A Week In Los Angeles On A $60,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
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 teacher working in education who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on fidget spinners for her students.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 31
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: -$14,655 ($3,345 in a savings account; $15,000 in a teacher’s pension, minus debt)
Debt: $33,000 (student loans)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,400
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,450 (My husband, P., and I share our apartment. He’s currently unemployed, so I’m covering our rent and most expenses.)
Water: $70
Electricity: $60
Internet: $65
Phone: $120
Student Loans: $500 (This includes payments for myself and P.)
Credit Card: $55
Health & Dental Insurance: $0 (P. and I are both fully covered by my work plan.)
Car Insurance: $150
Gym: $40
Netflix & Max: $15

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 and no. My parents didn’t attend college and neither did most of their siblings. I always loved learning and went to college immediately after high school. During COVID-19, I realized how unhappy I was at my office job and went back to school to get a master’s degree in elementary education. I also earned my license to teach special education. I paid for school with student loans and a Pell Grant.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My family didn’t talk about money much. My mom had me when she was really young and spent most of my childhood working two jobs. My stepdad spent most of my childhood working full time while taking night classes at a trade school. We moved around a lot when I was young and lived with my grandparents for a while. My parents are in a much better place now, and I know how hard they’ve both worked to get to this point.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a Walmart and a fast food restaurant throughout high school. I got the jobs to help out at home and to have a cushion once I finished high school.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. I remember other kids getting new clothes and making comments about how my parents couldn’t afford to shop at those stores, but otherwise I wasn’t aware of how much or how little we may have had. If my parents were ever worried about money, they never showed it in front of me.

Do you worry about money now?
All the time. P. and I live in LA, and it’s an incredibly expensive city. P. was laid off right before Christmas, which has increased the stress about finances. We were both really counting on having most of our student loans forgiven and naively believed it was something that would actually happen. We went through the bulk of our savings over the last winter, spring, and summer when I was finishing up student teaching (and after he had been laid off).

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent at age 18, when I moved out for college. I have some money in my savings account but, as I already mentioned, we used lots of savings in the previous year.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off. It’s been difficult to get out of bed lately, and I’m exhausted this morning. I get up, feed the kitties, and grab my tote bag. I don’t have to be at work until 7:30 a.m., but I like to arrive around 7 a.m. to have quiet time to prep before everyone else arrives. I’m out the door by 6:30 a.m.
6:45 a.m. — I stop at Starbucks on the way to school. I try to only go on Fridays, but today is Monday, and I forgot to pack a lunch. I order a peach green tea, a granola bar, and a protein box with fruit and cheese for lunch. $14.65
12:30 p.m. — I eat my Starbucks lunch and check in with the other teachers before browsing Amazon for classroom items. Some of my students have IEPs (individualized education plans) for specific learning disabilities and are supposed to have certain accommodations in the classroom. The special education department has been swamped for the last few weeks and hasn’t been able to get the items yet. I order some things off of Amazon to use: fidget spinners, squishy items to help with fidgeting, mini pop keychains, pencil grips, and a wiggle chair. Some of the items may be expensed, but the process can take up to six months. I go ahead anyway because I want my kiddos to have what they need and because some of the behavior interventionists use the items for students in other classrooms, too. $80
5:30 p.m. — I stay after school for a few hours to prep for the upcoming week. This is a tip I picked up from my host teacher during student teaching. She preps all worksheets and activities for the upcoming week on Monday and has them organized by day and time so that she can go home early Tuesday through Friday. This has been incredibly helpful and alleviates stress with lesson planning everyday. I also organize my classroom closet; sometimes I dump extra worksheets or items in the closet during the school day, and clutter stresses me out. I debate whether to move my student art wall to make space for a word wall and then decide to leave school instead of starting another project.
5:30 p.m. — I stop to get gas on the way home. Gas is over $6 per gallon here and filling up my hybrid costs $45! I wonder how much SUV and truck drivers are spending on gas and then stop thinking about it before wanting to pass out. $45
Daily Total: $139.65

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I hit the snooze a few times today. I’ve been trying to get back into exercising before work but have been feeling incredibly tired and unmotivated. This is a problem because I know I will feel better after exercising but getting up to do so has been difficult. I’ve been waking up with knots in my stomach recently and haven’t had an appetite in the morning. I get up, brush my teeth, get dressed, and go to school.
12:30 p.m. — I eat my packed lunch and spend the rest of my break meeting with an administrator about an intense parent. The parent has been gossiping about a new student in the parent WhatsApp group and has been complaining about the room decor. I’m lucky that the administrators know how overbearing some of the parents can be and are happy to talk to them for us when needed. The parent has also been hovering in my classroom after school and asking personal questions about other students, which is not cool. Parents have definitely been the most challenging part of teaching so far.
4:30 p.m. — It’s nice to be home! P. makes dinner, and we watch a movie. He catches up on sports news after the movie, while I grade math tests and read emails.
6:30 p.m. — P. and I go for a walk around the neighborhood. The weather is finally starting to cool off, and it feels so nice to be outside. We go home, take showers, and read before bed at 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I hit the snooze again this morning. And snooze again. And again. I’m lucky to have ended up at a school that is a five-minute drive from home and don’t need to worry about beating traffic or leaving an hour early to get to school on time. My stomach is in knots again, so I brush my teeth, get ready, and am out the door by 7:10 a.m.
12:30 p.m. — I walk with a coworker to Starbucks during our lunch break. She orders a drink, but I packed my lunch and just came along for the walk. It’s nice to get out of school and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. She’s planning an upcoming weekend trip to the East Coast, and we talk about how much we miss the seasons and seeing the colorful foliage in the fall.
6 p.m. — P. and I order pizza and mozzarella sticks for dinner, even though we’ve been trying to eat healthy. He spent the day cleaning the apartment and doing laundry, and neither of us has the energy to cook. We talk about the upcoming season for my home state’s football team (it’s looking pretty bleak) and his home state’s team (it’s looking pretty bleak), then we watch Below Deck Down Under while we eat and marvel at how good Aesha is at her job. $40
7 p.m. — I talk to my stepdad on the phone for a while. My mom and brother are both dealing with major health issues and have been in and out of the hospital over the last few months. I want to go home to visit but haven’t accrued time off at school, plus flights are expensive. My stepdad assures me that they’re both doing better, but I’m deeply worried about them as well as my stepdad, who is dealing with everything alone. After we talk, I journal, read, then go to bed at 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $40

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — This is the third day in a row that I hit the snooze button. I get up, feed the kitties, get ready, and am out the door by 7:15 a.m. My stomach is in knots again, so I grab a granola bar to eat at school.
12:30 p.m. — I spend lunch asking my other teachers how to deal with a high-maintenance parent. I also pat myself on the back for remembering to pack lunch (Caesar salad, an apple, and Trader Joe’s olive oil popcorn). The other teachers talk about their own high-maintenance parents and students. Another teacher says a student told her to go fuck herself today. We’re all feeling frazzled and worried about different student behaviors and parent behaviors. I feel awful hearing the other teachers’ stories, but it’s also nice to know that I’m not the only stressed-out person.
5 p.m. — My friend’s daughter has started playing volleyball this year, and I go to her game to cheer her on and catch up with my friend. I buy us snacks from the concession stand: popcorn, a soft pretzel, and candy. The soft pretzel is delicious, and I make a mental note to find a soft pretzel recipe to try out at home. (I know I’ll never try to make a soft pretzel at home, but it’s fun to pretend to be the type of person who would.) I remember how much fun it was to play soccer and volleyball in high school and make another mental note to look for a non-competitive adult team nearby. $20
7 p.m. —  I’m home, and it’s time to check over homework assignments. When I’m done, the hubby and I hang out with the kitties and watch more Below Deck Down Under. Again, Aesha is a marvel. We love her.
Daily Total: $20

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I crack and get Starbucks again today for the second time this week. This is a direct violation of my One Starbucks Per Week rule, but I ran out of lettuce and Caesar dressing and am feeling groggy again this morning. I get a protein box and am floored to realize that an iced chai latte is now $5.45, plus an extra $0.70 for oat milk! I vow to be better about only getting Starbucks once a week. Paying over $6 for a beverage will cause feelings of enormous rage several times throughout the day. $12.35
12:30 p.m. — I have lunch with teachers again. This has become something of a daily ritual, and it’s been really nice. I hope it continues throughout the entire school year. We swap student stories, and I realize that, despite how stressed I’ve been since school started, I really love working with my students. Well, most of them. We talk briefly about doing a group teacher costume for Halloween, and I hope that it happens.
7 p.m. — P. and I are on the way to a friend’s apartment. He’s hosting a rooftop dinner party. His rooftop is beautiful, and a few other friends are going, but the host’s cooking tends to make me sick. I try to come up with an excuse to stay home (I think the possibility of food poisoning is valid), but P. says sometimes our friend’s food is good, plus I haven’t seen our other friends since school started. We stop on the way to pick up a bottle of wine and flowers for the host. The food brought by other guests is delicious, but I accidentally eat a dish cooked by the host and I do indeed get sick. I’m incredibly smug about this, although there are no real winners when it comes to mild food poisoning. $30
Daily Total: $42.35

Day Six

11 a.m. — P. and I meet a friend and her husband for brunch. We go to our favorite restaurant, which makes the most amazing breakfast sandwiches: scrambled eggs, brie, arugula, tomato, and bacon on toasted ciabatta. It’s truly heaven on a plate. I have hyped this place up to my friend and am thrilled when she and her husband both love it. Since they paid the bill last time we all went to dinner together, I grab the bill today. On the way out, P. bumps into one of the servers we know, who says the restaurant will be closing in two weeks. This is devastating news. P. and I have had so many good times here. The food is always delightful, and the servers are incredibly kind. We vow to come again before the place closes. $140
1 p.m. — We find out that an old theater nearby is playing Hocus Pocus. The four of us head there to buy tickets. There is an organ onstage in front of the screen, and the organ player (organist?) is playing “Thriller” and various Disney villain songs. Hocus Pocus is so much fun, and we all agree to see it again next year. As we’re leaving, my friend’s husband gets a text from his office and learns he has just been given four tickets to the LA Kings game tonight. I’m not a fan of the Kings but love hockey, so we plan to meet up again later to go to the game. $36
7:30 p.m. — Goooo, hockey! The game is amazing, and we have nice seats. We’re lucky that the tickets are free because snacks and drinks at the arena are very pricey. I spent a lot of money today but I’ve had a great time — and today is the first time in weeks that I haven’t had knots in my stomach all day. $80
11 p.m. — Between leaving the arena and traffic, we get home around 11 p.m. We thank our friends profusely for such a great day and make plans to go to another hockey game. P. and I are not late-night people and we immediately crash once we get home. The kitties jump into bed with us, and I feel completely at peace.
Daily Total: $256

Day Seven

11 a.m. — P. and I meet up with two friends at a coffee shop. He gets an iced coffee and a Danish, I get an iced tea and a chocolate scone. We have a mellow morning sitting in the sun and talking. We’ve been to this coffee shop a few times before and have noticed that one of the regulars brings his laptop and sits at a four-person table for hours at a time. We’ve never seen him sit at a small table and wonder if he’s a screenwriter (since this is LA) and if he ever feels guilty for taking up a four-person table at a crowded coffee shop on weekends. $25
1:30 p.m. — P. and I stop at our favorite park to read our new library books. This has become something of a ritual and it’s so nice to be outside. My brain tends to turn into mush from watching too much reality TV and reading makes it feel better. I loved my last book, All The Light We Cannot See, so much that any new book just feels inferior.
3 p.m. — Home again. Time to map out lessons for the upcoming week and to catch up on school emails and parent messages.
6 p.m. —  P. makes a grilled caprese sandwich for me and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for himself. I count my lucky stars every day that he enjoys cooking, because I do not. We play cards and watch Below Deck Down Under until bed at 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $25
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