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 behavioral health supervisor who makes $104,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on See’s Candies assorted lollipops.
Occupation: Behavioral Health Supervisor
Industry: Behavioral Health
Location: San Francisco, CA
Net Worth: -$92,920.15 (Checking/savings: $31,563, pension: $27,044 (need to stay with my organization another 1.5 years for matching employer contribution), scooter: $4,000, minus debt.)
Debt: $155,527.15 (graduate student loans)
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $5,747
Rent: $1,390 for a room in a four-bed that I share with three people. Landlord pays water, garbage, and landscaping.
Loans: $0 (All student loans are currently in forbearance, hallelujah!)
Utilities: $142 (includes electricity, internet, bi-monthly house cleaning)
Amazon Prime: $119/year
Audible: $15 (best money I consistently spend)
Motorcycle Insurance: $400/year
Netflix/HBO/Hulu/Disney+: $0 (boyfriend’s account)
Washington Post/Atlantic: $0 (boyfriend’s account)
NYT Subscription: $50/year
New Yorker Subscription: $7.50/month
Pension: 7.5% of salary
Google Storage: $1.99
Health/Vision/Dental: covered by my company
Cell Phone: $40
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. Both my parents are college-educated immigrants, so there was no question about the need to attend higher education. My parents paid for my undergraduate degree and I got one or two scholarships. I took out federal loans for grad school.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents grew up in relative poverty, so they always reinforced the importance of education in pursuit of a stable career that wouldn’t break down my body. The basic rules around finances were: always pay off your credit card in full, never owe anyone money, make sure you have a good credit score. Don’t buy what you can get for free. Don’t be an artist because you’ll starve. You need to make enough to be comfortable sending any children you have to college.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
In high school, I tutored elementary school students and taught piano in order to have spending money. My parents didn’t provide an allowance or pay for peer-related activities, so if I wanted to go to prom or participate in school sports, I had to earn the money myself. I usually borrowed sports uniforms and prom dresses from friends. My parents also seldom bought me things that weren’t necessities, so my clothes and toys were generally secondhand church donations or gifts from family friends.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I grew up in an affluent community of H1B visa immigrants and my parents provided me every educational/extracurricular opportunity available. It sometimes made me uncomfortable to not be able to go out with friends or fit in on the basis of our belongings, but I never worried about basic needs.
Do you worry about money now?
Thinking about my student loans knocks the breath out of me. However, I’m four and a half verified years into a 10-year public service loan forgiveness, so I cross my fingers that the government doesn’t eliminate loan forgiveness plans and try not to dwell. I did worry about money a lot between the ages of 21-27 when I moved to an economically recessed state where I was chronically underemployed. I lowkey think everyone should have the experience of working two jobs at once. I also did AmeriCorps for a year (which pays an annual salary of $12,000), which was rewarding but not the easiest, financially. Getting fast food was a big deal.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at age 21 when I graduated from college. That being said, I will always have the financial safety net of my parents and older sister, who would support me if I fell on a hard place. When I think about the financial decisions I’ve made in life (doing public service work, taking out student loans), I know I’ve had the immense privilege of making them with relative ease and comfort, knowing that my family would never let me be homeless (though they have let me be on food stamps).
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I was in college, my mom gave me her Ford Escort station wagon, which I drove into the ground. When I was moving back to California several years ago, I asked my parents to loan me $2,000 to cover moving expenses. I paid them back over a year and a half, but they then gave me $800 for Christmas, so in essence, I only paid them back $1,200. Once a year, my parents will give me a red envelope for a holiday or my birthday, which usually contains $400-$800.
7:50 a.m. — Per usual, I roll out of bed less than 45 minutes before I have to be at work. Beauty routine: Brush hair. I recently purchased a (Drybar Super Lemon Drop) hairbrush for the first time in my life after my free brushes lost their bristles; it’s revolutionized my hair brushing game. Wash my face with a probiotic mangosteen cleanser and put on a blazer so that my top half is presentable in court. Pair with a FRNCH sheer polka-dotted top (thrifted), AG high-rise ankle jeans (not thrifted), and Robert Clergerie oxfords (thrifted). A silver lining about masking in public (in addition to the public health benefits) is that I no longer have to apply makeup because no one can see my face anyway.
8:30 a.m. — Arrive at work, make coffee, grab a handful of hard candies, and hop on a four-hour video conference with one of the collaborative courts my team co-founded. Discuss individual cases of clients involved in restorative justice and rehabilitative programs within the criminal justice system. Court commences and the judge calls clients up to the stand one by one. I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but one of my fave chronically homeless clients just found permanent housing and his cheek-to-cheek smile is killing me.
2 p.m. — It’s a great day in that I’m flying through tasks and don’t have much time to contemplate my existence, let alone break to eat lunch. I place a Doordash order for four acai bowls — one to eat, three to freeze. I think this will be cost-effective except that I proceed to eat two of them. Feck. $46.63
4:30 p.m. — I get a center-wide email informing me that there is leftover catering — oven-baked chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and mac and cheese. I grab two boxed lunches for tomorrow.
5:20 p.m. — Drop by a client’s apartment to make sure he’s okay because he missed an appointment with me this afternoon. He’s fine, just had a spell of deep anxiety. I feel that. We reschedule.
6:30 p.m. — Head over to my boyfriend, T.’s, apartment and order Ethiopian food for dinner — two veggie combos and a bunch of injera. We watch Minari (which he pays for) and then I stay up an extra hour Googling everything about the director, Lee Isaac Chung, and wondering how such a gem of a human came into being. $43.44
Daily Total: $90.07
9 a.m. — T. makes tea for two while I slowly wake up. We head out toward the farmer’s market, stopping by Blue Bottle first. I order a cappuccino with oat milk ($5 with tip). At the market, we grab lettuce, radishes, cabbage, fresh pasta, empanadas, lemons, and popcorn. As per usual, T. buys most of the groceries and I buy him flowers for his place. Last week it was fuzzy puffs of bright green dianthus; this week, it’s tulips splashed with orange and yellow ($10). I love the small luxury of buying flowers, which simultaneously necessitates an acceptance of the ephemeral. $15
12 p.m. — We walk to the lake to eat our empanadas and soak in some sun, then return home to eat our lunch boxes. My cat joins us when he smells the chicken.
3:30 p.m. — Seduce T. by taking off my clothes and walking into the living room, where he is reading, and loudly announcing that he is officially the only one in the house with clothes on. It works. We give each other massages and get intimate, which is great for my mental health and skin. I’m neurotic about a lot of things, but sex for me is a completely enjoyable activity where I feel in the moment and grounded in my body. Also doesn’t hurt that we discovered this divine massage candle (Maude) that melts into your skin and makes you smell like a fancy cookie. You can stop reading this and go order it now. I’ll wait.
6:30 p.m. — Dinner is tea leaf salad and farmer’s market Meyer lemon pappardelle. I’ve been really getting into Burmese tea leaf salads since I discovered that you can buy a DIY kit and then call yourself a person who eats salad.
8 p.m. — We watch another Lee Isaac Chung movie, Munyurangabo, which is free to stream. Also so good. I am infatuated with this director.
Daily Total: $15
8 a.m. — Wake up, read the internet. T. makes us tea, I make us fried egg, avocado, and veggie breakfast sandwiches.
11 a.m. — T. is an introvert and I know he’d enjoy some time alone to read/workout/play music/take a work call, so I go out for a walk. I normally do this while listening to an audiobook, but I still have too many thoughts rolling around in my head from last night’s movie, so I put on music instead.
11:30 a.m. — Order a Starbucks grande soy caramel macchiato (free, with my star rewards) and head to the lake. Choose a patch of grass, smoke a joint, draw, listen to Ken Liu’s The Hidden Girl and Other Stories (he blows my mind even when I’m not high), and do some yoga (also normally self-conscious about this, except when stoned. Highly endorse stoned yoga).
1 p.m. — Next goal is to find some succulents for T.’s outdoor planter, which was decimated by a recent windstorm. Walk to my favorite flower shop which has a meh array of succulents this week. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are rocking echeveria and not much else. Decide to visit the SF Flower Market next week instead. Walk to a bakery, where I get a morning bun for myself, a corn cherry scone for T., plus a half dozen English muffins ($10.50). I finish off the morning bun by the time I’m at the lake again, and I still want more carbs, so I ask for a jollof rice and Diet Coke at the Liberian food truck. They only have regular Coke. Oh. I know they’ll have Diet Coke at the food truck with the bougie tacos, so I get it there ($9.80). $20.30
2 p.m. — Dear diary, jollof rice and Diet Coke was such a good decision.
2:15 p.m. — Glance at my phone. No texts from T. DOESN’T HE MISS ME YET?? I walk to Whole Foods to get some staples: marshmallows (I finished a bag last night while watching Munyurangabo), kombucha, chocolate, orange sorbets, and spiced chickpeas to put on future salads ($26.27). Considering how Amazon treats its workers, I feel bad supporting it by purchasing groceries through Whole Foods/having a Prime membership, and I’m still figuring out how to balance my personal values against the cost of cognitive/emotional labor. Real talk, I’m just not ready to give up how easy Amazon makes my life. Making these choices sometimes feels like a game you can’t win. $26.27
3 p.m. — T. texts me with an update about my cat. I am pleased.
4 p.m. — Home, sex, shower, dinner (mushroom ravioli and tea leaf salad). Run the dishwasher, (does anyone else love the sound of a running dishwasher? … no? Yeah, me neither), snuggle on the couch, and read until bedtime. I get the number of browser tabs on my phone from 42 down to 19.
7 p.m. — A client number shows up on my caller ID, but no voicemail is left. Acknowledging that my client’s lives don’t end at 5 p.m., I tell them that they may email/call me and leave a message. I’ll get back to them if it’s an emergency; otherwise, I’ll talk to them during normal business hours. This client was doing well on Friday, so I will leave it until tomorrow.
10:30 p.m. — My cat and I are falling asleep on T., so we go to bed.
Daily Total: $46.57
7:30 a.m. — T. wakes me up with a mug of drinking chocolate. This is an acceptable reason to get out of bed. Splash my face with cold water to wake myself up. My eyebags are insane, I need to get more Kiehl’s midnight eye cream, that or take out my contacts once in a while.
8:10 a.m. — Work from home day. I head home and gas up my scooter along the way ($3.79). Bridge toll to get back into the city is $3. Read emails, quick team meeting, browse news/research articles relevant to my field, provide 1-1 supervision, sit in on a training, and make a few calls. $6.79
12:30 p.m. — Lunch. I have two Nespressos, arugula, avocado, and goat cheese salad with whole wheat bread, and two tangerines. Place a grocery order for delivery ($172.80) and remind myself that no matter how much money I spend on groceries, it’s still cheaper than DoorDash takeout, which I am ashamed to say I got six times last week (it was a week in which my housemates and I moved apartments, but still). $172.80
1 p.m. — Give myself a bang trim. I’ve done better and also worse. I would pay $0 for this trim which is exactly how much I paid, so I’m satisfied.
2 p.m. — Finish up performance evaluations for staff and schedule meetings with them to go over the evals. Email HR to see if we can get merit raises for exemplary team members. Not in our budget this year. Such is life in the public sector.
5 p.m. — Snack on frozen peach slices. But in the shower. The contrast of hot water and icy fruit is a refreshing treat.
5:30 p.m. — Unearth a Trader Joe’s Margherita pizza from the freezer. One of my housemates is lactose intolerant and the other is allergic to gluten, so this must have been left by a previous housemate. I assume I’m doing them a favor by liberating them of this pizza. Oh god, this expired in November 2017. On the other hand, frozen food does not expire and the longer I contemplate the date, the more it feels like a challenge, so it’s on. Read work emails while pizza bakes.
5:50 p.m. — This pizza is delicious?! The cheese to sauce ratio is excellent, and it has the umami delightfulness of a Bagel Bite. Also, free. Crust is a little stale (unsure if it would’ve been drastically different in 2017) but that can be remedied with a brush of olive oil. I top the pizza with homegrown basil leaves. I also have a glass of sparkling water with ginger syrup from my Soda Stream. A housemate purchased this for me after watching me dispatch a 12-pack of sparkling water in roughly three days.
7:30 p.m. — We are still not fully moved into our new place, so I accompany my housemates to our old apartment, help disassemble their wardrobes and haul them over. OMG, I just realized that I forgot a load of laundry in the washer over the weekend and it smells terrible. Cool, no one noticed. Rewash laundry.
Daily Total: $179.59
7:40 a.m. — Slept terribly because I’m an idiot and kept a paper-wrapped pillar candle burning through the night, and the crackling of burning paper woke me up at 2 a.m. By now you’ve probably deduced that I use all my energy to pull myself together and appear competent at work. On the other hand, I don’t want to short-sell myself. I’m the youngest manager to be hired in my organization, ever. #notsohumblebrag
8:30 a.m. — Breakfast at my desk consists of coffee and a chocolate mint protein bar, carefully selected from my drawer of non-perishable foods. Everyone knows that my office is an open stockroom of snacks and fixer-uppers (dry shampoo, makeup/facial wipes, ibuprofen, etc.). Start working through emails, oversee client drop-ins, review referrals, provide 1-1 supervision, take a Zoom call.
12:45 p.m. — Lunch! I’ve been looking forward to this since Friday — defrost an acai bowl and polish it off. I eyeball the other bowl but leave it alone. Have a leftover cobb salad instead.
1:15 p.m. — My coworker is taking candy orders for her grandson’s preschool fundraiser. Philanthropic candy purchase? Shut up and take my money. I purchase a box of See’s Candies assorted lollipops. Spend the rest of the day training a new employee and going over client assignments with staff. $22.50
5:30 p.m. — Masked, socially distant hang out with my friend at the park. I run home to grab a bunch of snacks (crackers, cheese, raw veggies, guacamole, beer) for a picnic. She brings lawn chairs, bakery dim sum, and roasted spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce for me to have for lunch tomorrow. A keeper, obviously. We talk for four hours straight and watch the sunset.
Daily Total: $22.50
8:30 a.m. — WFH day. Wake up late with a headache and hop onto a Zoom call with the camera off because my eye bags have eye bags and my hair is all over the place.
9:30 a.m. — Shower, have a Nespresso and banana, followed by client teletherapy sessions and supervision. Water all my plants in between calls. Why is my monstera philodendron browning at the edges? Please send thoughts and prayers.
2 p.m. — Lunch is kitchari with green harissa and my friend’s spaghetti squash. Also, another Nespresso. Someone baked my housemate a batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. I snatch one.
3 p.m. — Team meeting for the rest of the day.
5:30 p.m. — Make a shared house dinner of tea leaf salad and cioppino with salmon and shrimp, another freezer find left behind by a previous housemate. Listen to Immunity by Eula Biss while cooking. Send silent gratitude to the housemate who departed without their frozen seafood. Should really send out a thank you card at this rate.
7 p.m. — Text T. to figure out hangout plans using communication skills learned in couples’ therapy last week. We both have some trauma from past relationships, plus different attachment styles informed by our upbringing, so we’re doing what we call preventative couples’ therapy. Practicing communication feels a lil awkward because it’s not organic, but the fact that we are both invested in building our relationship infuses me with a warm feeling. T. also texts me a photo update of my cat, which is 100% my preferred love language.
8 p.m. — Unbox more, smoke a joint, and dance around my room. I used to do work exchange at a dance company, but when life gives you a pandemic… Read a few pages of Lacan. Stoned reading is just behind stoned yoga in terms of entertainment value.
10 p.m. — Late night snack: honey ginger tea, sugar snap peas, hummus, and crackers. Also my housemate’s leftover dahl and peanut butter and raspberry jam. Maybe getting high right before bed is not the best idea.
Daily Total: $0
7:30 a.m. — Wake up with a stomach ache. Down a Nespresso and wash my bangs with a bit of dish soap in the kitchen sink since my housemate is showering. Throw on Levi’s (thrifted), a Rag & Bone tank top (thrifted), olive utility jacket (thrifted), and clover green converses (not thrifted; shoutout to our Madame VP!). My housemate texts me to remember my lunch. Amazingly, I had remembered to get it out of the fridge before the text. I am a goddess.
8 a.m. — Head to work where I dive into phone calls, followed by a three-hour stakeholder meeting. Have a coffee and banana while I’m working. Order my client who was recently released from jail an aromatherapy diffuser as a housewarming gift ($22.45, expensed).
1 p.m. — Half-hour break between meetings. Make more coffee and eat my lunch (kale/arugula salad with sprouts, radishes, cranberry chutney, nuts, seeds, and green goddess dressing). Venmo my housemate for his Costco run of shared household items (toilet paper, dish detergent, hummus, peanut butter, frozen fruit, greek yogurt, cheese, bananas, avocados, tangerines) plus some items I asked him to specifically pick up for me — matcha powder, Nespresso pods, tofu, non-dairy milk, canned fish. $84
4:50 p.m. — My friend texts to say she is starting a reading group focused around the book Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown and asks if I want to join. Yes! She encourages me to purchase Brown’s novel from a local bookstore. I only ever need half a reason to make my way to a bookstore, so I put directions into my map and head out. Driving out of the city on my scooter makes the receding city skyline look like a little jeweled toy box. As a social worker, I tend to see my city’s ailments and heartbreaks on the daily, so zooming out (literally) for a bird’s eye view is a sweet break. Smell ya later, SF!
5:45 p.m. — Hello, new books. Walk out of the store with the prescribed book ($20) and a used copy of The Emperor of Water Clocks by Yusef Komunyakaa ($9). I also get a pencil that simply says John Waters on it ($2). Haaa. I have store credit from when I previously sold a batch of books, so the grand total is $0.
6:30 p.m. — Head to T.’s apartment. My stomach is still grumbly, so I make myself congee for dinner and (surprise) a tea leaf salad for T. to eat with his leftover curry. He surprises me in return with a few presents (a black currant & bergamot scented candle and a glass carafe because I have, for the past few months, been placing expensive candles and gorgeous water carafes in online carts and then abandoning them in cyberspace). Bah, what a sweetie.
8:30 p.m. — Slow melting into the couch to read and serve as a pillow for my cat, who plops himself between us. With the city lights winking outside and the dishwasher running, it’s my favorite time of day.
Daily Total: $84
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