A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $43,500 Salary

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Today: an evaluator working in higher education who makes $43,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on aloe gel.
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Occupation: Evaluator
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 29
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $43,500
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,243
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $600 for my share. (I live with my boyfriend, S., and he pays two-thirds of our rent. He makes more money than I do and lived here before we met, so he jokes that my contribution is a bonus.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I went to undergrad in Europe and grad school in Asia.)
Phone Bill: $30
Car Insurance: $228.96 (I only started driving at age 28, and I commute 40 miles a day to work.)
Health Insurance: $50
Netflix: $0 (We use my boyfriend's sister's account.)
Spotify: $0 (My friend put me on his family plan.)
Amazon: $10.99
Curology: $24.99 (This has saved my skin.)
Gym Membership: $79 (My boyfriend and I are avid rock-climbers — we actually met at this gym.)
401(k): 10% of each paycheck pre-tax
Savings: $600-700
Charitable Donations: $5-20 (I know it's not much, but I try to give a little at least once a month.)

Day One

5:10 a.m. — It's Friday! My alarm rings and I roll out of bed to put on coffee and do a 20-minute workout. I'm always happy when I manage to squeeze exercise in, because sleep wins out most of the time. Squats, pushups, and leg lifts done by 5:40, and then it's time to get ready for work. I use benzoyl peroxide, micellar water, niacinamide from The Ordinary, Korean hyaluronic moisturizer, and sunscreen. (I wear sunscreen every single day — I picked up the habit in Asia in my early twenties and am very glad I did.) Then I slap on foundation, and since I'm not going to the gym tonight, I get fancy and put on eyeshadow. I promptly fuck up my eyeliner, as per usual. My eyes never match. Oh well.
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7:35 a.m. — I start work at 8 but always give myself breathing room, because LA traffic is terrible. On my drive, I finish the Last Podcast On The Left episode that I started yesterday. Get to work, pour myself some coffee, and have breakfast, which I brought in at the beginning of the week — Greek yogurt mixed with protein powder. I eat pretty much the same things for every breakfast and lunch.
9:40 a.m. — Second breakfast time! I'm constantly hungry. Luckily, there's a protein bar in my gym bag. S. texts me and asks if I'm down to try a new crag tomorrow with one of our climbing friends. Answer is obviously yes! Our favorite crag is in the desert, and it's been too hot there for the last month or so, so we've been trying a lot of new places — luckily there are a ton within a two-hour driving range of us. A couple of my friends have gotten into climbing recently since I dragged them to try it a couple times, so hopefully they'll want to come too!
12 p.m. — Lunchtime. I have to clock in and out, which I find a bit infantilizing. I eat my usual chicken, kale, and carrots with a can of my favorite sparkling water! I'm terribly boring, but I just don't care enough to put more effort into meal prep. I eat at my desk, because if I sit in the break room, people try to talk to me, which I don't really like on my break. I'm moderately introverted, so I like to be left alone.
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5:45 p.m. — Get home after an okay commute. I tried two new podcasts on the way — Pod Save America and Candidate Confessional — but didn't make it past the first three minutes of either and ended up settling on an episode of I'm Still Here about opioid addiction. Google Maps sends me through Koreatown to save time.
6:45 p.m. — Spend quality time with S., and then we take the dog on a walk around the reservoir, which is a chill two-mile loop. I think about how wonderful it is to be walking around in this lovely weather with my two favorite boys, and feel very grateful. S. proposes we go to our favorite ice cream place, which I can never say no to. He pays, since I didn't bring my wallet or my phone because I thought we were just walking the dog. Soft serve for dinner!
9:20 p.m. — I pack our climbing gear and snacks for tomorrow while S. makes himself dumplings. Then I shower and sit in bed with a book. We're leaving at 6:20 tomorrow morning so I want to go to sleep early, though I'm in bed by 10 most days anyway.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5:25 a.m. — I woke up at 3, 3:30, 4:45, and 5:15 a.m. this morning, and now finally get up after lying in bed thinking about what I want for breakfast. I settle on an egg on toast and make a bagel for S. Then, I do my usual morning skincare and debate wearing concealer on the active pimples I have right now (which are likely here because my period is due). I decide against it, because I'm going to have to reapply sunscreen while we're out, and resign myself to letting them being visible.
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6:25 a.m. — My friend, B., gets to our house since we're carpooling, and we go pick up our other friend.
1 p.m. — Make it out of the mountain after getting slightly lost. We call it a day earlier than usual because it's sooooo hot, but we got in some fun climbing. We stop at a gas station for cold drinks and I buy popsicles for S. and me, too. $8.07
3:19 p.m. — The shower when we get home is pure bliss. The dog is afraid of the sound of the shower for some reason and goes to hide upstairs when it turns on. I make a hardboiled egg salad for me and an egg muffin sandwich for S. B. taught us how to make homemade butter, so S. promptly tries it out, and magically, it works! We now have more butter in the fridge. I think there are already a couple pounds of it in there — we go through a lot of butter.
4:30 p.m. — We go to REI because I need to return some stuff. S. is happy because he discovers a Gus's Fried Chicken nearby and insists on going. We stop for food and he pays. It's surprisingly good! I'm not the biggest fan of fried chicken, probably because I never had it growing up, but this is really nice. The fried green tomatoes are my favorite part of the meal.
6:30 p.m. — We go grocery shopping at Ralph's — more kale and baby carrots for my work lunches, veggies, sparkling water (Kroger's brand is really good, except for the blueberry flavor), burrito wraps, and S.'s protein nut milk stuff and protein bagels. S. pays, because I did last week.
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7:30 p.m. — After S. plays with the dog in the backyard for half an hour or so, I take him out for another walk (our backyard is all paved and he won't pee on it, which is both a blessing and a curse). We then settle in to watch Game Night, eat ice cream, and split a Miller High Life that's been sitting in the fridge for two weeks, which I drink most of.
Daily Total: $8.07

Day Three

7:01 a.m. — Wake up feeling pretty good! S. gets up to take dog out, so I roll out of bed and go stare at my face. Pimples seem to be calming down, luckily. Put benzoyl peroxide on them and then go start the coffee — I like using my downtime from one thing to do another. When that's done, I go wash the benzoyl off with micellar water, slap on niacinamide, two moisturizers, and more sunscreen, and have the same debate as yesterday regarding makeup — especially as there might be a couple people at the beach today I don't like very much. I feel naked without foundation if things are bad. Still, being able to reapply sunscreen wins again, so no makeup.
8:25 a.m. — I have nothing better to do, so I start my meal prep — throw chicken in the Instapot and measure out oatmeal, yogurt, and baby carrots into snack packs. I wash my makeup brushes while the chicken cooks.
9:30 a.m. — Throw chicken in a Tupperware and get coffees for S. and me. $9
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10 a.m. — My friend M. meets us at a burrito place for breakfast. Papas bacon — best breakfast burrito ever. (S. pays for me since it's cash-only and I don't have cash.) We go pick up ice for the cooler and I pick up a six-pack and a Coke Zero. $13.47
11 a.m. — I stop to get gas before we get to the beach. $25.17
11:30 a.m. — Finally we're here! Parking is $13, which is mildly horrifying. $13
3:30 p.m. — After a few hours of sun and hanging out, the wind has gotten really strong and I'm cold. We call it a day, and I drive my friend back home. I realize that despite the sunscreen, the backs of my legs have gotten badly burnt, which is painful and annoying.
4:45 p.m. — I unpack, throw everything in the wash, and shower — it's finally time to wash my hair, which I only do once a week. The cold water provides relief on my burns. S. offers to get me aloe at the store, lovely man, but I figure I'll survive. I can't be bothered to blow dry, so I slap my wet hair in a braid and pray it turns out decent.
6 p.m. — S. has been eating junk all day and feels gross, and the same goes for me, so I roast us butternut squash, zucchini, and garlic, and we both feel a lot better! We sit on the couch talking for a while and end up watching the pilot of Ozark. We've been trying to find a show to watch together for ages, as we usually don't care for the same things (except Stranger Things, GoT, and Orange is the New Black), but we both enjoy this one!
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Daily Total: $60.64

Day Four

5:25 a.m. — The stinging in my legs wakes me up, but otherwise I feel pretty good. Lie in bed for 15 more minutes before getting up. Put benzoyl peroxide on my pimples, which are clearing up! Go start the coffee, then lotion for the millionth time since I got home yesterday. This shit hurts, man. I don't think I've been sunburnt in the last 10 years, and this is more painful than I remember. Slap foundation on — I'm running low and have to open the bottle to scoop it out. I somehow manage to not mess up my eyeliner and mascara. Hair is a wavy cloud, which I am okay with.
6:40 a.m. — Leave for work! Traffic is good and I listen to NPR and the latest drama in politics. Lots of talk about the California primary, and I am pleased because I already posted my ballot last week. (This is only my second year living in the States, but I'm an American citizen.) I spent an hour and half researching everything last week because this is the first time I've been legally allowed to vote anywhere, and I take it very seriously.
9:16 a.m. — When I was still excited about my job during the first couple of months, I volunteered for an extra research project, and I have a draft due in a month and a half for it, so I start working. I also put in requests for time off to go to my cousin's wedding in Montana at the end of the month — unpaid, since I don't get paid time off.
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12 p.m. — Chicken salad and Reddit. Then I browse for collagen powder, because I read something about it being good for your skin, and wonder if I should become one of those people who puts collagen powder in their tea. (Maybe I've been in LA for too long.) Research the best place to donate stuff to and find a volunteer-manned thrift store near us that provides help to seniors in our community.
1:27 p.m. — Time for a puzzle break; we have a giant puzzle in the break room. And more sparkling water. (It is a serious addiction.)
6 p.m. — Make it home after stopping at CVS and picking up new foundation and aloe, as well as hair oil and a single use mud mask to try out. I lather myself in aloe and then start on making burritos, both for dinner tonight and for our gym nights this week. $29.30
7:30 p.m. — Quiet time for both of us, which means that I settle in with Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, and S. goes to read his book. An hour later, we switch around, and I go read my book in bed while he goes upstairs to do whatever on the computer. S. turns in around 9:10 because he's not feeling so great, and I pass out not much later.
Daily Total: $29.30

Day Five

5:45 a.m. — Alarm rings. Get up, slap BP on, turn on coffee, slather self in aloe. Hair is floofy, which I'm still okay with. Wash off BP and put on niacinamide, eye cream (cheapo CVS kind), moisturizer, sunscreen, primer, foundation, eyeliner, and mascara. Slather more aloe on before getting dressed in the dark (because S. asked me not to wake him up this morning). Settle in with my book and coffee for a couple minutes.
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7:40 a.m. — Slow drive to work today. It's election day in California, and I hope the voter turnout is good this year. Eat overnight oats and browse Reddit until I have to clock in at 8.
10:42 a.m. — Eat a protein bar for my second breakfast. Scroll through Instagram for a minute and apparently all my friends are going through a spiritual phase, because every other post is something about seizing the moment or stopping and smelling the flowers.
12:20 p.m. — Chicken salad for lunch. I avoid the clique of coworkers in the break room.
5:50 p.m. — Get to the gym! Climb all the things. S. talks to a dude we see here all the time and asks him if he wants to climb with us. He gladly accepts. New friend!
8:30 p.m. — Get home, eat dinner, shower, and have long emotional talk about stuff with S. He's has been pretty stressed about various things recently, and it's been affecting me as well. We end the talk with both of us feeling better!
9:45 p.m. — Finish my book in bed — that's 11 books this year so far! I'm doing a reading challenge on Goodreads with a goal of reading 30 this year, so I'm a little bit behind. Pass out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

5:45 a.m. — S. is up before me, which is an exceedingly uncommon occurrence. I make him a bagel while he walks the dog, which makes him very happy. I'm wearing a ton of eyeliner because I messed it up, but S. tells me he likes this style. We drink coffee and he eats while we argue over who gets the last good protein bar — we're both trying to give it to each other. He wins, since he refuses to take it with him. I see him looking at the clock, so I offer to take care of the dog's paws. (We have to clean them after every walk now, because he has a grass allergy and licks them raw.) S. accepts gratefully and runs off.
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6:35 a.m. — Leave for work a bit early because I have to get gas. $40.13
7:30 a.m. — Get to work, eat my Greek yogurt with vanilla protein powder, and make a giant mug of coffee. I'm feeling tired, and my throat is a bit scratchy, so I suck on a lozenge I find in my purse and get to work.
9:27 a.m. — Making great progress at work! I have pretty bad cramping going on and wish this period would start already. I consider (for the millionth time) getting my IUD removed.
12:55 p.m. — Busy day. Chicken salad did not hit the spot today. I check my bank account, and my direct deposit hit! I have a very basic credit card that doesn't really earn me any rewards or anything, but now that I have a year of credit under my belt, I look at the offers from my bank and debate applying for a new one.
5:45 p.m. — Get home after listening to part of a Last Podcast On The Left episode about Casey Anthony. Super interesting stuff. Snuggle with S. for a bit before he goes to have dinner with his best friend. I was invited, but opted to let them have alone time. Plus, I'm excited to get my own alone time.
6:45 p.m. — Let tofu marinate in a mix of gochujang, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and then go work out for 15 minutes. I watch half an episode of the The Only Way Is Essex and drink half a beer (leftover from beach day) before deciding tofu is marinated enough. I toss it in a pan while stir-frying cabbage, kale, and onions with the leftover marinade. I eat way too much of it and have to restrain myself to save some for S. Watch more The Only Way Is Essex, pack my gym bag for tomorrow, and finish my beer. S. comes back around 8:45 and we spend time together before bed. Life is good.
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Daily Total: $40.13

Day Seven

5:35 a.m. — Roll out of bed feeling a bit tired but overall good. Skin is not happy with me today, so I think again about buying collagen powder and spearmint tea — apparently the latter is supposed to help with hormonal breakouts, periods, and the like. I also remember seeing a Money Diarist talk about an ice roller, so maybe I should get one of those. Or change my routine? My skin was good for a while, but this month it's being very fussy.
7:30 a.m. — Pretty easy drive to work! Hopefully today is better than yesterday.
11:23 a.m. — Take a 10-minute screen break and use it to look for split ends, as my hair is feeling rougher than usual. Find too many, and consider getting a haircut, which I don't really want to do. It's been three months since my last one, where I chopped a big chunk of damaged hair off, and I'm trying to grow it back out. My hair does not like the dryness of L.A. Sometimes I look at the girls in L.A. and wonder if I should upgrade my wardrobe or get my nails done or buy a hair straightener. Weird competitive feelings I don't like.
12:10 p.m. — Chicken salad again. Someone reheated fries in the break room, and now I want fries.
3:05 p.m. — Feeling efficient! Got all the extra work done that I got suddenly assigned (because we're understaffed), and I reward myself with a chocolate protein bar and yet another sparkling water (cranberry lime!). I browse Amazon and look at ice rollers, but don't pull the plug just yet.
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5:45 p.m. — Gym time!
7:30 p.m. — Only spend an hour and a half climbing, because S. is tired and I'm having insane cramps. Go home and walk the dog. S. stops on the way and buys me spearmint tea and ice cream, because he is an angel. I vape some weed to alleviate the pain, but it doesn't seem to help. Spend the rest of the evening with my heating pad wrapped around me, drinking tea and talking to S.
Daily Total: $0
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