A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $150,000 Salary

·15 min read

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 cybersecurity manager working in defense who makes $150,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Shein blazer.

Trigger Warning: This diary mentions disordered eating.

Occupation: Cybersecurity Manager
Industry: Defense
Age: 34
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $150,000
Net Worth: ~ -$256,728 (savings = $97,334, checking = $2,000, investments = $12,000, 401K = $45,788, HSA = $2,810, Equity of mom’s home = $146,920, minus debt)
Debt: ~$585,000 (mortgage on mom’s home = $521,580, student loans = $ 42,000)
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $4,800 (from my civilian job) and ~$400 (from the National Guard)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $400 (small portion of rent I pay to my husband, A.)
Mortgage: $1,600 (for mom’s house)
Student Loans: ~$1,000 (My student loans are on hold, but I’m putting payments on the principal.)
Apple TV+, Netflix & Hulu: ~$40
Family Phone Plan: $160 (I pay for a plan that includes my mom and siblings.)
Car Insurance: $70
401K: ~$500 (deducted from my paycheck)
HSA: $57
Health Insurance: $21.23 (The monthly payment is super low because I opt for a high-deductible plan.)

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. My parents are Mexican immigrants/naturalized US citizens that came into this country for a better life. They never finished school beyond the eighth grade, and I was expected to reach my fullest potential. I went to a private university to study accounting and finance, and I am the first person in my family to graduate and go on to get an MBA. I didn’t qualify for many scholarships because I was an average student, and my parents made “too much” to be eligible for any grants, so I racked up a huge loan to get me through my studies. At the end of it all, I hated the work I did after graduation and joined the Army National Guard at 29. The military ended up being my launching pad for my career in cybersecurity, and I love what I do now. The National Guard pays a portion of my student loans through a repayment program. I also had some of my loans forgiven when, unfortunately, my dad passed away from cancer. If I could do it all over again, I would have likely gone into the military sooner, done a trade school or gone to community college, and it’s a lesson I will bring back to any future kids I have.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never taught me anything about money — other than not spending outside of my means. I can’t blame them for that, though, because they weren’t taught much themselves (the subprime mortgage crisis back in 2008 wrecked them). I learned everything that I needed to know about saving, retirement, and investing when I majored in accounting and finance in my college days.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a Subway in my last year of high school. I used that money for clothes, food, and to save for university.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Every day. Growing up, the only place my parents could afford was a duplex in the seedy part of Boyle Heights. This was back when gangs were prevalent. We had enough for the basics, but we often had to watch over one another to make sure we were safe and sound. Luxuries were almost non-existent. My parents went through a bankruptcy and it took some time to claw their way out of it. This was a big motivator to get out of that horrible living situation and get on the road to financial stability.

Do you worry about money now?
No. I am the happiest that I could ever be at this moment, and I’m bringing my husband to the top with me (he also has aspirations to move up in the company that I currently work in). I make more than him, and my hubby couldn’t be prouder. I am also able to fully support my mom, who has a chronic health condition and has been out of the workforce for a good while. The mortgage above is a house that she lives in with my siblings, and I will do everything that I can to ensure that my mom is happy, taken care of, and living in a home that she can call her own.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
In my early 20s. I still lived with my parents, but I paid them rent and was responsible for my own expenses. At this time, it’s safe to say that I am my own safety net/my mom’s safety net. If anything were to happen, I can fall back on my savings until I find another source of income. In more dire circumstances, my hubby has my back.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Aside from my student loan repayments from the National Guard, no. I’m not expecting any inheritance or other income.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake up early and scroll through my phone while A. snoozes right next to me (waking up early on weekends has been a curse for a long time). I cuddle up next to A. until we’re both ready to get up. We get a pot of coffee going, and I continue to scroll through my phone, looking for a new work wardrobe on Shein (it has the most affordable and cutest pieces, but I have to be careful to check the online reviews to make sure that the things I buy are good quality). I save a couple of things but don’t pull the trigger on anything yet.

12 p.m. — A. and I have tickets to see Top Gun: Maverick later on, so we stop at a bar early to grab a couple of beers. A. is treating me for the movie and snacks, so I pick up the bar tab. We have separate finances save for a joint account that we use for big vacations but we alternate on our expenses and treat each other equally. The movie is awesome and fitting on Memorial Day when we remember the military men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. $31.67

6:45 p.m. — I pull the trigger on a Shein cart. I usually go for basic/minimalist pieces that I can mix and match on any given day (tailored trousers, camisoles, a couple of dresses, and blazers). A. makes an enormous and delicious steak with roasted broccoli while I make French onion soup. I finish the soup but can barely make a dent on the rest, so we pack it up and save it for another day. We have a nightcap and are in bed around 10. $432.81

Daily Total: $464.48

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — My alarm wakes me up, but I snooze. A. and I have this morning ritual where I use the snooze time to cuddle before I have to get up for real. I enjoy the intimacy it brings and sets the mood for the day. Afterwards, I put on workout clothes and do my “habit stack” for the day: push-ups, sit-ups, and squats (to get the blood flowing), then make coffee. I get changed, kiss A. goodbye, and head out the door.

1:15 p.m. — Suffice to say, I will not be talking about the nature of my work. Just know that I keep our equipment and information safe at all times and manage a team that does day-to-day tasks. I have been fasting for a while, so I take a moment to head to the cafeteria and grab a turkey sandwich. $5.99

4 p.m. — I sign off and get home to F., the most vocal, energetic, and cutest husky, who is itching to get out on a walk around the neighborhood. After that, I do a variation of The Murph workout using an indoor rower, a barbell for back rows, and hand-release push-ups and squats in between.

7:15 p.m. — A. comes home, and we have leftovers while we watch The Good Place. Later, we have a nightcap and talk about our days. We commiserate that it’s hard to find a dim sum place in our tiny area, so we plan to make our own one of these days. Luckily, we live near an Asian supermarket that has everything we’ll need. We already have the Always Pan from Our Place, so we buy a steamer that fits right on top of the pan. $30

Daily Total: $35.99

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — Same morning routine, but I pack a lunch (my mom had previously made birria and rice for us, and it’s a love language that I always appreciate). Tons of meetings today, but I take time to savor my lunch. In the past month, I have moved away from diets in favor of mindful eating. All I have to do is listen to my hunger cues and eat until I am satisfied. Sometimes I end up skipping a meal because I’m not hungry. Other times, I eat a little more to fuel my workouts. It makes a world of a difference because I can enjoy any and all meals throughout the day (mostly whole foods with the occasional take-out/treat). I don’t have to worry about calorie counting or macros, which is pure freedom from the obsessiveness I used to feel when I was deep in diet culture. I still aim to be as fit as possible (especially with my part-time military duties), but the old, conventional restrictions ended up hurting me for the longest time.

2:15 p.m. — I take a break to get fresh air. While I’m at it, I use my phone to put in a Misfits Market order. I get cauliflower, shishito peppers, scallions, chives, bacon ends and pieces, and whole chickens. Next week’s meal prep will be brined/smoked chicken with garlic cauliflower fried rice. I usually meal prep over the weekend, and A. enjoys the variety. $76.46

5 p.m. — I make it home and give F. pets and cuddles. After, I change into workout clothes and do a HIIT session in the living room (indoor rowing, DB thrusters, sumo squats, accessory arm/ab work). I take a quick body shower, and as soon as A. gets home, we watch Bob’s Burgers while having cocktails and cackling at the silly puns and fart jokes (we are mature adults, I promise). Knowing there’s a movie for this show, I book two matinee tickets for Saturday. $18.96

Daily Total: $95.42

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Aaaaand we’re off! Same morning routine as always. Work is particularly stressful, so I refuel with caffeine after I finish the coffee I made this morning. The last manager left a Nespresso machine behind, which I’m all for using, but I’ll have to make sure that the machine is cleaned out before I invest in espresso pods. $2.98

12:30 p.m. — I have time to eat leftovers in my office without any interruptions. Things are taking a positive turn for a couple of reasons: I’m finally going to be able to fill the open spots for some Cyber Analysts to help me with the accumulating work, and I received a call from a Staff Sergeant who cleared me to participate in a class I’ve been interested in going to (meeting my annual training requirements with the National Guard). FYSA: I won’t be talking about my specific work in the Guard either!

5 p.m. — Get home to a very vocal and antsy dog. I can’t take the poor pup out for a walk yet because it’s too hot! We get energy out when it’s a lot cooler, around 7, just in time to see A. pull up to the garage. I also get my Shein order! I’m happy I pored over the reviews: Everything fits as it should, and the material is just right. I put everything away and realize I’ll need new shoes to go with my new outfits. The endless window shopping starts back up again, as I look for a shoe that’s cute but also comfortable enough to get me through a work day on my feet.

Daily Total: $2.98

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — I do my usual routine and take my time getting extra cuddles from A. I put on a casual/athleisure outfit and dive into work. I am fasting for a full 24 hours because I have to go in for height and weight measurements with my guard unit. I never meet their weight requirements (which is asinine, considering the army still goes by the conventional BMI measurements as opposed to using a more advanced measuring tool such as DEXA or looking at the soldier’s fitness and activity level), but here we are. I do intermittent fasts unconsciously thanks to the new mindful eating practice that I’ve done in the past month, so this is something that I am comfortable with already.

6 p.m. — I make my way to my unit’s armory. Unsurprisingly, I don’t “make weight,” so I have to be “taped” — measuring my neck, waist, and hip circumference. I pass the tape (also unsurprising), which is great, because I need a passing tape record to be promoted to the next rank with my unit. I drive home and see that A. has gotten Porto’s! I break my fast with the most delicious cubano, papas rellenas, and croquettes. After, I scroll through my phone and finally find a shoe that ticks all of the boxes (heel height, width, etc.). They come in a variety of colors, so I get five pairs that I’ll keep in rotation. $222.40

11 p.m. — A. and I wind down with funny shows and cocktails. I’ve been feeling achy today, so I take a hot shower. Unlike most of the diaries here, I will not share a skin-care routine because I don’t have one! Aside from cleansing and moisturizing, I can’t bother to go through that process. It should be something I pick up eventually. I put on PJs and call it a night.

Daily Total: $222.40

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I wake up early and scroll through Instagram as A. snoozes next to me. Eventually, we get up and get started on our days — coffee, yard work, cuddles with F. — before we head out for the movie.

11 a.m. — We go to BJ’s to have a couple of beers and appetizers before the movie. We order wings and couscous mac ‘n’ cheese. So filling but worth it! The Bob’s Burgers movie is just as funny and immature as I’d hoped it would be. A. and I have plans to go to a pool party, so we stop by BevMo to pick up a pack to Pacificos for our hosts. I cover the tab and the purchase today. $93.28

8 p.m. — The pool party is fun and it’s a nice time to get to know more of A.’s friends and coworkers. We split early and leave the beer with the host. Nothing much happens after that. We veg out, watch stand-up specials, have a nightcap, and call it a night.

Daily Total: $93.28

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Wake up a little later today, which for some may still be a little early, but I’ll call it a victory. We have coffee and get chores and errands done. A. does the yard work, while I get started on meal prep. Breakfast is steak burritos, and lunch is garlic fried cauliflower rice and smoked chicken.

12 p.m. — A. and I break for lunch. I have a ton of flour tortillas left over from meal prep, so I make us sandwich wraps (turkey for A., smoked ham for me). Ever since I’ve started this mindful eating journey, I find myself thinking less and less about food (when to eat, what I want to eat, when’s the next time I get to eat, etc.). The only time it pops into my mind is when I’m physically hungry (stomach rumbling, hangry attitude, low energy). A. goes back to yard work, while I take time to get in a yoga session. It’s been a while, and I’m absolutely rusty but I love the feeling of stretching and being in tune with my body.

5 p.m. — Usual lazy evening for A. and I. We watch the Sour Grapes documentary, and I have a glass of wine for the occasion (very interesting view into the world of counterfeit vintage wines and wine auctions in general). My wine cabinet is looking dismal, so I order a case of wines with Naked Wines. I get a couple of reds, whites, a rosé, and Prosecco. The documentary goes on longer than I anticipate, so we get ready for the upcoming work week and knock out by 11:30. $159.95

Daily Total: $159.95

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.

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