money diary with emphasis on the diary

This post is inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries, which in turn is inspired by New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries (I have never read it). I started reading the Money Diaries when I was college, and found the insight into money-earning women’s lives so interesting.

But now, as of July, I too, am a money-earning gal, and am interested in having positive cash-flow in my life. Budgeting and reflection is in order (the first two months after I started working, I had negative earnings). I took it upon myself to meticulously keep track of money I spent (or didn’t spend) this week to get an understanding of how I spend my hard-earned cash.

NOTE: I want to preface this by stating that I acknowledge that I am in an incredibly priveledged position in that I was able to graduate from a top institution loan-free, with a job in the financial industry immediately lined up, and be surrounded by folks (my family and partner) who are able to help me financially. My post below is not meant to be financial advice of any sort, and what works for me financially will not necessarily work for someone else in a similar position to me.

Sunday, October 23

9 am Last night, Winston was researching brunch places and suggested we go to ‘āina, a Hawaiian eatery in the Dogpatch. Reservations were booked up so we decided to risk it and just go near opening time (9am) and see if we could get a table. I had asked him the previous night if he was sure he wanted to go. He had been telling me earlier how he was concerned that we were spending too much money on eating out at fancy places, and a quick look at their website makes me think this is a hip bougie upscale eatery. But he says he wants to go, and I am an avid bruncher so no complaints on my end.

We take a Lyft over ($9), he pays.

When we arrive, we’re told that the wait is about an hour! We decide to wait it out because that is the reality of brunch (without reservations) in San Francisco. I suggest we walk to a nearby Philz and get some coffee. I pay for a large Mint Mojito (not an alcoholic drink, an amazing coffee drink), but the barista accidentally gives me a small. I decide not to complain about it (I don’t need that much caffeine anyway) and consider the amount I overpaid as a tip ($5.5).

Photo of a brunch spread; 3 plates. A plate of udon noodles and chicken katsu, a plate filled with three sugared guava donuts, and a plate with deconstructed spam musubi.
Our brunch spread at ‘aina

10 am We are finally seated! We experience some sticker shock (in a good way) when looking at the menu. At hip bougie places like this, usually cocktails will be $10+ and portions are small. We are pleasantly surprised to see that all cocktails are $8. We each order a cocktail (I got a guava mimosa). I ordered two appetizers for myself, spam musubi and guava malasadas (Hawaiian donut), and Winston gets the chicken katsu with tamagoyaki. The food was fantastic. With tip, it comes out to be about $50 for the both of us, which, for a bougie place like this (and with two drinks) is a “steal” in SF. Winston pays; he knows that I am too broke to be eating like this. We take a Lyft Line back home ($6, he pays).

1 pm I’m meeting up with a high school friend who now attends medical school in the area. My plan is to buy some food from my favorite tacqeria, and then have a picnic in Dolores Park. My friend and I take the BART to 16th and Mission, and use my Monthly Muni Pass. Since it’s within the bounds of San Francisco, there is no charge. We get to Los Coyotes and I get two “super” tacos. My friend treats me ($11).

A picture of a green grassy hill, with Mission High School in the background.
See those ominous clouds in the background? No day in Dolores Park can be truly perfect.

4 pm It’s a beautiful day in Dolores Park and we spend the afternoon talking about life goals, relationships, and having immigrant parents (which greatly shapes your perspective on life goals and relationships). It starts getting cold, cloudy and windy, i.e. a normal day in SF, and I suggest we get dessert and Dandelion, a chocolate shop and pâtisserie in the gentrified Mission. We walk over and each get a hot chocolate and we decide on sharing the tasting plate. Since she bought me lunch, I pay for desserts (31.89). There was a bit of a mix-up with our drinks (we eventually got them though) and the store comps me with a free hot chocolate coupon for next time.

5pm I say bye to my friend and take public transportation home.

An overhead view of a boiling pot of broth. There are two plates of raw meat on the side, which will be dipped into the broth to be cooked and consumed.
火鍋 — Huo Guo in Chinese, or しゃぶしゃぶ in Japanese

8pm Tonight Winston and I have hotpot at home. We don’t have that much gas left in the cannister, but somehow we made it through dinner.

Daily Total: $37.39

Monday, October 24

9 am I’m running late (as always) but still make my morning smoothie (kale, apple, banana, strawberry, greek yogurt). Sometimes I spike the smoothie with a low, culinary grade matcha. Not today though. I use my monthly MUNI pass to get to work.

10:30 am I am feeling the lack of caffeine. I buy a venti latte from Starbucks. It’s $4.55, but I used pre-existing money on my Starbucks card. I experience a huge burst of productivity at work.

12:30 pm It’s a cold, rainy-ish day. I decide to get soup for lunch. Clam Chowder and unlimited free bread! I’m trying to reduce my carb intake though so I limit myself to two small pieces of bread. ($6.25)

2 pm I remember my boyfriend asked me to pick up quarters for laundry this morning. There is a Wells Fargo bank branch literally right next to my work so I step out of the office for a moment and get $20 in quarters.

5 pm I have to leave work to get to Berkeley in time for my bi-weekly therapist appointment. I take a combination of the BART and busses to get there, so I reload my Clipper Card ($20) to ensure I’ll definitely have enough balance on it. I take the BART to Downtown Berkeley ($4, use balance on Clipper). I get to Berkeley a little earlier than I needed to so I go to Walgreens and buy 20 clothing hangers. I have been needing them forever but kept on forgetting to buy more ($13.12). From Walgreens, I take a bus to my therapists office. Since I’m still within the BART-to-BUS transfer window, the fare is $1.85 (use Clipper Balance). I get to my therapist’s office a few minutes to spare. I have been seeing my therapist since my junior year of college, and seeing her has been one of the best decisions of my life. I very explicitly wanted to mention in this post that I see a therapist on a regular basis because I know there’s so much stigma (especially in the Asian-American community) about even talking about mental health. I feel like everyone and anyone can benefit from seeing a therapist, and recommend it if it is within your financial means (U.S. healthcare is so messed up that this is even an issue). Each appointment is $160, but my parents (and our health insurance) covered the costs while I was in school. Since I started working in July, I now have health insurance coverage through work (employer pays for 75%), but I’m also still on my parents plan until the end of 2016. My parents have generously offered to pay for my healthcare costs (since I’m still on their plan anyway till the end of this year) until January 2017 so I don’t pay for this appointment myself (my therapist sends a bill to my parents’ house directly).

The health insurance plan through my work is a high deductible plan and I will likely not hit my deductible (even with the the therapy appointments twice a month), so I will be essentially be paying out-of-pocket and full price for these appointments come next year. Even though my parents are paying for the appointments now, I still put the money I would have paid into my employee sponsored Health Savings Account (deducted automaticaly from my paycheck) so I’ll have money stowed away into my HSA for use in 2017.

7 pm Really good session with my therapist today. I take the bus back to the BART station (2.10, from my Clipper Card) and take the BART back to San Francisco. I am very hungry and am not looking forward to the 45 minute plus journey back to my apartment, but resist the urge to buy a snack from somewhere since I know my boyfriend made dinner tonight.

8 pm  Dinner! Winston made brussel sprouts and chicken noodle soup. He used the soup broth from hotpot last night as the base for tonight’s soup. I call him a resourceful housewife.

9 pm  We eat two slices of strawberry cake that I prepared on Saturday. I do two loads laundry ($7, use the quarters)

10 pm – Long conversation with my sister. She’s been having a hard time lately and I offer to buy her a flight up to San Franciscoto so she can get away from L.A. for a little bit. I use a combination of miles and actual money to buy her a ticket to come visit me in early December. ($64.58)

Daily Total: $111.08

Tuesday, October 25

A resin tray on a bed. There is a plate with an egg and a sausage on the tray, and a cup of green tea.
Bloomberg is there for show, I hardly ever read it haha.

7:30 am By some miracle I actually woke up early (i.e., when I SHOULD be waking up on a daily basis). I make the usual kale smoothie. Since I actually have time to enjoy my morning, I also cook up an eggs and three sausages, and make myself an almond milk matcha latte. I’m trying a new brand of matcha this morning. My latte has a very deep colour and tastes strong. I take the bus to work.

10:15 am Even though I had a matcha latte already this morning, I remember how productive I was yesterday after drinking the coffee, so I buy a venti latte from Starbucks (4.55, from my Starbucks card).

12 pm Thoroughly regretting the coffee. I am over caffeinated and unfocused. Caffeine always makes me lose my appetite so I put off lunch for later.

2 pm Still not feeling hungry yet, but decide that it is an appropriate time to eat lunch. I brought leftover chicken noodle soup (from dinner) for lunch. Normally I wouldnt like to eat leftover noodle soup the next day (noodles get so soggy) but since Winston used Shirataki noodles (also zero calories!), they retain their texture even though they’ve been sitting in broth overnight. It’s cloudy and rainy-ish today as well, so even though I’m not hungry, the soup is comforting and calming– just what I need to come down from this caffeine kick.

5 pm  I leave work and walk to the Bar Method, my milf-y exercise studio that has barre fitness classes. I’m not done with some work I needed to finish by tomorrow, but my class is at 5:15 and they will charge me $15 if I don’t come to class (or cancel my class reservation 12 hours in advance). The financial penalties of not going to class are actually a great motivator to get me to actually work out when I say I will, since flaking isn’t really an option. I’m able to take the class through my $150 monthly membership (bought this a few weeks ago).

6:15 pm Finished my workout and walk one block over to Rubio’s to meet Winston for TACO TUESDAY. Rubio’s has a promotion on Tuesdays where after 2pm, tacos are $2! I get three fish tacos for $6.25, and each one has quite a hefty portion of fish. Cheapest dinner in the Financial District (that’s not McDonalds)

7 pm Winston wants to get ice cream so we walk over to the Ferry Building to Humphry Slocombe’s (ice cream store). I have to take a call, so while I’m on the phone he orders ice cream for me. I got a single scoop Peanutbutter Marshmallow. He pays. We take the bus back home.

8 pm  Winston and I both have some work we need to finish. I absentmindedly pick at the aforementioned strawberry cake and end up finishing it while finishing up some code for work. Two desserts today– oops.

Daily Total: $6.25

Wednesday October 26

8:45 am Wake up late, as usual. I don’t really know why but I woke up in a horrible mood and generally feel awful (maybe it was the double dessert yesterday?). Make my kale smoothie but discover we have no apples left so end up substituting the apple with an applesauce cup. Despite the fact that I’m running late, I cook up an egg and some sausages because otherwise I know I’ll end up buying some unhealthy breakfast sandwich from somewhere. Take the bus to work.

10 am Generally feeling horrible and listless. Since I didn’t pack lunch today, I feel guilty about the idea of buying Starbucks so I drink some Office Coffee (I used the “Cappuccino” setting). Most people find it to be really bad, but honestly it tastes okay (I also drown it with milk, so maybe that’s why).

12 pm I take a 10 minute walk to the company headquarters. There’s a subsidized cafeteria there for employees and I get a large Thai Chicken Curry Soup for lunch, and two hard boiled eggs ($4.96).

2pm  Still feeling horrible and listless. Make another office coffee (this time I used the “Espresso” setting).

A photo of the Bay Bridge, with West Oakland visible in the horizon.
Seeing the ocean did not make me feel better.

3 pm I take a walk to the waterfront and back. I don’t know why but I am really not feeling all that great today. I hope that the fresh ocean air will revitalize me. It’s not really all that effective and I take a moody Instagram Boomerang video to further express my discontent.

5:20 pm – I leave work and take the bus to Union Square. Earlier today I saw a tiger sweater from H&M on Instagram and found myself really really wanting it. Since my day has been so awful I tell myself if I see it in store I can treat myself and buy it. Unfortunately the sweater is part of the newest collection and it is not yet in the physical stores. So sad.

5:50 pm It’s been a struggle today but my day isn’t over because it’s my turn to make dinner. I had planned an unfortunately ambitious dinner a few days ago for tonight, and I need to get started on cooking, so I head home.

6 pm Get started on dinner and discover we have no tofu !??? (We ALWAYS have tofu). Since that was the protein item I was planning on using for dinner (and we don’t have anything else in the fridge really), I text Winston and ask him to pick up some tofu and apples (since we are out) on his way back from work. I get started cooking other things.

On the menu tonight:

  • Asparagus Ohitashi (got the asparagus a week ago from Trader Joes and it’s nearing the end of its edible life)
  •  Japanese Sweet Potato Miso Puree (We have just one sweet potato, only enough for a small side dish, so I decide to use it up)
  • Chawanmushi (a savory egg custard that’s really good when you only have some odds and ends available. I use some dried shiitake mushrooms and some king oyster mushrooms, and bits of carrots and asparagus)
  • King Oyster mushroom and Tofu Okakiage. I bought the oyster mushrooms almost 2 weeks ago and I really need to use them ASAP. Since they aren’t super fresh, I figure deep frying them is a good way to distract from this unfortunate fact.

A traditional Japanese meal consists of many side dishes like this (and usually soup and rice) but Winston and I are trying to be low-carb so no rice for us. I also don’t make soup because I am lazy.

Winston comes home with the tofu and I finish up making dinner.

8 pm I finally finish cooking and we eat dinner together 🙂

9:40 pm Phone call with my sister. While I’m on the phone I eat 1 lb of strawberries with whipped cream.

Daily Total: $4.96

Thursday, October 27

8:30 am Rainy day. Wake up late (surprise, surprise). Make the usual kale smoothie (Winston picked up some apples after work yesterday) and I rush to work. Before I left, I quickly packed what remained of Monday’s night chicken noodle soup for lunch. There’s not that much left and I know it won’t be enough, so I’ll probably end up buying something to supplement my lunch later, since I also didn’t really have that much for breakfast >_>

10:20 am I decide to get a Venti Latte from Starbucks with the hope that the sheer volume of milk (as well as caffeine) will keep my appetite at bay till lunch. Turns out there is a promotion till the end of October where if you buy something (a drink, anything) in the morning, bakery purchases after 2pm on the same day are only $1 (usually they are ~$2.45). Now I know where I’ll be getting my afternoon snack from! The barista remembers my name (!) and usual order, so I decide to tip and the total comes out to be 5.05 (from my Starbucks card).

12:45 pm Lots of meetings today . I’m actually not that hungry but I decide it’d be best for me to eat my lunch before my 1 o’clock meeting, since I thereafter I have a 2:30 and 3:00 meeting. I heat up the chicken noodle soup.

2:15 pm – Run down to Starbucks to get my 1$ bakery purchase. I decide on the “Old Fashioned Donut”. I ask for it heated up, which the barista strongly recommends against, but it’s raining outside and I want something warm and keep my satiated until the evening. He’s right that it gets kind of weird and mushy when heated but I still enjoy it. I pay for the donut with my Starbucks card, which now has a balance of $0.13. I did this thing last week where I reloaded my Starbucks card on the weekend ($15) and forbade myself from putting more money on it until this upcoming Saturday. So I’ve depleted this week’s Starbucks fund.

5 pm Go to my Bar Method class. It’s raining and cold but their $15 late class cancelattion policy keeps me from bailing.

6:15 pm The class was a pretty intense work out! I meet up with a college friend for dinner, and given the weather, comforting Asian food seems good. We walk over to Chinatown to a restaurant called  Xian Dumpling House. We order a vegetable dish, a noodle dish and an order of Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings) that are always amazing on cold days like this. This is my first time at this restaurant but I’m pretty pleased with the quality of the dumplings. I pick up the tab (31.05)

7:45 pm My friend wants dessert but most places in the FiDi/Chinatown are closed. We walk over to Boba Guys, and my friend purchases a Boba Sunday for us to share. It has Thai Tea Ice Cream, Almond Jelly, Boba and organic condensed milk as toppings. I was skeptical (they claimed that their Sundae was “the best Sundae in SF”) but it was actually very yummy. I would buy it again with my own money.

8:30 pm – Say bye to my friend and take the bus home. It’s been a long week, and tomorrow I’m working from home (!) so I’m looking forward to relaxing this evening.

Daily Total: $31.05

Friday, October 28

8:30 am Working from home today so no need to change into work clothes (pajamas all day!) I make my green smoothie– there is no kale left today so I use frozen spinach that we had in the freezer.

12:30 pm I had prepared a salad earlier while listening in on a meeting, and now I get to eat it. It’s a pretty straight forward salad with Napa cabbage, carrots, lettuce, red bell peppers, green onions, basil, mint, and a peanut dressing.

4:30 pm I had been feeling kind of low-energy all day, and then I realized I didn’t have any caffeine today. I hate how I appear to have become somewhat dependent on it. I make an almond milk matcha latte.

5:30 pm Winston comes home. He is very hungry and we settle on ordering take-out for dinner from Shanghai Dumpling King. Since the word “dumpling” is in its name, we figure we should stick to dumplings. We get an order of Xiao Long Bao, Pork and Chives Dumplings, Sheng Jian Bao, and Wonton Soup. The total is around $38 (he pays).

10:30 pm We spend the evening inside, cuddling and watching one of my favorite anime shows, Food Wars, on Crunchy Roll ($7 monthly prescription– the best $7 I spend per month). I become a little restless and suggest we get dessert. We walk over to Joy’s Place, a cute café near our apartment. I purchase a hot chocolate and a green tea shaved ice for us to share. ($9.50)

Daily Total: 9.50

Saturday, October 29

10 am I guess I got into an anime-induced coma last night or something, because I got up sooo late today! Winston makes us omelettes for breakfast.

12 pm We are meeting Winston’s Aunt, Uncle and cousin and his girlfriend for lunch. This is my first time meeting them. We are eating at IndoChine, a vegan Asian restaurant (Winston’s cousin is vegan) in the Mission. Admittedly I was skeptical before I tried the food, but it was really really tasty! Like, I would go to this restaurant just to eat the food alone. His family treats us, and we decide to spend our afternoon in the Mission.

1 pm Winston and I go to Harrington Galleries, a furniture store (we bought our couch from there). The store has a pretty big collection of vintage and used furniture, so it’s always fun to explore. Thereafter, we go to Dandelion (my second time in a week). Winston gets us a fig chocolate tart to share. He also orders a Mexican hot chocolate (he used my coupon from last time so it’s free) and gets a Cacao Fruit smoothie for me. He pays. The Cacao Fruit smoothie is incredible– I have never tasted anything like it; it tastes kind of like a lychee, but more milky and creamy.

3 pm We stop at the Westfield Mall in Powell Station to do some shopping. No tiger sweater in H&M yet. I go to Sephora to purchase eyeliner and a new red lipstick and lipliner ($96.40). As I am checking out, the store clerk tells me that I am now a “VIB Rouge” member. This means I have spent over $1000 at Sephora in a calendar year !!! I am mortified by this information. The membership comes with perks (free shipping, member only sales, etc) but I am aghast that I have spent that much money on cosmetics this year.

Halloween Candy, a Hello Kitty Halloween Card and a Glow Stick on a wooden table.
Jesse is the cutest– so happy she sent me this.

5 pm We’re back home. Winston takes a nap while I absentmindedly eat hot cheetos and read articles online. I get a package from my friend, Jesse, in the mail today! She’s sent me tons of candy for Halloween. This is the first package I’ve received from a friend in this apartment, so it feels like a milestone.

7 pm Winston wakes from his nap. We have no dinner plans and I have been eating hot cheetos and Jesse’s candy all this time. He is craving ramen, so we decide to go to the hyped-up ramen place near our apartment, Mensho. The ramen there is good (we’ve been once) but there is always a huge line. We decide to go later (9:30) so we won’t have to wait. I practice applying the red lipstick I bought earlier (featured image).

9:45 pm We are seated immediately when we get to Mensho. Their ramen is amazing (I think it’s the best in SF) but their seating arrangements inside are really bizarre and almost off-putting. It doesn’t make for a pleasant eating experience, and we quickly eat and leave. Still really good though– and perfect for the rainy weekend. Winston pays.

10:30 pm We walk over to Jones, which is probably Winston’s favorite bar in the city. He likes these oddly basic places (like Vegas). It is a pretty cool bar though because it has a very extensive rooftop. Winston buys me and himself a drink and we revel in the atmosphere (Halloween weekend!).

11:30 pm Head home. Winston picks up a case of Ginger Beers from a corner store. We each drink a ginger beer while watching a few episodes of Food Wars. We get pretty sleepy and call it a night shortly after midnight. #adulting, am I right?

Daily Total: $96.40

Weekly Total: $296.63

So I spent apparently around $300 this week. Obviously I don’t spend like this every week (the airlines tickets and cosmetics purchases are not recurring) but at the same time, there is no “normal” week. Should I be horrified at this sum? Or is it okay? Should I be aghast that apparently Sephora makes up a third of my spending (maybe this is why I’m a VIB Rouge member)?

There are no easy answers about money and adulthood.

There is only budgeting– a truly scary idea for this upcoming Halloween (!)