verizon be
Money Diaries Logo

A Week In Los Angeles On A $156,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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 strategy manager working in tech who makes $156,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on skating.

Have you made a major change that’s impacted your finances: a breakup, a new job, a big move? We want to read your Money Diary! Submit one here.
Occupation: Strategy manager
Industry: Tech
Age: 28
Location: Los Angeles
Salary: $150,000, plus $3,000-$6,000 per year for dog-sitting
Net Worth: ~$460,000 (~$2,000 for the value of my car, which is paid off; $9,500 in my checking account; $50,000 in my HYSA; $10,000 in an I bond; $116,000 in my 401(k); $52,000 in my Roth IRA; $101,500 a personal brokerage; and $119,000 in home equity. My partner, J., and I own a home worth $990,000, so the equity is that minus our mortgage divided by two. Although our finances are separate, we share the mortgage and other home expenses. We have the same base salary, but he makes anywhere from zero to 50% more than I do in total compensation, depending on the variable bonus he gets paid that year.)
Debt: ~$376,000 (This is half of our $752,000 mortgage. J. and I put the same amount down and split the mortgage equally.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,279
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,775 (This is my half of the mortgage, and it includes property taxes and home insurance.)
Utilities & Internet: ~$90 (This is for my half. It’s on the low side because most of our electricity is covered by our solar panels.)
Phone: $0 (still on a family plan)
Gardener: $55 (my half)
Pet Insurance: $12 (my half)
Spotify & Hulu: $11
iCloud Storage: $1
401(k): $1,833
FSA: $33 (This will be going up to $304 a month for an HSA next year.)
Investments: $1,000 (automatically transferred into personal brokerage each month)
Savings: $1,000 (I’m saving and holding more cash than usual in anticipation of making real estate investments in the next three to six months.)

Annual Expenses
Roth IRA: $6,500 (I put in the full amount in January of every year.)
Credit Card Fees: $1,290 (This is an aggressive fee, but I get ~$1,000 back in travel and food credits and use CC points to pay for a lot of my travel.)
Car Insurance: $1,110
Car Registration: $150

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?
My parents immigrated to the US in their early 20s, having only finished high school. They ultimately went to community college and got their associate degrees when I was in elementary school (I remember helping proofread my mom’s papers). My parents saw a college education as a key part of the “American Dream” and expected my brother and I to attend college. I went to a private university, and more than half of the cost was covered by financial aid and scholarships. The rest was covered by my parents, federal student loans, work study, and working part-time during school. I also graduated early to save on tuition.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents only talked about money if they thought something was too expensive. Both my parents grew up poor and they had a practical approach to money: Spend money where you need to, don’t overspend where you don’t need to. My parents always emphasized the importance of saving money because you never know what might happen. The scarcity mindset they had around money from their childhoods and early years in the US was very much ingrained in me.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job at 14, working as an assistant in an after-school program so that I could earn spending money because I didn’t have an allowance.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Even when they weren’t making much, my parents did a good job of carrying any anxiety or worries about money themselves. They felt that was a burden they should carry as parents and that, as children, my brother and I should only have to focus on doing well in school. I didn’t learn about how much my family’s financial situation had changed over time until I was an adult.

Do you worry about money now?
I don’t necessarily worry, but I still hold a scarcity mindset. My parents were financially manipulative when I was in college, using the threat of stopping tuition payments to ensure that I made life choices that were aligned with what they wanted (my major, who I dated, et cetera). As a result, financial independence became a huge motivation in my life. I never again want to be in a position where I feel like I have to make life decisions because of my financial dependence on anyone.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself when I started my first job after college. I moved back home and lived with my parents at their insistence because New York City rent is insane. I paid off my $20,000 student loans the first year and also paid my parents “rent” of roughly $1,000 a month for the 20 months I lived at home. My parents and J. would be a financial safety net, although I would go through all my savings before asking them.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents gave/loaned me $50,000 to put toward the down payment of my house. I didn’t have the full amount in cash and was debating borrowing from my 401(k) or selling stocks, although that felt bad because the market was down when I was looking at buying late last year. My parents had recently sold our childhood home and gave me some of the proceeds after I told them I was looking to buy. I’ve offered to pay them back, but they have said they don’t currently need the money and it’s better for me to invest it until they need it. The money that I would’ve used to pay them back this year has either been put into my 401(k) or invested in an S&P 500 ETF in my personal brokerage.

Day One

9 a.m. — My first alarm goes off, and I automatically turn it off knowing that there are two more alarms set to go off in the next 10 minutes. My company is fully remote, so I enjoy my slow mornings. I wash up and do my skincare before going downstairs to put out the dog’s breakfast. I let her out in the backyard while I make an iced oat milk latte. I bring the dog inside, and she follows me to my office.
11:45 a.m. — My morning meetings are done, and I go downstairs to heat up leftovers for lunch. I rarely eat breakfast so I like to eat lunch early. I take the dog out on a 20-minute walk while I listen to some podcasts. Afterwards, I go back to my desk and put my AirPods in to finish work.
5 p.m. — I bring my laptop downstairs to the couch and put on the Great British Baking Show while I do some research for a destination wedding trip next spring. I put in an Instacart Costco order (Greek yogurt, canola oil, and collagen pills), schedule it for tomorrow, and get $2 off. One of my credit cards gives me a $15 credit every month towards Instacart, so I always do one order per month. I put the total into Splitwise where J. and I track our shared expenses. It’s easier to let transactions accrue until someone decides to settle up instead of constantly sending venmo requests. We don’t have combined finances and we split everything 50/50. $18.50
7 p.m. — Dinner is stir-fry noodles with chicken and mushrooms. I make four portions, plate up two, and pack the other two into containers for lunch tomorrow.
8 p.m. — I sit on the couch to play video games and cuddle with the dog. After a while, I get the sudden motivation to clean. I put on YouTube videos and start vacuuming. J. vacuumed and mopped yesterday, but there’s already a mix of human and dog hair visible. I normally wouldn’t care, but we’re having friends over tomorrow, so I feel compelled to tidy.
9:30 p.m. — Our garage door opens, and I know that J. is home from playing tennis. He greets me and the dog with kisses before eating dinner. After he’s done, J. loads the dishwasher. We split chores based on our preferences. I take care of the groceries, cooking, and laundry. J. does dishes, cleaning, and trash. We have a gardener that comes biweekly and we hire professional cleaners once a quarter for a deep clean. We’ve used this set up for the two and a half years that we’ve lived together. We help each other out with the other’s chores on occasion, but expectations are clear, so there are far fewer arguments about who needs to do more.
10:30 p.m. — I show J. a Reformation skirt I’m ordering that’s over 70% off. We rearrange some of the living room furniture and continue cleaning up. We give the dog her monthly flea medication and a treat from her advent calendar. J. takes the dog out while I go upstairs and get into bed around 11:30 a.m. $42.05
Daily Total: $60.55

Day Two

9 a.m. — My alarms go off. I check my phone for urgent Slack notifications. I get ready and go downstairs to make a coffee and feed the dog.
12 p.m. — I finish meetings, heat up leftovers for lunch, then take the dog out for our normal 20-minute walk. My Instacart order is waiting for me when I get back. I toss some laundry in the washer and then go back to my desk.
2 p.m. — I move the laundry into the dryer and put on socks. It’s chilly in the house, but I refuse to turn on the heat out of principle because it’s 65°F outside.
2:15 p.m. — The concierge at a resort we’re going to next weekend emails me. They’re asking us to fill out a preference survey so they can tailor our stay. J. and I have been talking about staying here for the last two years. I found a great deal back in March using points (two nights for 75,000 points) and booked it immediately. This place would’ve cost almost $5,500 total if we paid in cash, so I’m super proud of myself. This is definitely one of my best points finds to date.
4:30 p.m. — I drive to my dentist for a wisdom tooth extraction. Once it’s over, I pay with a credit card. I’ve already used the $400 in my FSA on TMJ treatment in March. I didn’t anticipate paying for a wisdom tooth extraction this year — it would’ve been nice to use pre-tax money, but at least I’ll get credit card points. It was a simple extraction, so I leave with an ice pack and a follow-up appointment for next week. $228.50
6 p.m. — I drive to CVS to pick up my antibiotics ($5) along with floss picks and lotion ($3.27). I walk to the grocery store next door for ice cream ($4). The purchases are small, so I don’t bother adding them to Splitwise. $12.27
6:15 — I get home and make dinner: pasta with sausage and vodka sauce. I finish our last pack of pasta and add pasta to our grocery list, wishing I had realized we were running low before I put in my Instacart order.
6:45 p.m. — J. gets home as I finish cooking. He double checks that I’m feeling okay from my procedure and tosses ice packs into the freezer for me. I plate up just one portion of pasta for J. because my mouth is still numb. He eats while I give the dog her advent calendar treats (she gets two today because she has a second advent calendar with only 12 items so we give that one to her every other day).
7:30 p.m. — A few friends come over for game night. They’re shocked I just had a tooth extracted because there’s almost no swelling. I’m optimistic that I won’t look like a chipmunk tomorrow.
12 a.m. — Our friends leave, and J. tells me to go to bed first while he cleans up. I wonder if two sugar cookies satisfy the “take with food” instructions on my antibiotics and decide that they’re good enough. I pop three Advil, wash up, set my morning alarms, and crawl into bed.
Daily Total: $240.77

Day Three

9 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I groan. My face is hurting, and I didn’t sleep well. I debate taking a sick day but I have meetings I don’t want to reschedule, so I settle for going back to sleep for a while. J. is about to leave for the office when he hears my alarm. He says that my face is swollen and grabs me an ice pack from downstairs before leaving. I hang out in bed with my ice pack and check my phone. I see a notification about the start of Reformation’s year-end sale and text two of my friends about it.
9:30 a.m. — My dentist told me no hot foods and drinks, including coffee, while I recover. I wonder if my normal iced coffee is fine? I play it safe and make an iced matcha latte. I feed the dog, grab another cookie to have with my antibiotics, and go up to my office.
12 p.m. — Morning meetings wrapped, I respond to J.’s texts about what to get for a friend’s housewarming. I pick out an Apotheke candle and diffuser set, and J. orders it and adds it to Splitwise. $35
12:45 p.m. — My face is hurting, so I take three Advil and scan the kitchen for food. I decide against the leftover pasta so it will become J.’s lunch for tomorrow. I search for a food I won’t have to chew too much and opt to order Korean beef soup. I apply the $15 of Doordash credit (from a credit card) in my account and move to the couch to scroll the Ref sale while I wait. $10.65
1:15 p.m. — My food arrives, and J. comes home early while I’m eating. We’re going to his company holiday party tonight. He confirms I’m still okay to go before going upstairs to take some calls. I only eat half of my lunch so I pack up the rest and take the dog out for her lunchtime walk.
3:30 p.m. — Work is mostly done for the day, so I go upstairs to see what J. is up to. We talk a bit about the potential real estate investment we’ve been considering. He makes a note to do more research, and I go to bed for a quick nap.
4:45 p.m. — J. wakes me up, and I get ready for the holiday party. I do my makeup, change, and then put an excessive amount of dry shampoo in my hair because I was too lazy to wash it last night. J. finishes getting ready before me so he takes the dog out and feeds her dinner.
5:30 p.m. — J. drives us downtown. I fill him in on the details that the resort sent me. It’s an all-inclusive resort, but there are additional services that you can pay for. I read off the spa menu, and we’re flabbergasted at the $775 couples massage, agreeing that no spa treatments will be done that weekend.

8:30 p.m. — Unfortunately, I can’t enjoy the open bar at the party because of the antibiotics, so I settle on drinking apple cider and trying out all the food. J. introduces me to some of his coworkers that I haven’t met before. He knows networking and small talk are very much not my things, so after a while, he goes off on his own, and I hang back and chill with some of his younger coworkers I’ve previously met. Some of them are fresh 2023 grads, which is crazy to me. With the COVID-19 years slowing down time, college feels like such a long time ago. 
10:30 p.m. — J. pays for parking with his corporate card. We grab his car from the valet and go home. The dog runs to greet us as soon as we walk in the door. We give her cuddles and then watch her frantically do every trick she knows for her advent calendar treat.
11:30 p.m. — After an hour of sending each other reels and posts on Instagram while sitting next to each other on the couch, J. and I go upstairs to get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $45.65

Day Four

9 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I’m feeling lazy because it’s Friday. I lay around and check my phone. Five minutes before my first call, I finally get ready. I pass by J. at his desk and ask him to make me a coffee because I don’t have time to make it myself. J. comes into my office to give me the coffee in the middle of my calls.
11:30 a.m. — I finish the calls and place an online order for specialty Chinese groceries. The closest large Chinese grocery store is a 30-mile round trip. With LA traffic, it’s not worth the drive. I apply a $10 coupon in my account, checkout, then add total to Splitwise. $21.38
12 p.m. — An email notification tells me my card has been charged for my coffee order. I have a subscription that ships us beans every two weeks. I add the $13.50 to Splitwise, then go downstairs and see J. hanging out in the backyard with the dog. We heat up our leftovers for lunch. $6.75
2 p.m. — I wrap up my work and sign off for the week. Business has been slow this year given the challenging macro conditions, and work has also slowed with the holidays approaching.
3 p.m. — I drive over to a Girlfriend Collective sample sale. I hadn’t planned on going but I saw on Instagram that they cut sample sale prices by 70%. Almost everything is under $10. They’re also accepting old clothing in exchange for a $15 credit for a future purchase, so I drop off the clothes I brought. I browse for a bit, but things are pretty disorganized, and I don’t actually need more workout clothes or leggings. Still, I leave with five items. $21.98
4:30 — I get home, and J. has left to meet up with a couple of friends. I take the dog on a quick walk, change, and drive over to meet friends for tennis.
7:45 — We end up playing for nearly three hours. J. joins us in the middle, so we play a couple quick sets of doubles. Afterwards, J. and I debate grabbing food but settle on eating at home.
8 p.m. — We get home, feed the dog dinner, and wash up. J. gets the laundry from two days ago out of the dryer, and we finally put it away. I show him my sample sale purchases, and he’s shocked at how cheap everything was. I heat up ready-to-eat curry that we bought at MUJI during our recent trip to Japan. It tastes incredible, and I’m sad I didn’t buy more because it’s not available in the US. After dinner, I put on makeup and change, and we go to a friend’s birthday party.
1 a.m. — We get back and spend some time cuddling up with the dog. She gets her daily advent calendar treats and eventually we get the motivation to go upstairs to bed.
Daily Total: $50.11

Day Five

11 a.m. — I hear my phone buzz and wake up to find the dog laying on J.’s pillow (he left earlier in the morning to meet up with friends). I check my phone and somehow spend an hour scrolling.
12 p.m. — Downstairs, I feed the dog and make an iced coffee. I let the dog out and start making Japanese-style rice bowls with grilled beef tongue. J. calls me and asks if I want jeans. He’s at a sample sale, and everything is $29, marked down from $200. I pick out the exact colors and styles I’m interested in off the brand’s website.
1 p.m. — J. gets home as I finish making lunch. He shows me the jeans he bought for himself and the pair that he got for me and tells me not to worry about paying him back. We eat lunch and leave the dishes for later.
3:30 p.m. — I somehow spend two hours laying on the couch aimlessly scrolling on my phone, so it’s time to do something active. J. and I get changed and drive over to the tennis courts.
5 p.m. — I contemplate quitting tennis about 20 times during the hour and wish my parents had put me in sports when I was a kid. I only started playing tennis a few years ago.
5:15 p.m. — We stop by the grocery store to grab fruit and vegetables for the week. We decide to get ingredients to make quesadillas and Oreo cheesecake. I pay and use an AMEX offer that refunds $5 when I use Apple Pay and make a note to add the expense to Splitwise later. $24.33
6 p.m. — We get home and find the Chinese groceries have been delivered. I put them away and throw a load of darks in the laundry while J. feeds the dog and showers. I move the laundry into the dryer, then make quesadillas and pickled onions. J. unloads and reloads the dishwasher. After we eat dinner, we make Oreo cheesecake. We don’t have a mixer, so J. has the job of hand mixing everything together.
9 p.m. — While we wait for the cheesecake to bake and cool, we play Overcooked on the couch. Funnily enough, we’re on the level where they have us baking cakes.
11:30 p.m. — We put the cheesecake in the fridge to set overnight, give the dog her advent calendar treats, and go upstairs to get ready for bed.
1:30 a.m. — I spend a while watching YouTube videos and scrolling social media before finally going to sleep. I definitely need to sleep earlier.
Daily Total: $24.33

Day Six

11 a.m. — I wake up and check my phone. J. is on his way home after a morning run with a friend. I respond to a text from a recurring dog-sitting client to confirm pickup times for next week.
11:30 a.m. — J. gets back while I’m still in bed. He goes downstairs to make me a coffee, and I get out of bed. We try out some of the cheesecake from last night and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. I make mapo tofu and mixed grain rice, while J. takes care of the dog. I make an extra portion for J.’s lunch tomorrow, but he reminds me that he’s going to NorCal for work in the morning so he’ll save it for Tuesday’s lunch.
12:30 p.m. — We watch NFL RedZone as we eat. Neither of our teams is even close to good this year, so we don’t have too much to root for. J. cleans up the kitchen, and I move to the couch.
3 p.m. — I strip the sheets and our duvet and toss the load of linens into the washer. I remake the bed, and J. and I fold the dark laundry from yesterday. Undissolved bits of detergent are stuck to a bunch of items, and I hand wash them in the sink before tossing them back in the dryer. I bought detergent sheets to be more eco-friendly, but they often don’t fully dissolve in a cold wash, and I honestly think I waste more resources having to re-wash and dry the affected clothes. I’ve settled on just going back to my normal Tide liquid detergent once we’re done with this box.
3:45 p.m. — I change and do my makeup. We pack a couple of pieces of cheesecake for our friends and drive downtown to go skating.
5 p.m. — We meet up with two friends at the ice rink, pay for our tickets ($25 for mine), and grab some skates. There’s a huge Christmas tree in the middle of the rink, and I’m feeling the holiday vibes even though it’s almost 70°F out. Having grown up with cold winters, I still feel weird when it’s warm during the holidays in LA. $25
6:30 p.m. — The rink is crowded, but we manage to leave with dry bottoms and zero falls. We drive to dinner nearby and catch up, chatting about our friends’ upcoming wedding while actively dodging questions about when we’re getting married. We’ve been together long enough now that family and friends ask on a relatively consistent basis. J. and I have had many conversations about marriage, especially leading up to and after buying the house, but it’s not an immediate priority for either of us. I get that everyone is curious and their intentions are good, but it’s reaching the point where sometimes I want to scream “It’s none of your damn business!” because the polite answer isn’t working. We split the check, so I put down my card for our half. Our friend pays for our valet ($3) along with his. J. offers him some cash, but he tells us not to worry about it. $31.50
9:30 p.m. — We get home and J. feeds the dog while I put away our coffee beans that were just delivered. We chill on the couch, have cheesecake, and watch highlights from the day’s football games.
10:30 p.m. — I grab the linens out of the dryer, swap out all the towels in our bathroom for fresh ones, and fold and put away the rest of the linens. I shower and get ready for bed, sad that it’s somehow already Sunday night and dreading the upcoming work week. While I do a sheet mask, I take melatonin so that I’m not up until 2 a.m. again. I fall asleep around 11:30 p.m. so that’s a win in my book.
Daily Total: $56.50

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — My alarm wakes me up later than usual because my morning is clear of meetings. J. left early for his flight to NorCal. I check my phone notifications and contemplate life for a while before getting up. My period has just started, which explains the random breakouts I’ve gotten over the last two days. I go downstairs to feed the dog and make my coffee.
10 a.m. — I sit on the couch and put late-night comedy clips on the TV while I catch up on emails and send meeting invites for later in the week. I’m working as a manager on a large project right now, so it’s been a lot of coordinating schedules and emails.
11:45 a.m. — I go outside to move my car into the garage for street sweeping. I’m not particularly motivated to make lunch so I settle on instant noodles with a fried egg and pickled veggies and call it a day. After lunch, I take the dog on our daily lunchtime walk.
1 p.m. — Back in my office, I run through my list of weekly tasks and updates. I tag some coworkers who need to put in their own updates, then review documents sent over by my manager for upcoming meetings, and make a note of some projects that will need to be kicked off in the new year.
4 p.m. — I do my therapy session from the office. I started therapy earlier in the year after weaning off the antidepressants I’ve taken for the last six years. We talk about how “meh” I’ve been feeling lately and the exhaustion of carrying my anxiety and depression in my head. My co-pay is automatically charged to my credit card on file. I’m going to have to change to an HDHP/HSA plan for next year due to changes in my company’s insurance offerings. It’s annoying because it means my annual out-of-pocket cost is going to go up, but I can’t complain too much, given that my premiums are still fully covered. $20
5 p.m. — I feel mentally and emotionally exhausted after therapy and consider canceling tennis. The logical voice in my head tells me that staying home in bed will make me feel worse, so I change into workout clothes and take the dog out for a quick walk.
5:30 p.m. — I drive over to the tennis court and play mixed doubles with a few friends. It’s a fun time, and I’m glad I left the house.
8 p.m. — Back at home, I make noodles for dinner, basically throwing a bunch of random items from the fridge and pantry into a pot and eating it straight out of the pot. I leave the dishes in the sink and go upstairs to shower.
10 p.m. — J. gets home from the airport as I’m lounging in bed. We recap our days, and I tell him that I’m having a bad day. I don’t want to talk about it, so he doesn’t press me. After a hug, some cuddles, and a melatonin, I go to sleep around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $20
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience 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.

Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series