A Week In The Bay Area On A $325,000 Salary – Refinery29

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Photo: Courtesy of Benefit Cosmetics;.
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.

This week: a director who makes $325,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Benefit eyeliner.

Occupation: Director
Industry: Real estate
Age: 41
Location: Bay Area, California
Salary: $325,000
Assets: Taxable brokerage: $167,500; 401(k): $304,800; Roth IRA: $45,000; HSA: $12,700; HYSA: $50,000; checking: $3,000; home value: $520,000; car value: $20,000
Debt: Mortgage: $411,000; car loan: $12,500; credit card (0% APR until October 2024): $4,500
Paycheck Amount (Bimonthly): $7,400
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $3,484
Monthly Loan Payments: Mortgage: $2,115; car payment: $275
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage: $2,115
HOA Dues: $457
Home Insurance: $84
Property Tax Reserve: $800
Home Warranty: $28
Electric: $75
Car Insurance: $200
Monthly Subscriptions: $152 (Spotify, Netflix, Oura Ring, Nuuly, Google storage)
Annual subscriptions: $1,630 (Google Webpass, One Medical, LastPass, credit card annual fees)

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. I was raised by a college-educated single mom and I honestly didn’t know there were any other options. I took out student loans for undergrad expenses, and got a post-professional master’s degree, which was paid for by my employer, a few years ago.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom was a shopaholic and I definitely inherited her habit, although we never struggled. We didn’t really discuss saving or investing, but when she was finally able to buy a house, she said it was a good investment. I was 11 or 12 at the time.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
The summer after my junior year in high school I worked as a dishwasher at the convalescent home where my mom was an occupational therapist. I was fortunate to inherit my mom’s commuter car, but I had to pay for my own gas and spending money to run around with friends.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn’t worry much before I left for college. Post undergrad, though, I worried constantly. My first job out of college paid very little and I had $50,000 of student loan debt. I struggled throughout my 20s.

Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I would love to FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) and retire in my 50s.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My mom paid for my cell phone and car insurance my first year of undergrad, then I was on my own.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My mom “gifted” me $6,000 for a down payment on a condo which she persuaded me to purchase when I was 22. Remember, property is a good investment! I was house poor and it stressed me out for most of my 20s. I lost money on the sale and never repaid her, although I’ve offered.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and take my time getting ready for work. I have a 20-25 minute commute, depending on traffic. It’s usually lighter on Mondays. $7
10 a.m. — I’m in the office and talking to a coworker about one of our projects. I have time to catch up on emails until a Zoom meeting at 12:30 p.m., then a meeting with our entire team at 2 p.m.
11:45 a.m. — I take a break to pick up my NuvaRing prescription and stop by Sephora for a Benefit eyeliner. $26.07
11:50 a.m. — I place a pick-up order in the Chipotle app for a chicken taco and a side of chips and guac. I am back in the office with 20 minutes to spare before an afternoon of meetings. $10.02
12:30 p.m. — In meetings until 5 p.m. then my boss calls a few of us into their office and we talk for another hour.
6 p.m. — I head home, but first text my downstairs neighbor to see if he’s around so I can return an air mattress I borrowed the other weekend but didn’t end up using. I return the air mattress and we chat for a bit while I pet his very cute dog. The chat leads to me inviting him to my place because we discussed all the renovations he’d done and he offered to help me. I give him a tour but finally have to ask him to go because it’s 8 p.m. and I still haven’t had dinner. I make a quick meal of TJ’s frozen penne arrabiata with air-fried chicken and apple sausage and a side salad. Put everything in the sink to “soak” because I’m too tired to load the dishwasher.
9 p.m. — Start my evening routine of taking a too-hot shower, and brushing, flossing, and cleaning my Invisalign trays. I continue to fight with the rubber band attachments. They typically win.
10 p.m. — In bed doing my nightly scroll of Instagram reels from my home decor page, and TikToks from a friend. I am influenced by TIBAL (aka @things.i.bought.and.liked — IYKYK) and impulse-purchase a pair of earrings from Heaven Mayhem. I believe her affiliate link added a 15% discount. I also place a pick-up order in the Target app for Naturium niacinamide face wash. $139.63
Daily Total: $182.72

Day Two

7 a.m. — Awoken too early from a dream about my ex. Dream-me recognised their bs and decided not to fall for it again. Awake for real at 8 a.m. and take my time getting ready. I load the dishes from last night, water my plants, make the bed, and do my skincare and makeup. I love having time to myself in the morning because my two biggest windows face east and the morning light is like a happiness pill. I check my work email and there was some back and forth about changing the time of a meeting this morning. It gets moved up to 9:30 a.m. so I get going. I check it again and it’s been moved to 4 p.m.
9:30 a.m. — Leave for the office. I listen to Ramit Sethi’s podcast, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, on the way in. I have informal meetings with several coworkers until noon. There is a lot going on and everyone needs to touch base. I pour oat milk into a glass of cold brew with ice from our kitchen stash. My schedule is free until 3 p.m. so I start working on a presentation I need to give soon. $7
1 p.m. — My coworker stops by to tell me they are giving out cookies and Valentine’s Day cards in the building lobby. I obviously sprint down there. I have two huge chocolate chip cookies for lunch. Whoops. In meetings from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. We get an all-staff email reminding us about the upcoming holiday, President’s Day. I completely forgot and secretly wish I’d booked an overnight getaway somewhere. I still might.
5 p.m. — Time to go. I am meeting five girlfriends for dinner at a restaurant having a Galentine’s-themed night. We have a biweekly “Friendship Club” where we get together for various activities like trivia or game nights. I stop home to change into a pink and red sweater dress from Staud I bought from Poshmark last year, but it feels too low cut and just isn’t working. I surprisingly own another pink and red sweater dress so go with that and a Renaissance-era art print jean jacket from Nuuly.
6:30 p.m. — The friends who’ve arrived greet me with “Hello, Barbie.” We all saw Barbie together and wore pink. There’s a Galentine’s-themed cocktail menu with fruity drinks and silly names. We order appetizers and pizzas to share between us. I also order a kale salad because ~health~. The night is fun with women comedians hosting cheeky games. $75
9:30 p.m. — Get home and do my nightly routine. I had a cocktail and a glass of wine at dinner so I prepare my “hydration water” (Liquid I.V. plus ice water) in my Stanley dupe before bed. Scroll socials and fall asleep around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $82

Day Three

5 a.m. — Weird dreams strike again and I’m half awake until around 7 a.m.
8 a.m. — I feel congested and tired so decide this would be a good work from home day. I have three Zoom meetings scheduled which helps my case. I start a load of laundry, make tea and toast, then respond to several meeting requests. I get dressed, then continue working on the presentation from yesterday and an expense report. My first meeting is at 11 a.m.
1 p.m. — Take a break to eat some canned soup I had on hand and a salad for lunch.
2:30 p.m. — Two more meetings and a call from my boss to end the day. Several friends have seen the musical MJ and recommended it. I’m a theater person so I decide to get a ticket for myself to see it next week before it closes. I also research shows to see in NYC this spring. I took a trip in the fall of 2022 to see three shows and vowed to do it every year. The vow got away from me last year so I keep telling myself to book everything ASAP. $100
6 p.m. — Make Kevin’s Thai coconut paleo chicken with rice for dinner. I laze about for the rest of the night since my energy is low.
Daily Total: $100

Day Four

7 a.m. — Awake and start my weekend chores because who wants to do those on the weekend? Laundry, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming. I get ready before my first call at 9 a.m.
9 a.m. — I am going into the office later, but I have an 11 a.m. appointment near the office first. $7 toll and $3 for a parking meter. $10
11:30 a.m. — My appointment was quick so I stop by the bakery downstairs for an oat milk latte and morning bun. I know it’s almost time for lunch but I felt like having a treat. The appointment was $120 but I will submit a claim to get reimbursed from my FSA funds. $13
5:30 p.m. — I am wrapping up at the office but check Feedly before I go. A blogger I’ve followed for forever recommended COS’ cotton T-shirts. I order three because I am beyond ready for spring. I also look into intermediate group tennis lessons because the club I normally play with isn’t picking back up until late March and I miss it. The next group lessons don’t start until early March. Bummer. $137.92
6 p.m. — I rush home to walk a three-mile loop at a nearby park before it gets too dark out. On the back I stop at Target for the pick-up order, then head to Trader Joe’s for parmesan, steel-cut oatmeal, oat milk creamer, chicken sausage, kale, butter lettuce salad, sparkling water, brown rice, egg salad, gnocchi, gyoza, and wine. $80.18
7:30 p.m. — I have leftover chicken and rice for dinner while starting the new season of Love Is Blind.
10 p.m. — I FaceTime my sister while getting ready for bed. I washed my hair and am deep conditioning it under a shower cap.
Daily Total: $241.10

Day Five

8 a.m. — Take a shower to rinse out the hair mask. I then blowdry and flat iron it, which takes about an hour. My first meeting is at 10 a.m. so I have tea and toast while paying bills and updating my financial spreadsheet because it’s payday. I see a cash-back payment from Rakuten of $85.46.
10 a.m. — I have three Zoom meetings back to back. A colleague on one of the calls says, “Somewhere between all these meetings I’m working.” Same. I give a presentation about a downtown vibrancy initiative we are working on over Zoom. I heat up some frozen “guilt-free” mac ‘n’ cheese from TJ’s and have a side of baby carrots and ranch. I am going to a backyard concert series later and decide to take a nap before meeting up with a friend there.
7:15 p.m. — Arrive at the show with my stadium chair, blanket, and two cans of wine. It’s a cute little setup with a fire pit and blankets. A young singer-songwriter performs first, then a funk band with a wonderful bass player and lead singer play some familiar hits. I venmo the host a donation. $10
10:15 p.m. — Home and take a long shower, brush, floss, attach my Invisalign rubber bands and fall asleep around midnight watching Love Is Blind.
Daily Total: $10

Day Six

7 a.m. — There’s rain in the forecast all weekend and I’m trying to decide what to do that doesn’t require me to drive anywhere. I turn on Love Is Blind and fall back asleep.
10 a.m. — I make a breakfast of eggs, chicken sausage, toast, and have a glass of vanilla cold brew. A friend texts to see if I want to run an errand with her later in a neighboring city. I was thinking about having a museum day at the Legion of Honor, deYoung, and MoAD, but decide to join my friend instead. I clean up the kitchen and start getting ready.
12 p.m. — My friend asks if I can drive to her house first, then she’ll drive us to the errands. I thought she might be coming to pick me up but I’m not on the way. We get on the road and thankfully it’s not raining too hard. She has to return some pants, and I want to stop by Nordstrom to test out the Delina Exclusif Parfum by Parfums de Marly. At $230 for the 1oz bottle, I am not wowed. We stop for lunch at Pacific Catch and I get two shrimp tacos that come with black beans and a side of fries. My friend gets the same with other types of fish. I treat. $54.59
5 p.m. — Back home and it’s windy and rainy so I’m in for the night. I am researching a trip I want to take in early October to Ireland, Scotland, and Italy for the Venice Biennale. I want to find a travel agent to book everything. My errand friend says she might start watching One Day on Netflix and will text me her thoughts. I work on this diary as well.
7 p.m. — I start One Day and my friend is on episode two. I heat up a taco and the black beans leftover from lunch. The first few episodes are slow but I remember the movie having a devastating ending so I keep watching.
Daily Total: $54.59

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I take a shower, start a load of whites, and make oatmeal and an iced matcha for breakfast. I listen to a podcast while getting ready. The sun is shining and I want to run around before it starts raining again this afternoon. I plan to stop by the farmers’ market in my neighborhood, then hit up an estate sale.
11 a.m. — Change of plans. My friend, B., texts to see what I am up to today and says she’s driving around looking for furniture. I send her a link to the estate sale and she’s at my house 10 minutes later. I first make her help me style a denim dress I got from Nuuly — it has funky proportions but I’m determined to make it work.
11:45 a.m. — We get to the sale and there’s a great table set for $75. I don’t need it but what do you ever really need when vintage shopping. I forgo it but B. texts another friend to see if she wants a coaster set. B. pays for the coasters and we head to a furniture store with an amazing selection of vintage, new, and consignment pieces. B. is looking for a credenza and we spend a good hour ogling the store. A fun Basquiat-inspired abstract artwork catches my eye. I’m always on the hunt for art as my home’s aesthetic is “comfortable art gallery.” I inquire about the artist and although the store doesn’t have a lot of information about him, they find an article about him being the head of the art department at Wellesley at one point. The piece is $950 but the seller tells me he will take $750 since it’s unframed.
1:30 p.m. — B. is starving and says she wants to get Thai food and we can come back for the piece after lunch if I really want it. The seller says he can do $650 before we agree to come back. I have a specific budget for artwork this year so I feel good about it. At the Thai restaurant I order the lemongrass chicken, sticky rice, and a Singha. B gets a noodle dish, roti, and a limeade drink. We catch up about upcoming travels and she asks me what it is I actually do for work. We split the bill. $36.61
3 p.m. — We are back at the furniture store and the seller wraps up the piece. B. drops me off at home and I swap out some artwork in the living room with the new piece. I post a few stories on my home decor Instagram account from the day. $716.63
5 p.m. — I take a shower and put on matching sweats because the rain has returned and I’m definitely going to hibernate. I fall asleep until around 7 p.m., then see that now four friends are watching One Day and texting about it, including B.
8 p.m. — I heat up the Thai leftovers and they hit the spot. I start listening to an audiobook my sister recommended before she asks if I finished it again. I left one comment on a TikTok post I saw about the new season of Love Is Blind and now have a ton of notifications about it. When will I learn?
Daily Total: $753.24

The Breakdown

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