteria has this one soup that has a small cult following among the hospital staff (it’s the little things, you know?). I get one for me and one for a friend as well. I have the soup along with the salad I brought and save the leftovers for later. I catch up with a couple of friends on my lunch break and text J. $7.41
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1:30 p.m. — More coffee; my cut off is 2 p.m., so this will be the last one of the day. I also drink a lot of water throughout the day, lest anyone think I live on coffee alone. I eat the carrot sticks and string cheese I brought as a snack. On my 15-minute break I talk to my realtor, finally, who explains the situation a bit better. The HOA management company is definitely in the wrong here but there’s nothing anyone can do except threaten to sue. No other updates. I talk to another work friend about a backpacking trip we’re taking to Grand Teton in June; I got the permits and booked accommodation and she’s handling the car rental. We’re super stoked. A patient’s family brought doughnuts; I have half of a blueberry old fashioned.
7:30 p.m. — Shift is over and I walk home, text J., and have some soy sauce rice crackers from Trader Joe’s and a Spindrift while I watch Killing Eve. I do the usual routine for bed. I’m not scheduled to work tomorrow but I put myself down as available. The unit is full again so they’ll probably need me. I read a while before falling asleep around 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $7.41

Day Five

6:45 a.m. — I wake up at 5:35 a.m. to a voicemail from the hospital asking if I can work today, as expected. I call them back, tell them I can work until 3:30 p.m., then hop in the shower. I’ll get time and half for this shift as well since it wasn’t pre-scheduled. I make coffee and read the news and do the Wordle before packing a few boiled eggs and more string cheese to take with me. I left the leftovers I didn’t eat yesterday in the fridge at work. J. had wanted to go for run and get breakfast this morning if I wasn’t working so I text him to tell him that I can’t make it. I walk to the hospital. It’s pretty chilly and overcast today. I was listening to On with Kara Swisher while I was getting ready and keep it going to the walk to the hospital.
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7:15 a.m. — I have the same patient from yesterday so shift handoff is quick. I make a pot of coffee. The on-call lists came out today so I go see what’s available. The number of on-call slots varies by week based on staffing and census. I’m already scheduled for two shifts (12 hours) next week and sign up for two on-call shifts (eight hours) as well.
8:30 a.m. — I have more coffee and my boiled eggs for breakfast. I notice I’m almost out of a prescription and send requests for refills. Still no updates on the mortgage.
12:45 p.m. — My assignment has been super chill, but the rest of the unit is a dumpster fire today. I spend most of the morning helping the nurses next to me. I eat my leftovers and find a quiet place to read on my break. I have a message from my doctor saying that she wants to see me before she’ll refill my antidepressants. I’ve been on the same dose of the same med for a decade and saw my MD less than a year ago, so I find this annoying. I’ll call the office later. They are predictably short a few nurses at 3 p.m. so I volunteer to stay until 7 p.m.
4:30 p.m. — I’m going out after work so have one more cup of coffee. I talk to my lender. He fills me in on where the situation stands. It’s not looking good. He says he reached out to a friend at another bank who will be able to approve me if this falls through. I’m not thrilled about this; I was able to lock in a pretty good interest rate on a 20- year mortgage a month ago. Rates have gone up quite a bit since then. So that would be a massive bummer. Also, if the HOA management company is this much of a problem I might just get my deposit back and move on. I need a snack and nothing I brought with me sounds good. There’s always graham crackers and peanut butter in the nourishment room on the unit so I have that. It’s not something I ever snack on at home but in the hospital it always hits the spot.
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8:45 p.m. — I go home and shower and text J. I’m meeting a couple of friends at El Rio for a show. I take a Lyft there. $12.45
9:15 p.m. — There’s an $18 cover and I get a tall Ketel soda with one shot ($12.84 including tip). I hang out with my friends on the back patio before we go inside for the show. $30.84
10:30 p.m. — The opener is terrible but the headliner is ok. It’s French reggaeton which isn’t really my thing. I stay for some of it and get one more Ketel soda, but then decide I’d really rather be in bed. I get a Lyft home ($15.55 including tip) and get ready for bed and am asleep by 10:45 p.m. $26.25
Daily Total: $69.54

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I haven’t set an alarm but I woke up at 6:15 a.m. I make coffee and look at the news and generally just enjoy not being at work. I change and go run a few laps around Alamo Square, which forces me to run up some hills. It ends up being about 3.5 miles. When I get back I shower and make eggs for breakfast and call my mom.
11:30 a.m. — I ask J. what he’s up for tonight since he’s working today; he’s having a rough day so just wants to watch a movie at his place and cuddle, which sounds good to me. I can tell I’m about to get my period because I’m feeling very down today. I call the building manager at my current apartment and explain the situation; he’s very nice about everything and say that since I’m month to month I can stay as long as I need to. I call the moving company to cancel my move next week; they kindly refund my deposit.
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2:30 p.m. — I eat some the leftover chicken and a handful of blueberries. I don’t have much of an appetite. My apartment is a mess because I had started packing so I spend the afternoon getting reorganized. I decide to keep the books packed up for now and move the packed boxes into a corner. I also vacuum, clean up the kitchen, and do laundry; there’s a laundry room on the first floor of my building with machines that take credit cards. $11.50
5:45 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon watching Killing Eve and taking a nap. I have a date at 6 p.m. with another guy from the app. The bar we’re going to is about a 15-minute walk away in Hayes Valley. I get a glass of red wine, he gets a Sazerac. He’s nice enough but there’s no chemistry at all. My heart is also not really in it because of the J. thing. He pays.
7:30 p.m. — On the walk home I text J. to see when he thinks he’ll be home from work and ask if he wants me to pick up wine since I’m out and about. He says he has wine, so I volunteer to get snacks. I stop by Walgreens and get a big bag of SmartPop, some plain Pringles, a sleeve of Biscoff, and a handful of Babybels. $15.83
9 p.m. — J. picks me up on his way home from work. He lets me pick the movie; on my roadtrip I listened to the Rewatchables episode on The Town and it made we want to see it again. J. has never seen it and approves my choice. It surprisingly is not streaming on any of the many services we have subscriptions to, so J. rents it on Amazon.
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12:15 a.m. — We have a lovely night watching the movie and drinking wine and cuddling and whatnot. I was planning to stay over but I’m allergic to everything with fur (dogs usually aren’t too bad, I just have to be around them to see how it goes). His dogs haven’t bothered me too much but I’m starting to get a little stuffy and itchy so it’s not a good idea to sleep there. We’re both off next Tuesday so we make plans to go do a hike in Marin and get lunch after. I get a Lyft home. $18.32
Daily Total: $45.65

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I manage to sleep in until 8 a.m., hooray! I make coffee and screw around on the internet. I’m not hungover exactly but I do feel really tired. I worry about the condo nonsense but it’s the weekend so there will be no updates.
11:15 a.m. — I eat a handful of blueberries and make some eggs. I text J. and go for a walk, it’s a nice day.
1:30 p.m. — I take a nap on the couch and make coffee. I clean the bathroom and vacuum. A friend texts me to say she can’t make the ballet next week; three of us were supposed to see Swan Lake (I’ve already seen it once this season, it’s amazing). I shoot out a text to a lot of friends to see if anyone else is interested in going. The friend that canceled already paid for the ticket, so it’s no loss to me there, but it would be nice if it didn’t go to waste.
7:45 p.m. — I wish I could say I spend the afternoon being productive but I mostly just lie on the couch either reading or watching TV. I order another 24-pack of grapefruit Spindrift, Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, and more coffee on Amazon. I also found someone who wants the ballet ticket; she venmos me $156 and I send that along to the friend who can’t make it. I’m on call in the morning and work texts to see if I can come in at 3 a.m. I say yes; going in this early is entirely voluntary and very well compensated. I don’t do it very often because working for 16 hours is exhausting. $59.57
8:15 p.m. — I take a quick shower and prep food for tomorrow so I don’t have to do much when I wake up in the morning. I text J. that I’m going into work early and am going to go to bed. I take 5mg of melatonin and read until I fall asleep around 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $59.57

The Breakdown

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