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.
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Today: an unemployed product manager who spends some of her money this week on a Fjallraven hip pack.
Occupation: Product Manager (currently unemployed)
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: $0 (previously $90,000)
Net Worth: $10,000 (Savings:~$27,000, 401k: ~$19,000, Stocks: ~$4,000 minus debt)
Debt: $40,000 (Student loans and car loan)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $900
Rent: $900 for my half of a one-bedroom apartment I share with my fiancé
Student Loans: $200 (on pause during COVID)
Car Loan: $141 (My fiancé is taking over these payments until I get a job)
Phone: $99 (I pay for my mom and me)
Internet: $32.50 for my half
Utilities: ~$50 for my half every other month
Uber Pass: $10
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?
There wasn’t really a huge expectation for me to get a higher education, the pressure to go mostly came from me. I always knew that if I wanted to get out of my house, I would have to pursue higher education and become self-sufficient. I got my bachelor’s degree after high school and started working after that.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I grew up knowing that we didn’t have a whole lot of money since my parents would mention how we couldn’t afford things. My parents never taught me about finances and I figured out most things on my own. I did pick up a saving habit from watching my mom hide money so that my dad wouldn’t spend it and she would use it for emergencies. He would spend money as quickly as he got it and it would leave us in bad situations sometimes.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was when I was 15 and got hired by a local theatre to write a play for them. I took after-school classes there and they developed a program to have a teen write a story every year and I was selected as one. After that, I became an intern and continued to make money there.
Did you worry about money growing up?
All the time. Most of the arguments at home were about money or how my dad spent it all. Growing up, I tried to ask for as little as possible or pay for things on my own. I paid for my prom ticket, field trips, and for going out with friends. I didn’t get my senior portrait taken because I couldn’t afford it and didn’t want to ask my parents for it. You can’t find me in the yearbook in the senior section but you can find me as the winner for the “Most Artistic” category.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I’m constantly worried about not saving enough and struggled for a while with big purchases that I needed, like a laptop for college. I am much better at it now but I worry a lot about not being able to sustain myself. Therapy helps.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I mostly paid for things on my own starting at age 15. When I got into college, my dad bought me a car and gave me a monthly stipend of $300. This was one of the first times that I realized that we could actually afford things, my dad just has a huge problem with spending.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, the stipend I got during college from my dad.
9 a.m. — Get out of bed after laying around for the past hour. Make myself some toast and grab a cookie with black coffee and make sure to feed my pet bird. I get a text from my fiance, U., who is spending the next couple of weeks isolating with his mom back home in Europe since she hasn’t been taking the loneliness of the pandemic too well. After replying, I turn on Seinfeld to watch an episode.
10 a.m. — Take my medication (Lexapro and Wellbutrin) for depression and anxiety. I’m kind of worried because I lost my job due to COVID and my insurance runs out at the end of the month. I don’t know how I can access therapy and my medications without insurance. I’m waiting for a letter from COBRA to see what I can do. I have an interview this afternoon so I do additional research on the role before the call.
12:30 p.m. — Finish up the interview and I think it went well. Tbh, I’m a bit burned out from interviews since the role I’m applying for (product manager in tech) usually consists of five or six rounds of interviews plus a project before an offer. I’ve made it to the final round several times only to be told that they are passing, so it’s been exhausting. Since I’m done, I wrap up a produce calendar that I’ve been making and selling on Etsy for some extra cash.
1:30 p.m. — Go to the pharmacy to pick up extra medication in case I don’t figure out insurance for the next month ($12.46) and drop off my Etsy packet at a mailbox. There is a really good wine store next door that sells curbside, so I pick up a bottle of rosé ($18.07). Once home, I eat leftover cauliflower tacos, turn on RHONY (I’m new to it this year), and frantically text my friend about Luann showing up in black face at a Halloween party. $30.53
3:15 p.m. — I finish a therapy session ($20) that is a little intense. I’m doing EMDR for trauma/PTSD since “regular” therapy wasn’t working. She mentions that after a session my brain does a lot of processing so to stay off anything negative like the news or violent movies and instead do soothing things like eating cookies and relaxing. I’m here for it. I called my fiancé and no response, but it’s midnight in his timezone. $20
5 p.m. — Wake up from a nap. My therapist mentioned I might feel tired and sleepy after the session and she was right. I decide to watch a cute rom-com and settle on Love, Guaranteed. Browse through ordering apps to get a pizza and wow, they are pricey. It’s cheaper if I buy more pizza but I only want a small individual one. Stuck between getting two pizzas or an individual with a side of potatoes both at the same price — I go with the individual because that’s too much pizza for one person. Toppings are pineapple, jalapeno, basil, and red pepper. I’m not vegetarian but I’m trying to reduce eating meat because of climate change. U. offers to pay for it with his credit card saved on his Caviar account.
7 p.m. — I do yoga while waiting for my food. When it arrives, I take out some prosecco to enjoy during the movie. I fix a small plate for my bird with seeds and potatoes because he usually tries to eat off my plate so this way he feels like he has his own. Love, Guaranteed is actually a cute movie and I text a few friends about how Damon Waynes Jr. went through some kind of glow up because he’s looking good. Halfway through the movie, my friend, T., surprisingly arrives at my door to drop off some baked goodies for Christmas. This is seriously so sweet and I can’t wait to dig into them.
10:15 p.m. — Brush my teeth and wash my face with CeraVe then apply toner, Curology, and Biossance serum cream. I usually like to read my book in bed, but this one is about North Korea so there is violence in it. I skip reading and reply to my friend who is live-texting me while she watches The Bachelorette finale from yesterday. Lights out by 11:30.
Daily Total: $50.53
7:30 a.m. — It’s Christmas Eve. I’m woken up by my bird — he likes to cuddle under the blankets in the morning. FaceTime with U. My severance hits my bank account today and I’m excited. I originally thought it would be $8,800, but and after taxes, it’s down to $5,566. I hope to use the money towards insurance and healthcare. I shower and get ready.
9:45 a.m. — I meet up with my friend, C., in Chinatown. We have a tradition of getting coffee early in the morning on Christmas Eve and we didn’t want to skip it this year so we agreed on a walk with masks instead of sitting inside. I bring the baked goods from last night to share with him. We order coffee ($6) and thankfully Chinatown is a ghost town so everything feels peaceful. We talk about this year’s sad holiday. U. had suggested that I make myself a nice lobster dinner for Christmas Day so C. and I go into a seafood market in the neighborhood. They only have live lobster and after staring at them, I decide I don’t want to buy them, it’s too sad. I head home. ($2 for parking). $8
2 p.m. — I fall asleep while watching TV, which is unusual. I head to my mom’s which is 20 minutes away to drop off gifts. The drop off turns into a visit. I eat and play cards with her. She got COVID in the first wave and thankfully hasn’t gotten it again, I hear it’s rare to get it again, but who really knows. I text my dad Merry Christmas and call my brother who lives in another state.
7:15 p.m. — I leave my mom’s and head to my car. Her street has tons of fruit trees that her neighbors grow. On the way to my car, we spot a lemon tree and I pick three so I can make lemon shrimp pasta tomorrow. Score! Once home, I change into my PJs, light up my Christmas tree, and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with chamomile tea and look for memes to send to my brother.
10:30 p.m. — Fall asleep again so I wash my face and go to sleep.
1:15 a.m. — I wake up and can’t get back to sleep so I grab my phone and see that U. has texted me. We chat for a little bit and update each other on our days — I really miss him. I check my email and see that my friend sent me a $25 REI gift card and that my COVID results are back and negative. I go back to sleep around 3 a.m. after taking a melatonin pill.
Daily Total: $8
9:30 a.m. — It’s Christmas. I wake up and have a Nespresso with a dark chocolate muffin I made earlier this week and a piece of toast. My dad calls to wish me a Merry Christmas and asks if I can stop by to pick up my gift. I tell him I’ll stop by later. I put on Schitt’s Creek and kind of space out, I’m feeling a bit low this morning.
12 p.m. — Quickly look for a gift for my dad. I have a pile of backup gifts that I keep for gift emergencies. I find a nice set of wine glasses and put them into a gift bag. I’ve stopped giving him thoughtful gifts because growing up, whenever I gave him a gift, he would tell me he didn’t like it and ask to return it. As a kid, it would devastate me every time, so I stopped putting thought into it to protect my feelings. I stop for gas ($27.88) and head over. We chat outside for 15 minutes. I tell him I’m engaged and he says he’s happy for me. When I get home I open my Christmas card from my dad and it has $50 in it. For some reason, I begin to cry. $27.88
1:30 p.m. — I decide that I’m going to clean my apartment and halfway through U. calls me. We talk about our days and he really makes me feel better. Afterward, I go into the kitchen to defrost the shrimp and…. there’s no shrimp! I seriously thought we had some. Annoyed, I go for a walk to get some air.
4 p.m. — Scroll through food apps to see what’s available and I find a bougie pizza spot that looks really good. It’s about $35 for one pizza which is ridiculous so I decide to just walk down the street to the grocery store for shrimp. As expected, the store is hectic and the guy serving seafood is in a bad mood and I don’t blame him. I buy cereal, shrimp, parsley, almond milk, and two lemons ($11.77). Once home, I put on RHONY and get to cooking while drinking my rosé. I send U. a couple of videos of what I’m making. $11.77
6 p.m. — Finished cooking and buzzed, I serve my meal and turn on Last Christmas. Not to brag but the meal is on point. I text C. to let him know that I have a lot of pasta and that I can put some in a Tupperware for him to pick up tomorrow. My friend, D., FaceTimes me and we scroll through Airbnbs we would like to stay in someday.
10:30 p.m. — Get ready for bed and lights out around 12.
Daily Total: $39.65
8 a.m. — Wake up, eat cereal, and make myself a Nespresso. I watch Schitt’s Creek and browse through REI, where I find a coffee holder for my bike. I pay with my gift card. I also become obsessed with a Fjallraven hip pack but it’s $55. I dig deep into the internet and manage to get it for $45 total including shipping. I used my dad’s gift to pay for it. $45
12 p.m. — After cleaning, I scroll through Instagram. I see a lot of posts of people having big celebrations with families and my heart sinks. I’ve been struggling with loneliness for a while and don’t know what the point of skipping out on the holiday with my family was for since everyone seems to have been together and spreading the virus anyway. I text D. about feeling low and he suggests we get an Airbnb and isolate together for a while which I think could help with the loneliness I’ve been feeling. I tell him I’ll think about it. Depression sets in and I start ugly crying when U. texts me he can’t call and unfortunately I take it out on him via text. I feel a panic attack coming and don’t want to take a Xanax so I try and calm myself down.
3:15 p.m. — Talk to U. after all and I apologize for being mean. He suggests we do a doodle challenge together so we feel more connected while he is gone. I go for a walk and text D. that I’m in and we agree to get tested to make sure we are negative a few days before. Once home, I reheat leftover posole from my mom and watch Seinfeld.
5:30 p.m. — I get an email saying that my coffee holder is ready at REI. I realize that C.’s place is on the way so I send him a quick text that I’ll be dropping off the pasta. Once I get to REI, I look in the camping section to see if I can buy U. a camping pillow. We love camping and I always bring my pillow and find myself lending it to him on some days. Pillows are $40-$89 and I decide I need to do research before dropping that amount of cash.
7:45 p.m. — Once I’m home, I test out the holder to see if it can hold my coffee and water bottle. It only works for the coffee. I pour myself cereal and watch more of Schitt’s Creek.
8:45 p.m. — D. sends me a bunch of Airbnb options and we settle on one in Palm Springs with a hot tub, pool, and fire pit. One of the baths also has a caddy and I’m excited to use it for reading and bath bombs. It turns out to be $750 each, yikes! I make calculations and decide to bite the bullet and use some of my severance for it. He mentions I can pay him later so really hoping for a job soon. I set the money aside anyway.
10 p.m. — My bird is perched on my leg sleeping and I don’t want to disturb him. I browse through Target for a little bit until he wakes up. Once he’s awake, I get in bed.
Daily Total: $45
8 a.m. — Wake up and order acai bowls from UberEats. I order two for it to reach my minimum for free delivery with Uber Pass. I’ll just freeze one and have it for another day. When it arrives, I realize I got the wrong order so I reach out to UberEats. They are going to give me a full refund so this turns out to be free. I make myself a coffee and turn on a Korean drama I’ve been watching on Netflix called Startup. It’s v. dramatic and I can’t stop watching it.
11:15 a.m. — Do small maintenance on my bike and add the coffee holder. I decide to ride to a bakery called Proof and take the L.A. river bike trail to it. On my way there, a truck almost hits me and I get rattled. Once on the trail, I take out my phone and put on This American Life to calm down.
12:45 p.m. — I get to Proof and order an iced oat milk latte, an almond croissant, and a small ham sandwich ($18.25). I put the food in my backpack and try out my coffee holder. It works great! I bike back to the trail and find a spot by the river to sit and eat my sandwich with the latte. I turn on the podcast The C-Word and chill for a bit. $18.25
3:30 p.m. — Head home with no incidents and put my almond croissant away for tomorrow. Talk to U. for a bit and then make a small fix to my coffee holder so that it balances better. Shower and foam roll my legs since I did about 14 miles on the bike today.
6 p.m. — Go down a rabbit hole on Instagram looking up old high school friends. We’ve lost touch over time and some of them built really interesting lives. One became a well-known/successful model, another opened up an art gallery that gets written about a lot, and another is a photographer in New York who has become a mini-celebrity since I’ve seen him on TV playing himself. Being unemployed right now, this has made me feel pretty bad about my career trajectory. I order some bougie pizza with a code and take out my leftover rosé in hopes of feeling better. I don’t know why I opened up that can of worms. $16.20
8 p.m. — Pizza arrives and it’s basil, sausage, and spinach. It’s so good! I put on 20th Century Women, but because I’m a bit buzzed, I can’t follow. I pause it to finish it up tomorrow. The pizza is for two so I save the rest for leftovers. I draft an email to a recruiter who was supposed to let me know about a final answer last week and didn’t. I’ll email it out tomorrow if I don’t hear back by mid-day. Continue looking online for a gift for U.
10 p.m. — I find a nice place setting on West Elm that is on sale and buy it for our white elephant in a couple of weeks ($13.16). I also find a pie/casserole tote on Anthropologie that I know U. would like. He loves cooking and always has trouble carrying his dishes when we do potlucks. It was $40 but is on super sale ($16.39). I head to bed and listen to the thunderstorm outside until about midnight. $29.55
Daily Total: $64
8:30 a.m. — Wake up, make coffee, and eat my croissant while watching Seinfield. I’m still hungry so I warm up a slice of pizza. I check my email and decide to just send out my follow up to the recruiter now. I cc her coordinator in case she is out of the office and add a tool to get a read receipt to see if it’s opened. I get an OOO message from both of them and am annoyed. I sent my last email asking if I should expect an answer after the holidays and a yes/no response would’ve been nice. I do get a notice saying that my email has been opened twice, so don’t know if they will respond.
12:15 p.m. — It’s still raining hard so I can’t go out on a walk. I email the hiring manager I interviewed with to see if she has an update. C. suggests I print out more calendars to sell so I look online to see how much it would be to print more but am not that confident with it. A bookstore recently took an order from me so I want to wait and see how that goes first.
1:30 p.m. — My friend, T., texts me that she’s engaged! I’m so excited for her and her boyfriend. Their picture is so cute — I send her all the gifs. I decide to eat the last slice of pizza with another cup of coffee then snuggle with my book.
3:30 p.m. — Talk to U. and let him know that the loneliness and lack of work are making me feel sad and crazy. We try to come up with things I can do to keep busy.
7 p.m. — I finish my book while cuddled up in blankets. It’s definitely one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. I grab a bowl of cereal and turn on Schitt’s Creek while doing research on insurance. If I stick with COBRA, my insurance will be $530 a month. Wow. I calculate how much it would be if I paid for therapy and my prescriptions out of pocket instead, and it comes to about the same. I’m in the middle of EMDR treatment and don’t want to start all over again if I were to switch to a different insurance company. I make a note to reach out to HR tomorrow.
9:30 p.m. — Go to bed and play with my phone for a while. Lights out by 11.
Daily Total: $0
8 a.m. — The sun is out today and I am excited to go outside. I take my acai bowl out of the freezer and put it in warm water for it to thaw. While I wait, I text with U. and email HR about COBRA. Make myself a coffee and watch Seinfeld while I eat.
11 a.m. — Put on pants, take salmon out of the freezer to thaw, and head out for a walk. I go to one of my favorite neighborhoods and sightsee pretty houses. I walk over to the bookstore that bought my calendars. They are closed today, so I peek inside to see if there are any calendars left. I don’t see any but don’t know if they’ve been moved or are sold out.
1:15 p.m. — Get home and sit down to find U. a gift on Food52. I go with a multi-purpose dish mat and a sprout terrarium grower. I use a code for $10 off which really only covers shipping ($75.54). I wonder if I should get him something else or if I’m overdoing it since I also have two other gifts as well. I get really anxious with gift-giving. I think we all know why I feel that way. I put my computer away and wash the dishes. $75.54
2:30 p.m. — OMG I got an email from my old company saying they might have a position opening up and if I’m interested in coming back. I call U. because I’m a little freaked out and don’t know what to do but he doesn’t answer. I go ahead and reply that I would be interested in a conversation. When U. calls back he tries to calm me down and advises me to keep my expectations grounded. I have too much adrenaline and am afraid it could turn into an anxiety attack so I reserve an open slot for a gym session. I change and head out the door.
5 p.m. — After 10 minutes of lifting weights at the gym, I decide to go on a run instead. On the way back I pick up a chicken salad from Chipotle ($7.75) and get home to watch Schitt’s Creek. $7.75
6:45 p.m. — I shower and feel a lot more level headed. I’m trying to fight off negative thinking, i.e. “they are only going to reject me” or “no one wants to hire me” etc. I bake salmon and potatoes as a meal prep for the rest of the week and take a Xanax to further calm down.
9:30 p.m. — Log onto my library’s catalog and place a hold on a book that I want to read during my getaway at the Airbnb. I make a list of books I enjoyed this year to post on Instagram since the last time I did people really appreciated it.
10:30 p.m. — Head to bed and lights out by 11:30.
Daily Total: $83.29
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