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A Week In Austin, TX, On A $162,000 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.
Do you ever feel...humiliated by the "work persona" you put on? Whether it's being ingratiating to higher ups, agonizing over trivial word choices on your résumé, or something else, tell us your experiences here.

Today: a software engineer who makes $162,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on yarn.
Occupation: Software Engineer
Industry: Tech
Age: 26
Location: Austin, TX
Salary: $162,000
Net Worth: ~$4.9 million (~$75,000 in savings, ~$400,000 set aside for taxes(?!?!?), $900,000 in investments (mutual funds + ETFs), $110,000 in 401(k)s, $1.9 million in vested company stock, $1.6 million in unvested company stock (most will vest in the next year). I started working at a startup four years ago and we went public this year which is where this net worth is coming from. Prior to the IPO, I had ~$450,000 in net worth between savings and stocks. I was able to sell some of my stock right after the IPO (hence the tax savings, I don't know exactly how much I'll owe) and will be able to sell the vested stock (if I want to) in the next few months. No car/house/debt.)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,548.26
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,350 for a two-bed/one-bath house split with my boyfriend
ESPP: $1,620
401(k): $1,350
Pet Insurance: $25
Utilities: $90 (electric/gas/water, my half)
Internet: $30
Sling: $35
Netflix: $0 (shared with family)
Hulu: $5.99 (shared with family)
Cell Phone: $34 (I pay my parents for this)
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, both of my parents are high school teachers so education has always been big in my family. I wouldn't say there was pressure for me to go to college, it was just expected that I would. I went to a private university that offered generous financial aid. My parents contributed to ~75% of the remaining cost, and I paid for the rest with a scholarship, summer internships, and a part-time job during the school year. I feel very lucky that I graduated with no debt and I know that's helped me be able to build savings at a much faster rate than normal.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents talked to us a lot about finances (not like their specific situation, but just giving general advice). My mom's a math teacher so she taught me about the beauty of compound interest (when you're investing) and also how crappy it is if you have debt with a high interest rate. When I first graduated college, my mom helped me set up a budget and talked about the importance of building up an emergency savings account. I'm not an investing whiz or anything (I know people who are really into trading and stock strategies whereas I stick with mutual funds for the most part), but I realized in some conversations with friends that my parents have taught me a ton about finance and their advice has generally been really helpful.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was 16 and I worked at the state park nearby, building trails and fences and stuff. I thought I wanted to be a park ranger at the time, so I wanted the experience. My parents also wanted me to make some money (just to learn the value of the dollar), and had me save half of what I earned and then I used the rest for random teenage stuff.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No; both my parents were in stable jobs and they were good with money so I never felt worried. I'd say we were middle-class (which I guess everyone says haha), so I never worried about the basics and we got to go on a road trip every summer.
Do you worry about money now?
No, not really. I want to say this in the least obnoxious way possible, but having suddenly found myself with a huge net worth, I am a little overwhelmed. I don't know anyone that is truly "wealthy" that could give me advice on things like finding an accountant or wealth management type things. But day-to-day, I'm very lucky that I don't have to worry about money.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
22 when I graduated college. My parents or boyfriend would be there for me if something went terribly wrong.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes; I received ~$8,000 from my grandmother when she passed away when I was 20, which I used for college.

Day One

8 a.m. — Monday morning! I've been working from home since the pandemic and I love the fact that I can sleep in an extra hour and snuggle with my dog. Today I roll out of bed and spend an hour reading and drinking iced coffee while my brain gets online. Most of my team is on the West coast, which means they are two hours behind me. I use 9 to 11 to get the most focus-intensive work done since a lot of my day ends up being broken up by meetings. I became the team lead for my team this year, which means less pure-coding work and more talking.
12 p.m. — I break for lunch and cook three eggs with some spinach and a piece of toast. I think I could eat breakfast food for every meal and be happy about it. My boyfriend, D., runs to the grocery store since we didn't this weekend while I take the dog for a walk. He recently quit his job (also a software engineer) and switched to freelance so his schedule is more flexible than mine. He gets sourdough bread, avocados, strawberries, clementines, pistachios, Tate's cookies, chicken breasts, broccoli, dried mashed potatoes, Cheez-Its, and pizza ingredients. $44.08
5 p.m. — My afternoon goes pretty quickly. I have a couple of project meetings which go well and then I start writing some proposals for my team's 2022 plan. My last meeting of the day is around a contentious feature and a senior leader just steamrolls the discussion. Ah, to be a mediocre man and get to say whatever incorrect BS you want to and have people listen. I'm pretty pissed by the end of it and my product manager and I chat for a while to discuss how to get around this guy.
7 p.m. — After work, I go out to our detached garage and do a Caroline Girvan HIIT workout. Today's involved a lot of kicking which is perfect; I just envision my work enemies and crush it! Afterward, I jump on a Zoom call with my parents and sisters for our weekly... crossword puzzle! I know, super cool. We do Evan Birnholz's Sunday crossword as a group every week — if you're into crosswords, definitely check it out, his themes are stellar! My boyfriend has yet to catch on to our crossword enthusiasm, but I do shout at him for any video game-related clues. After the puzzle, we catch up on everyone's week and take the usual 30 minutes to say goodbye to each other.
9 p.m. — After the call, I have some protein oatmeal with strawberries and peanut butter in it (told you about the breakfast food thing). I scroll through Reddit and decide to make a sunflower crocheted bag. Instead of using yarn colors I have already, of course, I buy a bunch of yarn from Michael's online that'll get dropped off tomorrow. Chill on the couch watching Bob's Burgers until 11 and then call it a night. $23.76
Daily Total: $67.84

Day Two

8 a.m. — Hello world! I feel surprisingly alert this morning, although it doesn't change my routine at all. I snuggle with the dog for 15 minutes, brush my teeth, put on sunscreen, and then read on the couch until 9. Despite no one else being online and not having a strict schedule, I like to start as close to 9 as possible because it's a slippery slope for me to suddenly be starting at 11 (the beginning of the pandemic was a bit of a mess at first).
12 p.m. — I break for lunch and decide to order some Halal Bros for D. and me. I get a chicken shawarma bowl and D gets a chicken wrap, extra white and red sauce, of course (fellow Austinites I hope you love it as much as me). Tuesdays are my meeting days, and I basically have back-to-back meetings from 1 to 6 so D. and I go for a quick walk before I disappear into Zoom hell. $23.01
6 p.m. — Done! I have a million follow-up items from all those meetings, but they can wait until tomorrow. I make sure I have everything written down for future me and head to the garage for a workout. If you have dumbbells and need some motivation, I can't suggest Caroline Girvan strongly enough. I can do push-ups now people, it's freaking miracle!!
8 p.m. — I have my leftover Halal Bros for dinner and start on the sunflower bag (yarn arrived this afternoon). It's an easier pattern than I thought, but each little sunflower square has eight yarn tails to weave in, which is my least favorite part. I make three squares and weave in zero ends. My plan is to weave them all in at the end; just putting off the pain for later, that's how we roll in this household.
10 p.m. — D. and I decide to go for a nighttime stroll with the dog. We talk about finances and potentially buying a house next year. I feel like he's the only one I can be honest with about how I'm feeling about my new financial situation. It's hard to even talk about with my parents, who have worked their entire lives as teachers and now I suddenly have more money than them. Pretty fucked up in a way.
Daily Total: $23.01

Day Three

8 a.m. — [Insert morning routine here.] Before I start work today, I look into non-profits that are helping to fight the Texas abortion bill. I donate $500 to three different organizations. $1,500
1 p.m. — After some avocado toast and fruit for lunch, I jump back into work. Wednesdays are supposed to be no-meeting days, which means today I have... wait for it... meetings. Ugh. After a sync with my manager about some issues from Monday, I have an interview with an engineering candidate. I used to think giving interviews was fun but after giving so many, I kinda hate it. I also hate that when I like someone and think they do well (like today), there's no guarantee they get an offer. It just ends up feeling depressing.
5 p.m. — I end right on time today so I can fit in my workout before heading to softball with D. We're on a recreational softball team (lowest league possible, baby!) and this is our first game of the season. I haven't played in two years because of COVID and never played any sort of bat-hitting-ball sport growing up so I'm a little nervous. My goal for tonight is to catch one single ball. Wish me luck!
9 p.m. — I didn't catch one :( Although in my defense, no balls really came towards me. I did throw the ball twice so, y'know, success. We lost by a lot and no one cares which is why I love this league and this team. We go out for drinks at a brewery-type place afterward. B. and I both have a beer and eat some of the group apps, and I Venmo the person that paid $25 for both of us. We head home and crash pretty early. $25
Daily Total: $1,525

Day Four

8 a.m. — Coffee, dog snuggles, read, work. I always find my focus slipping by the end of the week and I'm at a good part in my book, so I don't have the most productive morning.
3 p.m. — D. and I take a walk with the dog and stop by the local market to grab a bottle of wine. We're having some friends over for a weekly pizza night, and usually they bring wine, but I want to grab some just in case. Never hurts to have a little extra! I know I shouldn't be like this, but it is physically painful to me to not get the cheapest wine possible. Like I have to squat in the wine aisle for at least five minutes debating whether it's rude to serve guests $3 Hectare. I decide to stay in the $10 range and base my choice purely on the coolness of the label, like the true wine snob that I am. $12.86
7 p.m. — Done with work, done with workout, it's pizza time! Three of our friends come over (they bring wine so we're definitely set) and we break out the Ooni pizza oven. I bought it for D. for his birthday, which was around the time my company IPO'd and I was feeling like a baller. D. made homemade dough and sauce yesterday and we have a couple of types of cheese and meat for toppings.
2 a.m. — The night goes way longer than I thought it would. We eat six pizzas between the five of us (they're small) and drink a lot of wine. Someone puts on The Invisible Man and we all can't look away from the tension until the very end. Two of the guests Ubered here, so they leave, and the third decides to crash on our couch since it's so late and they've been drinking. D. and I stumble to bed and I try to pretend I don't have work tomorrow.
Daily Total: $12.86

Day Five

9 a.m. — Getting up at 8 did not happen. Thank god for the two-hour time difference buffer, and the fact that no one works very hard on Fridays anyways. I double up on the coffee this morning and get to work. It's getting close to the end of the quarter, which means lots of planning for next quarter, writing reviews for people, and just general panic as people realize the end is near and their feature is, in fact, not shipping this quarter.
2 p.m. — I've been so unfocused, I decide to head to a local coffee shop for a walk and change of location. I buy a chai latte and pretend like the hipster vibes are making me productive. They aren't, but the people-watching is top-notch so at least it wasn't a total waste. $4.36
6:30 p.m. — Bleh, I normally like to finish earlier on Fridays but that's what I get for drinking last night and trying to be a hipster coder this afternoon. I push one last piece of code and power down for the weekend. I borrow D.'s car and drive to my friend's house for our Friday night Bachelor session.
9:30 p.m. — My two friends and I spend the evening chilling on the couch, "watching" Bachelor in Paradise and talking about our weeks. We end up deciding to get tickets for an art thing that my friend heard about ($21.52). This is my favorite way to end the week — I'm too tired to do anything too crazy, but girl time like this is so perfect. I moved to Austin partially because my boyfriend is from here and has a ton of friends here, who are mostly guys (and who are great). But these two friends make my heart so happy and I love hearing their crazy dating stories and complaining about work. I head home and crash pretty early, still tired from yesterday. $21.52
Daily Total: $25.88

Day Six

9 a.m. — I get an extra hour of sleep before I decide to get this weekend started. Not sure if you're wondering, but my dog has an automatic feeder and a dog door so my morning routine with her has been reduced to just the important part — snuggling. I order some breakfast tacos for D. and me while he makes coffee and we talk about what to do today. $18.76
10:30 a.m. — We head to the Greenbelt to take our dog for a longer, more exciting walk than she normally gets. I love that Austin has this area that can make you feel like you've got some space even in a city. I grew up in a rural-ish area, so I love getting into nature, especially when it's not too humid for once.
1 p.m. — On the way home, I am CRAVING some candy. It's weird, I normally crave chocolate, but today I'd kill for some Mike and Ikes. We stop by a gas station so I can indulge and D. fills up the car. I pay for the gas — it's his car but I get a lot of use out of it and since he fully pays for the insurance, I pay for the gas. $45.78
4 p.m. — Once we get home and veg out for a bit, I decide to take on a DIY project I've been putting off forever. I bought this TV cabinet off of Craigslist that is perfect except it's painted red, white, and blue which is just a lot to have in your living room. I get a sander and some sandpaper from Home Depot, and decide that watching home improvement shows 100% qualifies me for the task. $63.45
6 p.m. — I probably should have looked up some advice on sanding because the wood gets a little scratched up during my procedure. Also, holy shite, this takes forever. I've sanded off all the red parts and it kinda looks good now with just wood, blue, and white. It matches the rest of our decor, and I decide that's even better than sanding the whole thing. It's DEFINITELY not because I'm sick of sanding things.
7 p.m. — D. and I go out to dinner at an Italian place that's within walking distance. We split an appetizer, each get a pasta dish each, and split a dessert, and we both have a glass of wine. It's finally starting to cool off a bit in Texas and the weather this evening is perfect! We split the bill evenly. When it comes to sharing expenses, we generally split larger things (restaurant bills, groceries, etc.) but for smaller things we just assume that it'll even out in the end. $41.50
Daily Total: $169.49

Day Seven

11 a.m. — After a lazy morning of TV and oatmeal, I head to my adult-league soccer game. I'm actually good at soccer (unlike softball) so this league is a bit more competitive. We have a great game today and come out on top! Soccer is the only way that I can enjoy running, so it's great that I get to start my Sundays this way. On the way out, I spy on a children's soccer game and shudder as the memories of overzealous soccer parents come flooding back.
3 p.m. — My turn to go to the grocery store. I don't know about Texan transplants, but I find HEB so intimidating. Like is it ever not crowded?? I survive and come away with bread, oatmeal, lots of fruit, carrots, green beans, broccoli, avocados, quinoa, chickpeas, chicken breasts, bacon, spaghetti, snacks, ice cream, and some other random stuff. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were much more creative with our meals, but recently I feel like we eat the same seven meals on rotation. $60.32
7 p.m. — I spend the afternoon cleaning with D. and listening to an audiobook while crocheting. At 7, I have another family Zoom call, this one is with the extended family (grandpa, parents, sisters, uncles, aunt, cousins) and sadly there's no crossword. It's a tradition we started during COVID that I hope lives for a long time because otherwise I would hardly know what's going on in my extended family's lives. These calls have made my grandpa the resident tech-genius amongst his cohort of friends, and almost weekly he has a story about setting up someone's webcam. As a fellow techie, I'm very proud.
10 p.m. — D. and I make spaghetti carbonara and broccoli for dinner and I check my calendar for next week. I make sure my to-do lists are in order. I used to get really stressed on Sundays but making sure everything is written down has weirdly helped me to relax. We end up playing a game of Monopoly where the winner gets a back massage. To be continued because who can ever finish monopoly in one night...
Daily Total: $60.32
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