A Week In San Francisco, CA, On $800 A Day

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Today: a freelance project manager who makes $800 a day and spends some of her money this week on vegan pizza.
Occupation: Freelance Project Manager
Industry: Marketing/Advertising
Age: 26
Location: San Francisco, CA
Salary: $800/day, pre-tax
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $2,298
Gender Identity: Cis Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,600 (my half of the one-bedroom I share with my boyfriend)
Loans: $0 (I was fortunate to receive a scholarship for low-income, first-generation students that covered most of my tuition.)
Internet: $30
Cell Phone: $70
Apple Fees: $0.99
Netflix: $0 (We use my boyfriend's parents' account.)
Water/Power: $30
AMC A-List Membership: $23
Health Insurance: $262 (Being a freelancer, I don't get medical benefits from my employer, so I cover it all.)
Dental Insurance: $15
401(k): $0 (Although I have a few 401(k) accounts from previous full-time positions, I currently don't contribute to one. Instead, I have been saving money to add to a Roth IRA, which will be used for retirement. I have $5,000 in my Roth IRA at this time.)
Savings: ~$2,500–$4,000 per month

Day One

7:15 a.m. — I turn on the coffee pot and get ready for the day. I wash my face and apply makeup. While doing my makeup, I get a text from my boyfriend, F.'s, mom about my Roth IRA. Over the last few years, she's become a sort of informal financial adviser and life coach to me, and I'm so grateful for her mentorship. Her text reminds me that I have one more step before I can consider my Roth IRA investment complete for the year. I struggle to put together an outfit I like. All is good except for the shoes. Thank God sneakers can pretty much be worn with everything.
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8 a.m. — Homemade coffee in hand, I walk to my shuttle stop. I live in San Francisco and am currently freelancing for a big tech company in the South Bay as a marketing project manager. The commuter shuttles have Wi-Fi, which means my commute time counts toward my work day, which is a big reason I took the job. I will be the first to say that this job is cushy. At my previous jobs, I often had long hours and was paid much, much less. I'm grateful to be freelancing, especially because of the work-life balance this particular gig affords me. While on the shuttle, I place a trade on Schwab.com, taking the $5,000 I deposited from savings last week and turning it into about 130 ETF stocks. Forgive me if that terminology is wrong. I'm very, very new to this. This is the final step I needed to take to get my account set up so that I can "forget about it" until next year. I feel proud of myself but also slightly terrified I may have chosen the wrong thing. Yay, adulthood!
9:30 a.m. — I arrive at work and head to the café. I buy a hard-boiled egg ($0.75) and refill my mug with free coffee, which unlike most free office coffee is actually incredible. $0.75
11:30 a.m. — It's time for lunch. The sun is shining, and I take the outdoor path to get to the on-site café. I get a salad with bacon, garlic croutons, and tons of veggies. Greens taste especially good after all the indulgent eating and drinking I did this weekend. Bacon and croutons make me do a little happy food dance. Once back at my desk, I book a hip-hop dance class for this coming weekend using a class package I purchased last year. I grew up dancing, and these classes make me feel alive and mentally refreshed in a way no other workout does. $7
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3:40 p.m. — My team just finished a huge project, and work has been slow ever since. Everyone says to take advantage of these moments, so I catch the earliest shuttle home and contemplate the source of my now four-hour headache. Dehydration? Ponytail too tight? Low blood sugar? The world may never know. After taking down my ponytail, I eat a small packet of peanut butter I picked up from the coffee bar and listen to a co-rider negotiate an estimate. I am floored by how direct he is and wonder if I could ever speak to someone like that without being called a bitch (or worse).
5:15 p.m. — I get off the bus and hit my local grocery store, which is convenient but pricey. I buy frozen pizza, chicken, garlic, apple cider vinegar, carrots, onion, broccoli, bananas, a fairly cheap bottle of red wine, and nectarines. Although F. and I split almost everything 50/50, I decide not to Venmo him for any of the groceries, because I dislike sending Venmo requests every other day for what seem like inane amounts. I know those little amounts add up, but I'd just rather treat today. I call and ask F. to pick up a bottle of laundry detergent on his way home, which makes me feel like I'm not shouldering too much of our household needs. Between the two of us, I'm definitely more of the shopper/homemaker. I've found that if I don't do/ask for little things to balance out effort and costs, I can end up harboring resentment, which is no good for our relationship or my mental health. F. likes when I make my requests known, so it's a communication win-win! $59.23
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7 p.m. — After spending longer than I want to in the kitchen, I finish making dinner. The plan was to make an Instant Pot meal so I could set it and forget it, but I failed to pre-read the recipe instructions. As it turns out, this was a rather high-maintenance recipe (as far as Instant Pot recipes go), but the end result (balsamic chicken) smells delicious. I'm stoked that the recipe called for red wine, because that means I get to share the rest of the bottle with F., who should be getting home soon.
7:30 p.m. — F. gets home, and we eat dinner together while watching last night's episode of The Bachelorette. Now that we live together, he watches the show with me regularly and has grown to like the routine of it. We're both pleased that this season is beginning to suck less, and discuss whether one of the contestants is an a-hole or an insecure narcissist. Either way, he is sent home and we feel justice has been served. At some point we pause the show to look at Airbnb options for an upcoming trip to NYC. I get bored with the decision-making process (F. likes to make carefully researched decisions, whereas I prefer to find a few options within budget and then go with my gut.) I step away to take a shower while he FaceTimes a friend for advice.
11:30 p.m. — Lights out!
Daily Total: $66.98

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — Once again I wake up a few minutes before my alarm. I get up and make a cup of hot water with lemon. I don't normally drink this, but I've been feeling really puffy lately, and I'm hoping this magical tonic, supposedly consumed by every model/actress ever, will help in some small way. I put on makeup, throw my hair in a messy bun, and put together a cuter outfit than yesterday. I have some extra time this morning, so I start a load of laundry and leave a note for F. (who is still sleeping) to please switch it over to the dryer before he leaves.
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8:20 a.m. — On my way to the shuttle, I stop and buy a giant, fluffy croissant to supplement the iced coffee and banana I brought from home. I immediately dive into the croissant. YUM. $2.50
8:40 a.m. — On the shuttle, I check my bank balance, expecting to have been paid, but remember that it's delayed by a day today due to Monday being a holiday. Merp. Only a few work emails came in overnight, so I prepare to spend the next 1.5 hours listening to an audiobook (Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay) and reading Money Diaries (meta, I know).
10 a.m. — The traffic gods were smiling today, and I arrive at work a bit early. I help myself to coffee from the kitchen and start to do prep work for a meeting with my hiring manager. The project I was brought in to work on is nearly over, so I've got to find ways to be useful if I want a chance at an extended contract.
11:15 a.m. — My wish came true — the hiring manager is giving me several more projects, which almost guarantees a contract extension! It's a great feeling knowing I will be able to continue growing my emergency fund + savings over the next three or four months. New projects will also mean more responsibility, which I'm thankful for; being bored at work makes me feel sluggish and guilty.
12:45 p.m. — Time to grab lunch with my friend. I get a salad for myself and a kombucha for my friend as a thank-you for letting me have some of the pizza she ordered. We sit outside to eat and talk. She just put in her two weeks' notice and updates me on how our coworkers have been reacting to the news. She had been putting on a brave face, but the truth is she was extremely overworked and burnt out. I tell her I'm happy she's choosing a workplace with a healthier work-life balance. $10.25
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2:30 p.m. — Work is still slow, so I use the free time to plan my weekend. I book a Friday evening kickboxing class at a studio near my place. It's expensive, but I've been wanting to try it for a while and I could use a good sweat. The only new-member discount they offer is for one month of unlimited classes, which I am not willing to splurge on. Instead, I purchase a single class for $29. This better be the best 45 minutes of my life. F. confirms he's available on Saturday, and I invite two couples over for game night. I've been trying to make more of an effort when it comes to my friendships, and this feels like a step in the right direction. $29
6 p.m. — I get home after stopping at the corner grocery store for dinner supplies. I pick up russet potatoes, plain Greek yogurt (to use as a sour-cream substitute), sliced mushrooms, and coffee creamer. I know I could save time and money by grocery shopping all at once on the weekend at TJ's or Safeway, but F. and I have had a series of busy weekends that make that difficult. Plus, shopping as I go has resulted in less kitchen waste. $13.14
7 p.m. — After finishing up a 30-minute barre workout I found on YouTube, I realize it's getting later and I haven't started dinner. I Google how long potatoes take to bake (judge me) and realize I probably should've preheated the oven before my workout. Oh, well. I get the potatoes in the oven, shower, and throw on a green clay mask. My legs are already jelly-like from the quick workout, and I'm thankful I did something active before my Friday kickboxing class, which will likely kick my ass.
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8 p.m. — F. and I eat dinner: baked potatoes topped with leftover balsamic chicken, sautéed mushrooms, and plain Greek yogurt. It's delicious, filling, and a fantastic vessel for hot sauce. After dinner we each have a weed gummy, which helps with relaxation and a good night's sleep. I paint my nails (Essie's For the Twill of It, for my fellow mani nerds), and we watch Chernobyl while snacking on popcorn.
Daily Total: $54.89

Day Three

7:20 a.m. — Last night's gummy definitely did its job — my first alarm is not going to work for me today. I reset my alarm for 7:40 and snuggle with F. while half-sleeping. It's a lovely way to wake up.
7:40 a.m. — Actually up and feeling rested. I make the hot water and lemon drink and use a cold jade roller on my face, which really does seem to decrease the puffiness. I straighten my hair, throw on an outfit, and take my makeup with me to do on the bus. I catch the 8:30 shuttle with homemade coffee and banana in hand.
9 a.m. — It's payday! I check my account, calculate how much I will have left over after I pay rent and my credit card balance, and transfer about 40% of my paycheck to savings. I'm still getting used to using a credit card on a regular basis. When I was growing up, my parents had significant debt due to overspending and co-signing a loan for a deadbeat friend. They filed for bankruptcy, and we had to sell almost everything we owned. Their financial issues clouded my entire childhood, and I became terrified of credit cards after watching them cut up theirs. F. has since showed me that credit cards can be really beneficial when used responsibly — we recently used our points to pay for an international flight! To keep my fear of debt in check, I make sure to pay off my credit card balance each month. The downside to this is that I sometimes spend more than I would have if I were still using cash or debit for everything.
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11:30 a.m. — I grab a salad and soup from the café and eat outside in the sunshine. $10
2:30 p.m. — My phone pings, and it's a group text inviting F. and me to a dinner tomorrow night to celebrate our good friend's birthday. We gladly accept.
7:30 p.m. — The evening is shaping up to be niiiiice and lazy. F. and I order Indian food using my DoorDash account: chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi masala, veggie hara bhara kabab, and of course, garlic naan. It's absolutely delicious. Birthday boy is coming over to watch the NBA Finals, Game 1 at our spot. F. runs out to buy beer, wine, and dessert. F.'s purchases and my Indian food come out to be the same price, so we call it even. $54.57
8:30 p.m. — While the guys watch basketball, I cuddle up in bed with a glass of wine to read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. F. often pokes fun at me and encourages me to "read another book," to which I roll my eyes. Bed, wine, HP. This is my happy place.
Daily Total: $64.57

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Despite the long sleep, I can tell that today is going to require a lot of coffee. I slowly crawl out of bed, do the lemon water routine, and get ready for work. Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" comes on, and it perks me up a bit. I decide that reading Harry Potter on my commute is worth schlepping the big book, and I pack it in my bag. I make a homemade iced coffee and grab a banana before leaving the house. The temptation to buy a croissant and a hot coffee is strong, but I resist.
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10 a.m. — Thanks to a fantastic early-2000s playlist and coffee, I am feeling fired up. As soon as I get to work, my friend swings by my desk and tells me there is free pressed juice downstairs. Score!
12:30 p.m. — I grab a loaded salad from the café. The phrase "big salad" comes to mind, and I make a mental note to rewatch that Seinfeld episode as soon as possible. I need some Elaine Benes in my life. $7
1 p.m. — I get annoyed that my nail polish chipped less than 24 hours after application. I know it's because I used a Sally Hansen top coat rather than my holy grail, Seche Vite. I order a bottle on Amazon to fend off my desire for a gel mani (my nails are in recovery from a marathon of gel). $5.85
6:30 p.m. — Finish my kickboxing class. It was more boxing conditioning than kickboxing, and it totally kicked my ass. I didn't love it, but feel the price was worth it for the motivation I now have to get my core strength back. I come home, shower, and get ready for the birthday dinner.
8 p.m. — After I have a mental meltdown over what to wear and how to do my hair (everything looks and feels ugly, I'm growing out bangs, etc,), F. calls an Uber and we make it to the restaurant on time. The menu looks killer, and we all decide to go family-style. We have beer, sake, lots of dumplings, duck pocket sandwiches, noodles, and green beans. We split it five ways so the birthday boy doesn't have to pay. I treat myself to half a weed gummy and offer some to my friends. $66
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12 a.m. — We go to two bars after dinner: a funky brewery, followed by an even funkier karaoke bar. F. buys me a couple beers throughout the night, but I try not to drink much, since the gummy is enough. After trying and failing to get F. to do karaoke with me (Aladdin's "A Whole New World", Spice Girls, Len's "Steal My Sunshine"?!), I decide it's an appropriate time to bounce. F. agrees and I call a Lyft for us. As we pull away, some asshole from the bar starts chasing our car as if he wants to fight. F. addresses him calmly, and the guy slurs something about me staring at him. Okay, bro, okay. $11.59
Daily Total: $90.44

Day Five

11 a.m. — I wake up and take stock of my bodily damage from last night. I'm only mildly hungover, but the real issue is my neck, which is in a good amount of pain. I can almost pinpoint the exact exercise from class yesterday that must have messed me up. I remember I have dance class tomorrow (which always involves a lot of hair tossing and neck movement), so I crawl out of bed and cancel it in the nick of time (they have a 24-hour cancellation policy). I make coffee, pop an ibuprofen, and curl up on the couch to recover.
12 p.m. — In exchange for the comfy nook on the couch, F. cooks me a breakfast sandwich: toasted English muffin, egg, melted Kraft single, and hot sauce. It's our hungover tradition, and I'm in heaven. I see an email from the kickboxing place offering me a free class as a thank-you for trying out the studio. I use the credit to book a class next week. Woot woot!
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5 p.m. — After a few hours of laundry and cleaning the apartment in preparation for game night, F. and I head to the store for snacks and drinks. We pick up: La Croix, beer, cucumber, carrots, hummus, strawberries, popcorn, and a frozen pizza that our vegan guests can eat. We split the cost. $30
1 a.m. — Fantastic game night was had by all! Lots of drinks, good conversation, and even a little gambling. I get texts saying it was a great night and a perfect combination of people. Success.
Daily Total: $30

Day Six

10 a.m. — I wake up without a hangover! I lie in bed with F. for a while before making coffee. We recently got new sheets (from L.L. Bean, of all places), and we keep joking that our bed feels like a five-star hotel. Sooooo smoooooooth.
12 p.m. — Shower, get dressed, make a smoothie, and head out the door to do some shopping! I take the bus into downtown using my Muni card. My first stop is a shop that only sells samples. I'm hoping to find something for a wedding I'm attending in two weeks. I try on about ten dresses and none fits. Even though I know it's the dresses and not my problem, my confidence dips a bit. I leave the store bummed out but still determined to find something. $2.50
5 p.m. — After a lot of searching, I find my outfit for the wedding: a short, pleated red dress from Zara ($54) and comfortable wedges from Nordstrom Rack ($58) that are just casual enough that I will get a lot of wear out of them. I also pick up a casual denim dress ($44) and a Father's Day card ($5). I end up right next to the big movie theater downtown and look up times for Booksmart. Luckily, there is a showing in 15 minutes. I book a ticket using my AMC A-List membership, so my ticket is free. I pop into Target and grab a large clamshell of raspberries ($4) as a movie snack to avoid eating popcorn, which is my ultimate weakness. $165
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7 p.m. — The movie was fantastic and made me feel all the things. I am starving and have no patience for the bus, so I get an Uber pool home ($5). F. grabbed takeout — delicious green curry from our favorite Thai place. I Venmo him for my portion ($25). $30
10 p.m. — Fold laundry, watch Netflix, shower. Lights out by midnight.
Daily Total: $197.50

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I get to work from home today! I wake up late and lounge around in bed with F. I slowly get up to have coffee and catch up on emails. If all goes well today, I should be able to run some errands I didn't have the time or patience for yesterday.
10:30 a.m. — I cook up some scrambled eggs and an English muffin for breakfast.
1:30 p.m. — Time to run some errands! I've got a large bag of clothes I need to get rid of, so I sort them into things worth selling to a secondhand store and things that can go straight to Goodwill. The bag is way too large to walk with, so I take a shared Lyft to the secondhand store and sell a few items. I browse the store and don't see anything I like, so I take the $19 in cash rather than store credit (which would be worth more). $6
2:30 p.m. — While waiting to sell clothes, I remembered that I need to pick up razors, so I pop into Walgreens. Goodwill is just down the street, so afterward I drop off the items that didn't sell at the secondhand store. It's past my usual lunch time, so I stop by a café and order a quinoa/Brussels sprouts/kale/sweet potato bowl to go ($14). I don't feel like bussing home, and I'm getting anxious about leaving my work email unattended for too long while I'm supposed to be working from home, so I get a cheap shared Lyft ($4). The quinoa bowl is not nearly as tasty as I remember, so I smother it in Café Yumm sauce (if you know, you know). $18
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3 p.m. — I pay my credit card balance in full, which hurts. I spent wayyyy too much money last month. Nothing new in my work inbox, so I head back out to do more errands, this time all within a block of my apartment. I go see a notary to verify my signature on a 401(k) document ($15), drop off dry cleaning, and hit the local grocery store. I get tofu, a lemon, broccoli, 90-second rice, bananas, coffee, and some caramel cookies to share with a friend tonight while we watch The Bachelorette ($29). I text F. and we book movie tickets to go see Rocketman tomorrow. Tickets don't cost us anything extra, thanks to our AMC A-List membership. This MD was not sponsored by AMC A-List — I just really like movies. $44
5:30 p.m. — I am already hungry from my failed healthy lunch, so I make the 90-second rice to go with my leftover curry. I take a look at my Betta fish, and the poor thing is not doing great. He's got a bloated belly and is floating slightly on his side, which most likely means he's got a bladder issue/constipation. Who knew fish could get constipated?! I look up how to help him and set up a "hospital tank" so that he can have a better chance of recovering.
8 p.m. — I bike to my friend's house to watch The Bachelorette. Apparently, Mondays are for being basic — we paint our nails, eat popcorn, and give opinions on our Single Friends' (TM) most recent Bumble matches. Once home, I shower, crawl into bed, and finish reading Goblet of Fire. The book ending is so much better than the movie (more details, more emotion!) and nearly makes me cry.
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Daily Total: $68
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