Money Diaries: A Week in Los Angeles on a $26,000 Salary

Alright, I don’t get paid on salary, but I want this article to be in the style of Money Diaries. If you’re not up on it, Money Diaries is an increasingly popular column, published by Refinery29, in which anonymous millennial women detail their weekly spending habits in exchange for relentless criticism from other millennial women. The lifestyle site promotes the series of candid expenditure journals as a resource for, “getting your financial life in order.” Although it might not have had its intended effect, I think the format does have some redeeming qualities.

When the late Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family,” I felt that. I didn’t grow up with money. In fact, I grew up without money. You would probably call me poor or, more appropriately, a broke boy. But I never felt like money was what really separated my neighborhood from the neighborhoods of my wealthier friends. To me, the most unattainable resource seemed to be information. Sure, these upper class families knew how to get money, but more importantly, they knew what to do with it once they got it. That appeared to be the key to the whole shit.

“In the hood, Christmas came a couple months later and it was known by another name: ‘Income Tax Season.”

I would have this realization annually during a particularly magical time of year when everybody in my neighborhood suddenly got brand new electronics and car accessories. Christmas? Not quite. In the hood, Christmas came a couple of months later and it was known by another name: “Income Tax Season.” This was the time where my community got a glimpse of money, and a glimpse is exactly what it was. That money would go right back into the economy like it was intended to be a stimulus package, and in a short amount of time, everybody would go back to living paycheck to paycheck. We didn’t know any different.

Now, imagine if a column like Money Diaries was targeted to those people really in the struggle, rather than young millennial women trying to figure out what to do with all their disposable income… It would be an invaluable resource. Direct access to information regarding alternative lifestyles is something I have always been in search of, and if I could’ve read Money Diaries as a youth, I wouldn’t have had to make as many white friends. Just kidding. Well, sort of.

The hood isn’t the only community that knows about the struggle though, and it’s also not the only one that I am a part of. I am an artist, which means I am in a line of work that is so notorious for being poor that the job title is often prefaced with the word “starving.” If you were to survey a group of parents and have them make a list of the careers that they want for their kids, I would imagine artist is at the very bottom, right below stripper. “At least strippers get paid,” I can hear a funny dad saying. So, to sum it up, I’m a broke boy from the struggle trying to make it as an artist. On top of that, I also moved to Los Angeles two years ago. When you type, “living in Los Angeles is…” into Google, the site’s first prediction is that you’re going to finish your sentence with the word “expensive.” So what’s my deal? Am I a masochist trying to do everything in my power to end up homeless? I don’t know. I don’t think so.

That’s when I decided I would write a money diary, and hopefully, provide the broke boys, artists, and especially the broke boy artists, with some insight on ways to make things work in the creative hub that is Los Angeles.

When I got asked to write an article for The Green Room, I immediately tried to think of what useful information I could possibly share about being a musician. I haven’t had enough success to be able to give any advice on that subject just yet. All I’ve done is just consistently make things. And then I thought, well maybe that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. That’s when I decided I would write a money diary, and hopefully, provide the broke boys, artists, and especially the broke boy artists, with some insight on ways to make things work in the creative hub that is Los Angeles. So without further adieu, here is my Money Diary.

Occupation: Personal Grocery Shopper
Industry: Retail
Age: 25
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Salary: I get paid per order, but it averages out to about $20/hr. Last year, I made $26,000, so that’s where the title of this article comes from.
Paycheck Amount (Weekly): Around $500
Additional Income: I get an extra $100 a month from music streams/sales.

Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $623.73 (I live with my girlfriend in a studio apartment and we split rent in half.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (Deferred for now.)
Car Payment: $280.11
Car Insurance: $111.52
Credit Card Payment: $161
Health & Vision Insurance: $20.61
Moviepass: $9.95
iCloud Storage: $0.99
Dropbox Storage: $9.99
Netflix, Hulu, HBO: $0 (My friends share with me.)
Spotify: $7.50 (Split family account with my girlfriend.)
Phone: $0 (My mom won’t let me pay.)
Internet: $27.47 (Split with my girlfriend.)
Dropbox Storage: $9.99

Day One (Friday):

8:45 a.m. — Wake up. Brush my teeth, pour a bowl of Trader Joe’s Bran Flakes and Good Karma’s Flax Milk and have a quick breakfast. I leave for work. I get to start work whenever and end work whenever, but I usually leave around 8:30.

12:15 p.m. — I get home. My friend Jared is acting in a play tonight and I still haven’t bought a ticket, so I do that. The $15 is a lot more than I’d like to pay, but after a quick search, I find a 10% off discount code. That shrinks the price to $12.60. It doesn’t do much, but that $2.40 should cover parking. $12.60

12:45 p.m. — There are some potatoes and bell peppers that I need to cook before they go bad, so I make a roasted potato hash.

1:19 p.m. — I finally get a response from Bird Scooters after signing up to be a scooter charger three months ago. Word around town is that you can make $20 a night by charging their public electric scooters while you sleep. Could be $600 more income a month. We gon’ see.

3:22 p.m. — After doing some writing,  I walk to the park with my girlfriend, Lora, because she needs me to take some pictures of her running for this commercial she is being considered for. I bring my basketball too with plans of putting a few shots up.

6:15 p.m. — Get back from the park. I think we got some good pictures. I take a shower.

6:37 p.m. — I don’t feel like cooking, so I microwave a package of Trader Joe’s Vindaloo. It’s their newest vegetarian Indian flavor, so I had to try it.

7:46 p.m. — Time to go to Jared’s play.

8:05 p.m. — We find a parking spot not too far away from the theater. $3.00

11:14 p.m. — The play was actually a collection of six short plays. My friend’s was one of the better ones. We met another one of his friends there who came to LA to be an actor. We walked around afterwards and it felt like I was in a scene from Swingers for a second. We ended up going to Whole Foods, but Lora brought it to my attention that our favorite frozen yogurt place, Yogurt Stop, was just a mile away. I was not going to settle for anything else. The friends leave and we go to Yogurt Stop for the perfect treat. $3.27

11:30 p.m. — I didn’t get enough fro-yo on my first go round so I get up and get some more. $2.61

12:00 p.m. — We get home, take showers and go to sleep.

Daily Total: $21.48

Day Two (Saturday):

9:00 a.m. — Wake up, check e-mails, make a bowl of cereal and start applying to jobs. I just wrote a screenplay so I’m looking for some film work that can help me get my foot in the door.

10:42 a.m — I leave for work.

2:05 p.m —I get home from work. Had to deliver to a place about 20 minutes away so I got online for Uber and dropped a guy off on my way back home. Extra $3. I talk with Lora about our days so far and we discuss plans for the rest of the day.

2:45 p.m. —I quickly cut up an avocado, onion, and tomato for a sandwich. I have some pumpkin seeds on the side. Lora has a sketchy audition for a horror movie, I decide to go with her.

4:35 p.m. —We get back home. While in the waiting room, I was able to read a chapter of my newest library book, “How To Sell Your Screenplay.” It’s full of little anecdotes from screenwriters about how they sold their first screenplay. The more information I have, the better.

4:48 p.m. — I just got a grocery order too good to pass up. It looks like $35 for an hour of work. Off I go.

6:05 p.m. — I get home and make dinner. There’s another avocado I need to use so I got some garlic, lemon, parsley, and basil and threw together a pasta sauce to go with a package of Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Ravioli.

7:11 p.m. — I finish eating. Lora thought we would be snacking together while watching ‘Insecure’ tonight, but I didn’t get the memo so she drives to Whole Foods to pick up some snacks. I ask her to grab me some Leaf Cuisine Garlicky Herb dip. $5.79

7:52 p.m. — She gets back and we start watching Insecure.

11:28 p.m. — We both shower, and go to sleep.

Daily Total: $5.79

Day Three (Sunday):

7:44 a.m — I wake up. I ended up having half a box of those crackers last night so I’m not feeling too hungry. I get up and start applying to jobs again.

8:48 a.m — I pour myself a bowl of cereal, eat it, and leave for work.

11:35 a.m — I get home. I feel like hooping so I go to the park.

2:44 p.m — I hooped for like 45 minutes, but ended up doing some more deliveries and had to get gas. I don’t want to fill up the tank because the local grocery store gives one dollar off every gallon when you spend a certain amount. I’m almost at that point, so I just put a few gallons in. $12.67

3:28 p.m. —  I get home and take a shower. My plan is to apply to more job and work on some new music.

7:06 p.m. — I get offered a good order so I go back out and make some dough. I don’t have much time to eat so I open up a can of Trader Joe’s dolmas. I’m still hungry after so I eat some bread and hummus.

8:43 p.m. — I get back and continue applying.

9:43 p.m. —  I’m listening to music while I’m writing and a song comes on from a small group named PNTHN that my friend wanted me to do a show with. Except I’m listening to a Pitchfork playlist so that can’t be possible. I do some research and find out that this crew blew up and now I’m upset at myself for never doing that show. I hit up my friend and we talk for awhile. He believes in me more than I believe in myself, and I need that sometimes. He wants me to start doing shows. I probably should.

11:36 p.m. — I finish writing. Take a shower and call it a night.

Daily Total: $12.67

Day Four (Monday):

7:42 a.m — I wake up and have a bowl of cereal. I apply to jobs while eating breakfast. Overnight, I got an e-mail back about being a PA for a student film at USC. It’s seven days without pay, but I think it’s a good opportunity.

8:41 a.m — I head to work.

12:28 p.m. —I get home. I got a free Health-Ade Kombucha from work so that’s my lunch. I apply to more jobs.

1:20 p.m. — I just got an e-mail that I’ve been offered an internship at a production company, Interloper Films. They want me to start tomorrow. They do primarily documentaries but I thought it would still be good experience to work with a two-time Sundance winner. I guess I don’t have to apply to jobs anymore?

2:36 p.m. — I want to make a short film using the script I wrote, so I’m going to meet with one of the actors, Freddy, to talk about the film. I still want to do music, so we’ll see how that fits in now that I have an unpaid internship on top of the work I need to do to pay the bills.

5:31 p.m. — I get back home and start cooking dinner. I put some rice in the crock-pot with some onions. I’m going to mix it with some black beans, avocado, and salsa for a Chipotle type bowl.

6:30 p.m. — Lora and I leave to meet with our neighbors, they want us to start babysitting their kids. Low-key being a nanny is where the money is at. I’ve seen $100,000 nanny openings.

8:24 p.m. — We get back and I realize that I might need a video editing software on my computer so I download Adobe Premiere Pro and hop in the shower.

9:11 p.m. — I get out the shower and start to install Adobe Premiere but I start to feel weird. I’ve been working towards this point ever since I started writing my script, but I don’t want to give music up. I’m sad. I just want to sleep.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five (Tuesday):

6:02 a.m. — I wake up and get ready. I feel better this morning. Donald Glover does a lot of jobs and still has time for music. I can do this.

6:30 a.m. — I start installing Adobe Premiere.

6:52 a.m. — I finish up the installation. I make a bowl of cereal. I have some time before I go in so I open up FL Studio and start playing with some flutes. This song I got in my head is real playful and it needs to have a flute.

7:11 a.m. — After playing around for a little bit, I decide to hit up the guy who taught me how to make beats, London Swerve, and see if he has any flute beats. He sends one with a flute, but it’s more trap than I’m looking for.  He sends another one without a flute, and it slaps. I’ll just add some flute to this.

8:50 a.m. — I get ready to leave for my internship. It’s in Pasadena so I’m going to leave early and make sure I’m not late.

6:54 p.m. — I get back from my first day of the internship. I’m helping make a movie so it’s pretty cool. I was even able to start writing my verse to the flute beat on the drive there. I’m going to make this work. Lora has dinner made for me. It’s plantains with black beans and rice. She’s the best.

7:48 p.m. — The Bird scooter chargers came in the mail today. We go out and see if we can make some money from this.

8:03 p.m. — Nope.

8:27 p.m. — I shower and start reading, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” in bed and eventually fall asleep.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six (Wednesday):

6:22 a.m. — I wake up and start playing with the flute beat.

8:18 a.m. — I’m starting to make some progress. I just need to find the right flute melody. I’ll work on it when I get back. Off to work.

12:24 p.m. — I get home from work. I had to get gas, I put in $7.32, and plan to fill it up tomorrow after I get more points. I eat Trader Joe’s Curry Cauliflower Quinoa salad for lunch. $7.32

12:43 p.m. — I get a good order so leave to go get some more money. With this unpaid internship, I’m going to have to work a few more hours on the days I don’t go in.

2:17 p.m. — I get home and do some remote work for my internship. Jared asks me to go see The Nun with him, because he has an audition for a new Conjuring sequel. I leave to pick him up.

7:06 p.m. — I had to get gas on my way home. The order from earlier gave me the points I needed. It was $2.51 per gallon instead of $3.41 for a total of  $29.71. I make another microwavable Indian package and use a couple of slices of bread for dip. $29.71

7:23 p.m. — I finish dinner and get to work on my next internship assignment. I’m going to be transcribing for the rest of the night it looks like.

10:04 p.m. — I ran into a problem transcribing that can’t be handled until I’m at the office tomorrow. I take a shower and go to sleep.

Daily Total: $37.03

Day Seven (Thursday):

6:42 a.m. — I wake up and eat a bowl of cereal. I have to leave here at 8:30, so I work on the flute beat and my verse for a little while.

8:30 a.m.  — I leave for the internship.

6:55 p.m. — I get home from the internship and make a chickpea salad with chopped garlic, chopped bell pepper, chopped pickle, and vegenaise.

7:21 p.m. — I finish eating and get offered a pretty good order. I feel weird about not making any money today so I go and do the order.

8:28 p.m. — I previously bought Lora and I tickets to see The Weeknd in Las Vegas and it’s tomorrow, so I start packing and planning.

11:07 p.m. — I shower and head to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Weekly Total Spent: $76.97

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