Money Diaries logo

A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $135,000 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 TV writer who makes $135,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a tent.
Occupation: TV Writer
Industry: Entertainment
Age: 30
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $135,000
Net Worth: ~$154,900 (my husband and I own a small condo together and split the mortgage 50/50. We owe $330,000 on the mortgage and have $210,000 in equity (home value is $560,000). I have $34,500 in a savings account and $15,400 in my Roth IRA).
Debt: $165,000 my half of the mortgage.
Paycheck Amount (1x/week): $5,000 (this current contract is for 27 weeks).
Pronouns: She/they

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,500 (my half of the mortgage. Our minimum mortgage is only $1,000 per person but we like to pay slightly more so we can pay it off faster).
Internet: $104.99
Spotify: $9.99
NY Times: $5
Google Storage: $1.99
Twitch Subscriptions: $8.98
Patreon Subscriptions: $19.87
Peacock: $4.99
Apple TV: $6.99
iCloud: $2.99
Squarespace: $14
VPN: $12.95
Amazon Prime: $16.41
Coffee Shop: $40 (my neighborhood coffee shop lets you have unlimited lattes for $40 a month).
Donations: $1,000
Savings: $1,000
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?
I came to the US as a refugee with my family, most of whom have no education. My mother spent my entire childhood putting herself through school to become a doctor. Due to her own student loans, we knew college would be difficult for me financially. I was only able to attend because I got a full ride to a prestigious school.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I grew up in abject poverty, teetering between housing insecurity and homelessness at all times. It was always very clear to me that we were poor, especially because the public housing we lived in was in a somewhat wealthy area and I felt the contrast. I started working as soon as I was old enough and have never stopped. From age 20 to 30, on top of my full-time job, I have always worked weekend and freelance gigs to be able to save enough money because I will have no inherited wealth.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a cashier at a movie theater. My mom told me I would have to get a job as soon as I was old enough to work so I applied everywhere I could.
Did you worry about money growing up?
We were always extremely anxious about money. I only wore used clothes from Goodwill or the Salvation Army, the only toys or school supplies I ever got as a kid were from charities, and we never traveled anywhere. My dad is not in the picture so my mom had to take care of both of us as well as my grandparents. The four of us lived together and they took care of me so my mom could work as much as possible.
Do you worry about money now?
2023 is the first year of my life I'm making six figures and it's surreal to be able to just afford things, especially because I pay a lot for medical care due to having a chronic illness. My mom started making some money by the time I went off to college but she was in extreme student loan debt and I had to provide for myself. I was homeless or housing insecure until I landed my first job as an assistant in TV, making $30,000 a year, in 2014. I constantly took on additional part-time and freelance jobs so I could make at least $50,000 a year. This year I will make $135,000 as a TV writer and I still feel anxious knowing that after my contract ends in 27 weeks, I have to find a new one.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was financially responsible for myself by age 16 and have never had a financial safety net from my family. I met my now spouse about eight years ago and know I could count on him for money if I ever needed to (though I never have).
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I have never received passive or inherited income.

Day One

9 a.m. — I stop at my favorite local coffee shop. I pay for a $40 monthly subscription that allows me to get unlimited drinks there. They have an incredible latte that would normally cost $7 but it's free today thanks to my subscription. Then I head to work for the day.
4 p.m. — I don't spend any money at work because our meals are provided for us. After work I stop at a nearby bookstore to pick up my cousin's new book, which was just released. $16
5 p.m. — I sit down to finish my annual taxes. I forgot I have to pay the LA Business Tax because I'm a freelancer, which sets me back almost $250. I call my accountant to set up a new S Corp, which sets me back another $700 but should save me money in the long run. $949.11
6 p.m. — I suddenly remember I need to drop off some pants at the dry cleaners. I ride a bike as my primary form of transportation and while foolishly trying to balance a coffee yesterday, I spilled it all over them. The stain wasn't coming out in the laundry and I really love these pants. Our local dry cleaners are very familiar with my ability to spill things all over myself at this point. $12
7 p.m. — A friend texts me to ask if I want to go see another friend's play later this month. I buy a ticket for $38. $38
Daily Total: $1,015.11

Day Two

9 a.m. — I stop by at my coffee shop for my daily latte. I debate whether I should be spending $40 a month on coffee membership but if I'm getting 20-30 lattes a month out of it, it really is an incredible deal.
5 p.m. — After work I stop by our local farmers' market. There's a stand that sells fermented foods and I pick up a jar of her pickled daikon, my all-time favorite food. I splurge a little on some hummus and wildflower honey from two other stands. My grocery bill is almost nonexistent because I get fed at work, so I really only buy snacks. $25
7:30 p.m. — I meet with a few of my friends on Zoom — we run a mutual aid group together. We discuss whether to buy some supplies that might be needed in the next few weeks, and I spend about $80 buying a tent we need to replace for an unhoused neighbor. $80
Daily Total: $105

Day Three

9 a.m. — You guessed it. My daily free latte. Today I'm going to try to stop by for a second drink after lunch if I have enough time at work because I'm really trying to maximize this membership. Once I get my coffee, I head to the office.
5 p.m. — Because of my job, I qualify to join another union today. They ask for $2,500 upfront in initiation fees. I've been a member of various unions my entire career so I'm happy to pay it and keep up my Norma Rae energy. $2,500
6 p.m. — It's my husband's birthday this weekend so I go shopping for gifts for him. He likes nice clothing so I get him a very nice jacket and a new button-down shirt. I look for some really nice designer things he's had his eye on because I really want to spoil him now that I'm making decent money. $600
7 p.m. — I have to do physical therapy because I tore a few ligaments in my knee a couple of months ago. I realize I haven't paid for some recent sessions and I fork over $240. When I broke my foot years ago, I couldn't afford to do physical therapy and it really messed up my body so I feel lucky to be able to do it now, as much as it kind of hurts. $240
8 p.m. — Some friends of ours are streaming some games on Twitch tonight. I subscribe to them (in monthly expenses) and watch for the evening.
Daily Total: $3,340

Day Four

9 a.m. — My daily free (but not really free) latte calls my name.
12 p.m. — On my lunch break I look at some new bike accessories for my electric bike. I had a bike stolen previously so I've been very focused on keeping my current one secure. A friend recommended I look at putting a discreet AirTag holder on the body so I go for it. I own a car but I never use it and I contemplate selling it. I could get $6,000 for it, although it needs some repairs that might set me back $1,000. $12.99
5 p.m. — I stop at Sephora after work. I have a big scar on my chin from an accident and I've been trying to get it to fade a little but I don't want to throw down for an actual procedure. I splurge on some Kate Somerville scar cream. $60
7:30 p.m. — Every year we go out for a big meal for my husband's birthday. He found out he's being laid off from his job this week so I really want to treat him to a nice meal. We go out to a new Michelin-star restaurant and have an incredible time. I don't drink because alcohol messes with the meds I take for my chronic illness, but this place has non-alcoholic craft cocktails so I'm in for a treat. After 15 courses, we crawl back to our place and immediately fall asleep. $410
Daily Total: $482.99

Day Five

9 a.m. — I wake up feeling truly hungover despite not drinking. I desperately need the latte more than ever today. I have a heart condition from getting COVID last year and I'm supposed to avoid certain foods, which I did not do last night. Oh well, YOLO.
12 p.m. — During my lunch break at work, I put in a $220 Costco order via Instacart to have some pantry essentials, snacks, frozen salmon and other things delivered to our place. I like to bake so we go through baking supplies pretty fast. I feel really lucky that I get fed at work and don't have to worry about groceries right now. $220
5 p.m. — Because I'm back at work full-time for the next 20 weeks, I don't have as much flexibility to do the thing I want to focus most of my time on: connecting with my unhoused neighbors. I give two friends of mine $700 to help with purchasing some supplies. Tents and sleeping bags are the biggest cost and it's very cold and rainy in LA lately so people's stuff gets destroyed much more easily. I'm glad I have a well-paying job right now so I can help us afford some more supplies. $700
7:30 p.m. — We go out with our friend group tonight for my husband's birthday, to one of his favorite Persian restaurants in LA. The food is incredible. $55
Daily Total: $975

Day Six

9 a.m. — I stop by for my free latte and throw in a breakfast burrito too. I'm volunteering at an outreach event for our unhoused neighbors for the next few hours so I need some extra energy. $12
3 p.m. — My husband convinces me to buy a really cool sweater he found online for me. We both love clothes and he's great at finding designer stuff on consignment. I limit myself to buying one clothing item per month (and it has to be something that will last me years) so this will be my purchase for the month. $250
5:30 p.m. — We go out for another birthday dinner with some other friends, at our favorite fried chicken place in Koreatown. The food is only $10 per person, an incredible deal. The chef who runs the restaurant used to be a filmmaker and gives us a free copy of one of his movies. We love obscure movie finds so we're stoked to watch it later. After dinner, we walk across the street to get boba at my favorite place. I buy myself a banana milk tea and treat my husband to a Thai milk tea. $22
Daily Total: $284

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up feeling very tired and read a book in bed for a while, then finish up the WWE special I fell asleep watching last night. I decide not to bike over to the coffee shop, and I make myself a matcha latte at home. I'm behind on new movies so I pay $15 to grab a ticket to a showing of Infinity Pool late tonight at the indie theater in our neighborhood. I ask my friend if she wants to go see the new Magic Mike this week, and we pay $20 for the earliest showing tomorrow morning. I love going to the movies more than anything but because I have long COVID, I have to be very cautious, so I only go to weird showtimes when I know the theater will be empty. $35
12 p.m. — I have therapy today. I've struggled with debilitating mental illnesses my entire life. I've been feeling anxious about my new job but it's all going smoothly. Most of my anxiety lately is rooted in my health — I've dealt with a chronic illness since my early 20s but things got significantly worse after I contracted COVID. I have a big cardiology appointment coming up and I'm hoping to get good news; I know I'll feel very defeated if I don't. I'm once again feeling lucky to be in a well-paying job right now with union health insurance so I can afford all of these doctor appointments. $60
3 p.m. — I get a deep tissue massage at the local Thai spa. I haven't gotten a massage since the pandemic started and it's particularly helpful for my knee injury. When you hurt your knee you have to massage your quad a lot to help with mobility, and the sports massage they do in physical therapy is super helpful despite being extremely unpleasant. The massage is only $60 but while I'm there I find out they're having a sale on gift cards so I buy six that I can give to my friends as gifts. I really like buying gifts for people. $360
Daily Total: $455
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