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: an executive assistant who makes $109,200 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Tecate.
Occupation: Executive Assistant
Location: Nomadic since March 2020; Mexico currently; San Francisco before that
Net Worth: $96,835.19 (Emergency fund: $16,434.68, down payment savings: $19,533.45, checking account: $2,270.90, guilt-free fund for spending on anything I want: $1,066.77, Roth IRA: $38,436.59, 401(k): $17,460.02, crypto: $421.07, Kiva loans: $212.68, stocks in past company: $3,696, minus $2,696.97 on my credit card. I bought tickets to South America and I’m paying them off slowly because I have 0% interest. Usually it’s paid off in full every billing cycle. My partner, R., and I keep our finances separate and split most things 50/50. He tends to pay more often when we eat out because he makes more than I do.)
Debt: $2,696.97 on my credit card
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,799
Housing Cost: $1,633 (This is for my half. It’s the monthly average we’ve spent in 2021 on hotels and Airbnbs while traveling. I keep a spreadsheet, and we split the cost 50/50. I anticipate spending a similar total for 2022.)
Spotify: $15.99 (I have friends and my mom on my account.)
Boombox Storage: $67.50
New York Times: $4
Roth IRA: $500
401(k): $864.50 (Pre-tax from my paycheck, my employer matches)
Car Insurance & Registration: $970 (My van has been parked at my dad’s house for the last eight months, and I didn’t plan for a non-op registration unfortunately.)
Natural Cycles: $89.99 (birth control app)
Google Storage: $19.99
Scott’s Cheap Flights: $24
American Express Credit Card Fee: $95
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 was never an expectation for me to attend higher education. I learned everything about four-year universities by listening to my peers talk about which schools they were aiming to attend and how their AP credits would knock off half a year so they could graduate faster. This all baffled me and since I didn’t want to jump into crazy college expenses without knowing what I wanted to do, I opted for a local junior college. I figured out all the financial aid paperwork on my own and after two years, I transferred to a state school. There, I took on loans to cover what financial aid didn’t. I graduated with about $18,000 in loans but came into some money in my mid-20s and used a portion of it to pay off my debt.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My family never had conversations about money, and if my parents were struggling financially, I never knew it. My dad was incredibly frugal, and my mom stayed home with my brother and me until I was in high school. My mom started stressing financial responsibility after she and my father got divorced when I was a senior in high school.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Other than babysitting, my first job was at a watch and clock repair shop. I learned how to do minor repairs, and it was a lot of fun. The job paid for my gas and fun money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I never worried about money growing up. My dad was very frugal and we always had enough.
Do you worry about money now?
Sometimes totally yes and sometimes absolutely no. When I think about how much I’ve saved over my life and how much more I need to save up for retirement, it feels like an outrageous and unachievable number. And then, there’s the paradox question of: If I were to arrive at that magic number, would it be enough? In that sense, I worry.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say that I became financially responsible at 24. To me, this means not having to ask my parents for money. There were a few times in my earlier 20s that I had to ask my dad to front my rent deposit so I wouldn’t drain my savings. Other than that, I was paying all of my own bills.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received a $5,000 inheritance from a great aunt and also around $5,000 in stocks and bonds that my grandparents had placed in an account for me as a child.
8 a.m. — My alarm goes off and after 11 days off work, it’s extremely hard to wake up. Today, we’re in a hotel in a beach town in Mexico, which means I need to go down and ask the reception desk for another coffee packet for the coffee maker (it’s free). While the coffee’s brewing, I take a shower while R., my partner, continues to sleep.
9:30 a.m. — R. is up and we do some housekeeping (fold clothing and re-pack our suitcases) because we will be on the move again tomorrow. Around 10:30, we arrive at a coworking spot. The internet at the hotel is terrible, so this is much needed. R. prepaid for both of us yesterday when we stopped by to check internet speed. We start work. (Obligatory COVID disclaimer — we are fully vaccinated, follow all local guidelines for masking and distancing, will be getting our boosters once back stateside in two weeks, and realize how privileged we are to be able to move around during this time.)
12:45 p.m. — Time for lunch! We walk to a local spot we have been wanting to try. I have chilaquiles with a fried egg, a green juice, and sparkling water. GR has a Milanesa with two fried eggs and an agua de sandia (fresh watermelon juice). R. graciously pays the 350 pesos ($17.50), which includes tip.
6:15 p.m. — Work is wrapped up for the day for both of us. Booyah. I pay for both our reservations at the coworking space for tomorrow (605 pesos/$30.25). We’ve opted for the hot desk option because we’re only here for two more days. $30.25
7 p.m. — Laptops are dropped off at the hotel, and we’re out the door to find dinner. We decide on a restaurant on the beach and feast on fish tacos and a couple of beers. R. pays for the meal. Since we’re flying off to another city tomorrow, we stop to say bye to a friend who lives in this town. Before arriving back at the hotel, we pick up water (50 pesos/$2.50). Back at the hotel, and we double-check we are ready for travel tomorrow and scroll our phones until falling asleep around 10:30. $2.50
Daily Total: $32.75
7:30 a.m. — I wake up without my alarm and, dang, it feels good to be well-rested. I brush my teeth, start coffee, and lay in bed reading the NYT on my phone while R. continues sleeping. Today we are traveling from Puerto Escondido to Baja California, and it’s going to be hectic with working, checking out of the hotel, storing our luggage, and eventually getting to the airport. Needless to say, I’m enjoying this tranquility for as long as I can. I run through my final bag pack preparation.
9:30 a.m. — I settle in at the coworking space, grab a cup of coffee (included with day pass to the coworking), and begin my workday. R. shows up shortly after.
12 p.m. — We head out to find lunch. I order a veggie sandwich with all the fixings on a baguette and agua de Jamaica (hibiscus iced tea), and R. orders a burger with fries and a sparkling water. I had intended to pay because R. paid for meals yesterday, but the restaurant doesn’t take cards, and I don’t have cash. After lunch, it’s back to work.
3 p.m. — With calls wrapped up, we walk back to the hotel to get our luggage and grab a taxi to the airport. R. pays for the taxi (120 pesos/$6) and I tip the bell guy who helped load our luggage into the taxi (50 pesos/$2.50). We’re off to the races! $2.50
4 p.m. — We make it through security and our bags are checked. Even though my suitcase is a carry-on size, I have accumulated so many things over the last three months that I have unzipped the extension, which makes it not so carry-on-able. We find our gate (there’s only one at this airport), buy some water (50 pesos/$2.50), and hope for decent-enough internet to finish work emails. $2.50
8:30 p.m. — Disembark from the first flight and run through the Mexico City airport to make our connection. Luckily, R. has the wherewithal to buy a ham sandwich and a bag of chips.
10:45 p.m. — We make it to Baja! Now it’s time to grab a taxi and get to the Airbnb. $40
11:45 p.m. — A worst-case travel scenario is happening. Our Airbnb host gave us the wrong code to get into the house and she is no longer responding to my messages. I call Airbnb’s customer support to see what we should do. They recommend that we get a hotel for the night and they will follow up with the host. Taking their advice, we search Google Maps and start calling nearby hotels to see if they have a vacancy.
Daily Total: $45
2 a.m. — We take an Uber (R. pays) to the first hotel we find and the second we enter the room, we crash. It’s been a lonnnng day. The hotel is $160 per night but Airbnb is going to reimburse us.
7:30 a.m. — Rise and shine! I wake up after a brief few hours of sleep, make coffee in the hotel room and shower the tired away since my first work call starts at 8.
10 a.m. — Once R. is awake, we follow the delicious aroma of bacon to the breakfast buffet. We are both hungry after a dinner of a half sandwich each. I have chilaquiles (my favorite), bacon, fruit, and coffee while R. has eggs, bacon, and French toast with orange juice. I pay $48.18 for both of us. Way more than I anticipated, but definitely delicious. After, we head to the room to do some more work, and I get a call from Airbnb saying that they were able to contact the host, and we have the correct code to enter the house. Yay! $48.18
12 p.m. — We get an Uber to the Airbnb and we both are hoping to squeeze in a nap before afternoon work calls. $2.50
3 p.m. — We work till 3 and then head out for a walk to explore the neighborhood and get tacos. We find a nice-looking spot and split a quesadilla, two steak tacos, and a shrimp taco. I drink a Coca-Cola while R. enjoys a crisp Tecate. I pay (400 pesos/$20). We walk around the marina and stop at a grocery store to buy water (86 pesos/$4.30) before heading back to the Airbnb. $24.30
5:30 p.m. — While bouncing between work and perusing the internet, I see a favorite San Francisco shop of mine is on the last day of a sale and lo and behold, a romper I’ve been eyeing is on sale, plus I have a store credit to use. I pull the trigger (shipping to my mom’s house where we’ll be in a couple of weeks). $72.35
6:30 p.m. — Now that work is done for the day, we head out to find a place for dinner. I’m not super hungry so R. picks a place that has a catch of the day special. R. has fish, and it comes with a side of pasta and he also enjoys a glass of wine. I have a salad and mineral water. R. pays.
9:30 p.m. — Back at the Airbnb, we chill for the rest of the night watching a cooking show called The Final Table on Netflix. We both miss having a kitchen on a regular basis and being able to cook, so watching other people cook will have to do for now. We’re both exhausted and fall asleep by 11.
Daily Total: $147.33
8:30 a.m. — I wake up without an alarm! I can always tell that my rest battery is fully charged when this happens. And with so much travel, sleeping in different beds and in different time zones, this is a glorious feeling. I lounge and read the NYT until I get up to make coffee and shower. By 9:30, my computer is open and my workday has started.
12 p.m. — R. and I both are having internet issues, so we find a local coworking space and make a plan to head there at 1:30. It’ll be $120 for a private office for one week (today through next Friday). We split the cost. The joys of working a full-time job while being nomadic. $60
2 p.m. — Lunchtime at a fish taco spot nearby (430 pesos/$21.50). I have sparkling water and two fish tacos: one Baja-style and one with grilled fish. R. has the same, and we both agree the Baja-style is better. $21.50
5:30 p.m. — Bye work, see you Monday! We walk back to the house. We stop to buy water and a couple of beers (120 pesos/$6) so we can chill at the house before foraging the local restaurant scene for dinner. $6
8:30 p.m. — We head out to play pool at a bar nearby and have a couple of drinks and chips and guacamole (R. pays). We end up chatting with a few people from the states who are also playing pool. The bartender offers us all free tequila shots, so why the heck not!
12 a.m. — On the way home, we realize we haven’t eaten so we stop for tacos from a stand before heading back home. $5
Daily Total: $92.50
8:30 a.m. — Wake up on my own (again!), and we lounge before getting up to make coffee. We watch a bit of The Final Table. Also! Today is an exciting day: After using my AmEx to book most of the travel I have paid for in the last year, I earned a free night at any partner hotel property. This is what my travel hacking dreams are made of, and I am so excited to feel refreshed. Tonight we are going to stay at a five-star resort on the beach that normally costs $1,600.
3 p.m. — We arrive punctually for check-in (via an Uber that was 70 pesos/$3.50) and enjoy a yummy welcome cocktail while we get the low down on the amenities and then get shown to our room. Holy Hannah, this place is phenomenal. I’ve never stayed in a five-star resort before and I want to live here now. $3.50
4:30 p.m. — After getting settled in, we head to the pool to catch the last few hours of sunlight. We order a couple of cocktails to top off the stellar views. $35
8 p.m. — Dinner reservations at the less fancy of the two hotel restaurants. We have a bottle of Mexican Malbec, and I choose the seafood risotto and R. has the fish of the day. R. pays.
11 p.m. — Back to the room to enjoy the private pool on our balcony before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $38.50
9 a.m. — We wake up in our five-star wonderland and decide to order breakfast to the room along with Champagne. We might as well make the most of this. Afterward, we plan to go to the beach and pool again to lounge in the sun. R., again, signs the check and I don’t catch the total. What a generous human.
2 p.m. — It’s time to check out, and we take a car back to the house (80 pesos/$4). We bid farewell to luxury and both agree it’s not a party if it happens every day. $4
4 p.m. — We do typical Sunday things like laundry (free at the Airbnb) and plan the next week ahead. For dinner, we snack on veggies and dip with cheese and crackers that we pick up from a market around the corner. I pay. $7.50
Daily Total: $11.50
7:15 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I make coffee, shower, and get ready to walk to the coworking space. R. stays at home and says he’ll meet up with me later.
8 a.m. — I take my first call of the day, grab some of the free coffee, and continue working. A bit later on, R. joins me.
12:30 p.m. — We break for lunch at a little spot around the corner that says it’s a healthy fast food place. I pick up the check. $24
4:15 p.m. — Time to head “home” to the house. As we walk, we talk about what’s next. Currently, the plan is to go back to California for work retreats (amazingly, both of our organizations planned their retreats within a week of each other), then to South America to visit R.’s family now that the border is open, and then settle down in Portland, OR, for a couple of months at least.
8 p.m. — We order ramen, a couple of rolls, edamame, and seaweed salad ($42.59) and bring it home to share. Then we finally finish our favorite cooking show and get ready to call it a night. $42.59
Daily Total: $66.59
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