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A Week In San Francisco, CA, On A $181,000 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 software engineer who makes $181,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on flowers.
Content warning: This Money Diary discusses gynecological medical procedures.
Occupation: Software engineer
Industry: Tech
Age: 28
Location: San Francisco, CA
Salary: $181,000 (plus a variable bonus and stock vest; last year I got a $34,000 bonus and $85,000 stock vested)
Net Worth: $961,000 ($35,000 in regular bank account; $60,000 in a HYSA; $412,000 in a 401(k); $454,000 in other stock/investment accounts). I don’t own any property or large assets. I live with my partner, but we do not share finances at this point. I do make significantly more money than him, so I tend to either pay more or completely cover certain costs.
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $4,180
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,087.50 for my portion of a one-bedroom apartment with my partner. (The total cost is $3,575, which includes a parking spot and pet rent.)
Electricity: $50 (my half)
Internet: $13 (my half; my company covers the first $75)
Pet Insurance: $24.25 (my half)
Car Insurance: $100
Renter’s Insurance: $10 (my half)
HelloFresh: $120 (my half. This is at most, i.e. if we order a box every week, which we sometimes don’t. I rarely go to the grocery store — maybe once a month.)
Fitbit Premium: $10
Google Storage: $2
Ipsy: $8
Amazon Prime: $12.50
Netflix: $8 (my half)
Hulu: $8
MoviePass: $10
Spotify: $2.83 (I split with five friends)
Sirius XM: $8.50
ClassPass: $0 (currently using a free trial, will probably go up to $60 once the trial is done)
Health Insurance: $0 (my company pays)
Dental Insurance: $8.60 (pre-tax)
Life Insurance: $27.30 (pre-tax)
Long-Term Disability: $43.86 (pre-tax)
Vision Insurance: $3.20 (pre-tax)
Roth 401(k): $2,800 (I use a mega backdoor Roth to contribute to this so I can further max out my retirement savings).

Annual Expenses:
Traditional 401(k): $23,000 (I max this out at the beginning of every year using my previous year’s bonus; my company matches me $11,500 for the year.)
Down Dog: $20 per year (my half)
Credit Card Fee: $95
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 my parents went to college and my mom also went to grad school, so I never thought I wouldn’t go to college. I also did very well in school, so I felt motivated to go. I went to an in-state school and got a bachelor’s degree. My dad passed away when I was young, and at the time, some of his friends pooled together money to send my twin sister and me to college. My mom also saved most of the social security money she received from his death in a college account. Because of this, I graduated college with no debt and had a little money leftover after graduating.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom mostly talked about never putting charges on your credit card that you couldn’t immediately pay. She also modeled frugality; she wouldn't buy new things for the sake of it and encouraged us to make the most of things we already had.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Besides babysitting and tutoring, my first real job was as a hostess at a bakery/restaurant. I held the job throughout my senior year of high school. My mom said I couldn't have a car unless I could contribute some money to it (and pay for the gas, car insurance, and repairs), so I got the job in order to get a car. I also wanted to have spending money for things I wanted to do with friends. I mostly used it to go to concerts and Six Flags.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried about having a roof over my head or having food. My mom did instil some fear when she told us we had to pick between her being able to pay for us continuing to go to our private elementary school and going to college, but my fears were obviously unfounded. We always did just fine, even when my mom was laid off a few times, and most years we would go on a week-long vacation somewhere in the US.
Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I do worry about whether I’ll ever be able to afford a house in an area that I want to live. But overall, I know I have a very healthy amount of savings for my age, and I don’t worry too much about the money I spend. I don’t have expensive taste and rarely buy new stuff, I mostly spend money on activities, travel, and going out to eat.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Probably when I was 22 and moved to San Francisco (post-college). My grandma is my financial safety net and I know my mom would let me live with her if I had to.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, my grandma gifted me a large chunk of money when I was 13 so I could open my first bank account (I think it was $15,000 but I can’t remember for sure). She and my mom also gave me ~$5,000 each to help pay for my first car after I got my high school job, and my mom gave me $30 a month in college.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — My first alarm goes off, but as per usual, it feels too early. My partner, K., and I went engagement ring shopping for the first time yesterday, and while it was exciting, it also had me feeling mentally drained. Sometimes I still feel too young to get married, even though I’ve been with K. for over a decade.
7:45 a.m. — Now I really need to get up. Get ready for the day by taking a body shower, moisturizing my face, and putting on some makeup: face powder, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil, and lipstick. I dyed my hair recently so I’m experimenting with washing my hair less to preserve it, but I feel like it’s making my hair a frizzy mess. I head out to work around 8:30 a.m. I usually go into the office two to three times a week. I walk to Bart, take Bart there, then walk to the office. $2.30
9 a.m. — Arrive and eat breakfast at work. They have extensive breakfast offerings, but I always have the same thing: a jalapeno bagel with scallion cream cheese. I read the DailySkimm while I eat. I then grab a cold brew and head to my desk. I’m a worker bee for a few hours, catching up on some tasks from last week, and starting a new project.
11:45 a.m. — Go grab lunch with coworkers. My office has free lunch as well. Today I have yakisoba noodles with miso broth and Brussels sprouts, a cucumber and tangerine salad, and a sugar doughnut. Once we finish lunch, I go sit in a quiet area to goof off on my phone for a bit before I get back to work.
1 p.m. — Back to work at my desk. I’m frustrated trying to figure out how to make something work on my project. Eventually, I decide I need to step away from it and come back to it tomorrow. I grab a protein bar from the kitchen because I’m getting hungry.
4:45 p.m. — Head down to the gym at my office, where I take a Body Pump class. It has me sweating! I feel too lazy to shower afterward, so I take Muni home. $2.50
6:45 p.m. — Get home and make dinner for K. and me. Most weeks, we order HelloFresh, and I cook while K. cleans. Tonight I’m making sesame soy beef bowls. We watch an episode of Insecure while we eat.
7:45 p.m. — We feed the cats and do a house meeting. We aim to do these once a week — we talk about how we’re feeling in general (rose/bud/thorn), logistics, plans and house projects, relationship check-in, and set personal goals for the week. We’ve felt so much more in touch with our days and weeks since we started doing this! After we’re done, we settle in with the most recent episode of SNL.
10:30 p.m. — K. cleans the dishes and we play with the cats a bit. I get ready for bed (brush teeth, floss, wash face/take off makeup, moisturize) then read in bed until 11 p.m. or so. Right now I’m reading Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby.
Daily Total: $4.80

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Wake up too early from the cats using our bed as part of their zoomies racetrack.
7:40 a.m. — Finally get up after some snoozing. Feed some very meowy cats, take a shower and wash my hair, put on clothes and makeup, and head out to Bart. I get into the office around 9 a.m. and have my usual bagel and a cold brew. I get started with a day full of meetings. $2.30
11:45 a.m. — Finally done with meetings, now it’s time for lunch with coworkers. My coworker’s dog is here, and he’s always very cute. We sit in a conference room since he isn’t allowed in the cafés. Today I eat beef and broccoli with yakisoba noodles, a cabbage salad, and some potatoes with aioli. And... A strawberry doughnut for dessert.
1 p.m. — Continue my back-to-back meetings. I have a peppermint tea in between. My meetings finally end at 3:30 p.m., so I chill for a bit, then review a coworker’s code.
4:45 p.m. — I change into workout clothes and head to a barre class, which is in walking distance to my office and takes ClassPass, so I can use my free trial on it.
6:15 p.m. — Barre is done. I call my sister while I take Bart home (while I’m on the train, I mostly have her talk at me so that I don’t bother the other passengers). $2.30
7 p.m. — At home, I make myself a HelloFresh meal of guacamole toast with cucumbers and feta (K. doesn’t like this one so I pay for and eat it myself).
8 p.m. — I walk to a bar near my house to meet with my friend, B., who is visiting town. He and our mutual friends hang out and have beers for a couple of hours and have a great time catching up. I pay for one myself, and B. also gets a pitcher for the table. TBD whether he’ll Venmo-request me for part of it later. $10.04
10:45 p.m. — Walk home where I’m greeted by a sleepy boyfriend and hyper kitties. Get ready for bed. I’m doing a hysteroscopy in my gynecologist’s office to remove my IUD tomorrow (it was stuck when they tried to take it out last week :( ), so I take medication that’s supposed to aid with the process.
Daily Total: $14.64

Day Three

4 a.m. — Ughhh wake up to the cats jumping on me. I should lock them out of the room tonight.
8 a.m. — Finally get up after some alarm snoozing. Feed the cats, take a body shower, and brush my teeth. My stomach has been hurting, so I eat half of a piece of bread to settle it.
9 a.m. — Time for therapy! I do it over the phone. My insurance covers it.
10 a.m. — Make some cold brew at home, and an English muffin for breakfast. I only eat the sourdough ones from Safeway: you gotta try them! I start doing work, but I’m feeling slow this morning so it’s a lot of checking chats and emails.
11 a.m. — I have a meeting with a coworker about a project I’ll be starting with his help. When it’s done, I start my laundry. We pay for shared laundry machines in our building using an app. $4.25
12 p.m. — K. and I spend lunchtime cleaning the cat litter boxes by dumping the litter and washing everything out on the patio. I also vacuum everything inside.
1 p.m. — I make myself the other guacamole toast from my HelloFresh box. I’m still hungry after, so I also have a lemon Greek yogurt and a square of peppermint chocolate. I’m STILL hungry an hour later, so I also eat a hamburger bun.
3:45 p.m. — I’ve made some progress on my work project, but now I need to go to the gynecologist. Last week’s experience trying to get my IUD out was very stressful and painful, so I’m hoping it goes better today. On my walk to the bus, I buy four tickets to see Mitski in concert. So far I only know my boyfriend and I are going, but if I can’t find two other friends to go, I’ll sell the remaining two tickets later. $360
4:20 p.m. — Take the bus to my appointment. After a lot of poking and prodding and needles, they still can’t get the IUD out, so I’ll have to go under anesthesia at the hospital to do a more intensive procedure. It’s a very overwhelming appointment and I leave in tears. I call my boyfriend and my sister to tell them about it. Taking the bus home is free because Muni does free “transfers” within two hours. I also won’t pay for the appointment until I’m billed later. $2.50
6 p.m. — Get home from the bus and my boyfriend has made me a cup of tea. He suggests we order food from wherever I want tonight. He’s so sweet trying to make me feel better. We order from a bao place that I love. I have two types of beef bao and banana custard bao for dessert. We watch Insecure while we eat. $36.59
8 p.m. — I take a bath to try to reduce the cramping from my appointment. Afterwards, K. and I watch a couple of videos on YouTube. Then I get ready for bed, and alternate between reading Quietly Hostile and googling about the hysteroscopy then panicking. Lights out around 10:20 p.m.
Daily Total: $403.34

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I sleep a lot better today. I was planning to go into the office to have breakfast with a friend and take a yoga class, but I’m still feeling really emotionally wiped from yesterday, as well as crampy from the procedure. I move my alarm to 9 a.m. and alternate between resting more and doing more googling. My mom calls me to talk about how the appointment went, too.
9 a.m. — I get up and shower and make coffee and an English muffin. I also crack open a tangerine La Croix. My work gives us unlimited sick time and I decide this is probably a good time to utilize it, so I let my team know I’ll be resting this morning and coming back online later in the day. I read Quietly Hostile for a while and go on my phone.
12 p.m. — I’ve been crying on and off all morning from the stress of everything, so I decide to just take the rest of the day off and prioritize my mental health. I eat lunch, which is leftover pasta with broccoli rabe from an Italian restaurant we went to last weekend. I spend the rest of the afternoon reading, taking a nap, and going on my phone.
5 p.m. — K. and I do a Hatha yoga session at home using Down Dog. It makes me feel a bit better to exercise and move.
6 p.m. — K. and I go for a walk and pick up dessert for later from a new dessert shop near us. $18.76
7 p.m. — Get home and make dinner: broccoli cheddar soup in a bread bowl from HelloFresh. It’s decent, though definitely not as good as Panera. We watch various TV shows with and after dinner: The Great North, Celebrity Jeopardy!, Schitt’s Creek, and New Girl. We had considered going to trivia tonight, but our friends won’t be there, and I’m not feeling very social, so we decide to skip it and have cozy night in. We also feed the cats, and they’re very impatient! Start getting ready for bed at 10:30 p.m., then play with the cats a bit and read my book some more. Go to bed a little too late tonight, around midnight.
Daily Total: $18.76

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — I gloriously sleep in without the cats waking me up! Get up with my first alarm, take a shower and wash my hair, and make my English muffin and coffee for breakfast. It feels like it will be a productive day.
11:45 a.m. — I have a pretty productive few hours working on a design doc for my new project. I finally brush my teeth and do my skincare, et cetera. I’m about to head to the SPCA, where I volunteer walking dogs every week. I put some boiled chicken in a plastic bag, which I buy to give the dogs as high-value treats. I give one of my cats a little bit of the chicken as a treat. Then I walk to the SPCA.
1:40 p.m. — I finish up after walking three dogs. All very cute but with some behavioral issues for us to work on! I walk home, stopping to grab a slice of pizza from a new place near me for lunch. They’re very friendly and the pizza is delicious. I read an article while I eat, then get back to work. $10.66
5:45 p.m. — Had a busy working afternoon, but now it’s time to be done. I walk over to a spot a block away from me, where I’m meeting a friend to take a Thai cooking class. I prepaid $100 for this class a few months ago, so nothing to pay today.
9 p.m. — My friend and I had a lot of fun! We made glass noodle salad, pad see ew, and mango sticky rice. Everything was so delicious. I say bye to my friend and walk back home. My boyfriend seems to have come down with something, he has chills and body aches. I cover him with blankets and make him tea, and we watch some YouTube videos. Then I get ready for bed and read my book. Poor K. has a fever.
Daily Total: $10.66

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Gloriously wake up without an alarm! Lay in bed until 8 a.m., then get up and change into workout clothes. I walk to an outdoor workout class that I scheduled on ClassPass.
8:50 a.m. — Arrive and wait for things to start. I’ve never done a class like this before so I’m a bit intimidated.
10 a.m. — Class finishes and it was hard but good. On my way home, I stop at a random café to have breakfast, since I’m out of breakfast food at home. I get a pour-over coffee and a toast with butter and jam. $13.25
10:30 a.m. — Get home and quickly shower, put on makeup, and straighten my hair. Out the door at 11 a.m. to take Bart to the ferry. $2.30
11 a.m. — Meet with a few friends to take the ferry to Oakland, where we’re meeting some other friends for a birthday. I use my Clipper card to pay for the ferry. $4.60
12 p.m. — Meet our friends at a bar/restaurant/gaming space. We order margaritas and I eat a soft pretzel and some sliders. I have another margarita while bowling and I lose spectacularly! My friend, N., has asserted that she plans to pay for everything today up to some dollar limit as a gift to the birthday boy (her boyfriend), so I don’t have to pay for any of this.
3 p.m. — We walk to a brewery nearby, where I have a pilsner. Then we head to another brewery, where I order a stout. I also eat a slice of Brussels sprouts pizza. I later order a tater tot pizza and a hazy IPA. N. pays for everything except the pizza. $29.50
7:30 p.m. — We Uber to an indoor mini golf place. We play mini golf, and I have some more beers. I somehow win mini golf?! We stay out for a while. Eventually, I catch an Uber back to the city with some friends (they pay), and crash to bed around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $49.65

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Wake up with a real hangover! Go back to sleep for a while.
9:30 a.m. — Now I really start to get up. I take some ibuprofen and migrate to the couch, where my boyfriend is doing some work. I eat some crackers for breakfast. I really need to go to the grocery store.
12 p.m. — I’ve spent all morning being a potato and watching Instagram Reels. Time to do something productive. I take a shower and clean the pile of dishes that’s been stacking up. I’ve decided to make banana bread with bananas I froze a while ago, but we’re out of eggs. I walk to Whole Foods and buy eggs, a prebiotic soda, and flowers. $12.23
1:30 p.m. — Get home and start making the banana bread. Once it starts baking, I buy a shirt online since I got a $10 off coupon from American Eagle. I also have a gift card, so it’s “free.” I will pick it up at the mall later this week (I don’t want to pay for shipping).
2 p.m. — I snack on more crackers with brie, and watch a random Netflix show, The Characters. I don’t like the prebiotic soda so I give it to K. and have a La Croix instead. Spend the afternoon watching TV, napping, and cuddling with one of my cats. I also book a Rover to petsit our cats for when we go out of town camping in a few weeks. $19.42
5:45 p.m. — Get up and start cleaning around the house and putting away laundry. I also start making dinner. Tonight we’re having BBQ pineapple flatbreads from HelloFresh. Watch an episode of Insecure with dinner, then an episode of SNL.
9:30 p.m. — Start getting ready for bed and read more Quietly Hostile before turning out the lights around 11 p.m. Thanks for following my week!
Daily Total: $31.65
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