Sep 19

The 24-Year-Old Software Engineer Earning $180K… But Still Working On Her Side Hustle

How one twenty-something spends her cash.

Alyssa*, 24, is a senior software engineer for a big tech company in San Francisco. With a salary of $180,000, a monthly take-home pay of $9,800, and no student loans, car payment, or regular grocery bills (she eats for free most days at her job), she aims to save at least $1,000 per month. Alyssa spends most of her money on rent, traveling, investing in her side projects, and various subscriptions. Since her income is more than comfortable (she earns five times as much as she did three years ago), she’s less concerned with strict budgeting and more interested in making sure she’s getting long-term value out of her purchases. Whether it’s a vacation that will provide awesome memories for years to come, a product she’ll use again and again, or investment in a new software project, Alyssa would rather make a calculated $500 spend than a disappointing $5 purchase. She takes us through a week of expenses as she juggles her job and side projects and pays for the subscription services she loves.


The Stats:

Yearly income: $180,000

Monthly savings: $1,000

Fixed monthly payments:

  • Rent: $2195
  • Utilities: $88
  • YouTube Premium: $11.99
  • Gym membership: $325
  • Phone: $125.16
  • Mailing addresses: $198
  • Spotify: $10.50
  • Best Buy credit card: $27
  • Citi Bike: $14



11:00 am, $2.99 – Cheese and crackers

I don’t keep much food in my apartment because I eat for free at work, but since it’s the weekend, I went to the grocery store to pick something up. I ended up buying pre-packaged crackers, sausage, and cheese – basically an adult Lunchable. It was actually pretty good and it filled me up, but I left the store annoyed because there were long lines and it’s something I could have gotten at work for free. I hate grocery shopping and prefer to just order online, but I find it hard to plan on being home for the delivery window, so I rarely end up doing it.


3:15 pm, $1.00 – Chocolate milk

Despite my aversion to grocery stores, I ended up making a Safeway run for friends. We were at a coworking space together and they wanted Red Bull; I added in a chocolate milk for myself, which was delicious.


4:15 pm, $235.01 – Illustration work

I’ve always wanted a custom illustration for my personal website, to show off what I do in a unique way. A friend who is a designer connected to me to an illustrator, and I commissioned a piece that reflects the coding meetups I run; it was inspired by a picture I took during a meetup and shows women collaborating and learning to code together. I was really happy with the final product, but part of me wondered if I should have saved the money because I technically didn’t need the illustration for anything. Still, I loved the final product.


I was also really excited about building a positive business relationship with the artist. Now that I make more than enough money to cover my expenses and save, I’ve been investing in new projects that I hope can eventually earn more money. Since my expertise is in software, I’ve been putting money into building my own software projects, as well as getting other people’s projects off the ground. This illustrator could be a good person to hire for future work.


7:00 pm, $21.55 – Impossible Burger and fries

I met up with a friend for dinner, specifically to get Impossible Burgers from Umami Burger. Every time I get an Impossible Burger, I always forget how expensive they are, as the plant-based meat substitute isn’t mainstream yet. I was conflicted about spending the money when I could have gotten a huge burrito for half the price. Grabbing dinner or drinks with friends typically isn’t a huge part of my social life. Most of the stuff I do with friends is free, like going to meetups, hiking, or just exploring the city.


9:55pm, $7.75 – Uber

Over the last six months, I’ve been working hard to change my lifestyle and become more active, and I’ve actually lost 30 pounds because of it. In addition to hiking and going on walks, I discovered I love skateboarding and bike riding, so I try to use that as my main form of transportation whenever I can since it’s a fun way to exercise and also saves me money. I stayed at my coworking spot pretty late, though, and even though I felt safe – my route home is well-lit and I have a light that I attach to my helmet – I was tired so I took an Uber home. I know it’s OK to give yourself a break sometimes, but I still wasn’t happy about spending this money.


10:30 pm, $11.99 – YouTube Premium Monthly Subscription

I hate watching ads on YouTube, so this subscription is something I’m happy to pay for every month.


Day Total: $280.29



9:00 am, $325 – Monthly Equinox membership

I do strength training and go swimming at Equinox, and I also use it as a space to work and relax other than my apartment, since they have really nice sitting areas. I can also access any Equinox location, which is nice for when I travel to New York or L.A. and want to go somewhere familiar.


Even though I can afford the membership and it brings me a lot of happiness, I still question if it’s the most responsible way to spend my money. A few years ago I wasn’t in as good of a financial situation as I am now and I sometimes feel guilty about my spending habits. I also wonder if I should use the money I spend on the gym for travel, since, like exercise, it boosts my mental health. My annual contract is up soon and I’m debating whether or not I should renew it.


Day Total: $325



6:00 am, $56.16 – Automatic payment for iPhone

I have an automatic monthly payment for my actual phone, which is a separate bill from my data plan. I get a lot of use out of my iPhone X, so I’m never annoyed that I have to pay for it.


7:15 am, $27.00 – Monthly payment to Best Buy credit card

I’ve had this card for like 5 years. Last winter I used it to buy some things for a family member, who promised to pay it off through minimum payments if I used the card I had open. This person has never paid me back, though, so I end up making the payments each month. It’s frustrating because even though I can technically afford the $27 a month, it’s not money I want to spend. I also know how easily credit card debt can add up. I’ve asked my family member multiple times about paying me back, but they get upset and say that they don’t have the money. I think this person assumes that with my salary, I won’t miss an extra $27 a month. I haven’t pushed it recently because I don’t want to start a fight, but it’s upsetting.


Day Total: $83.16



9:00 pm, $198 – Mailing addresses

I don’t like having to change my address when I move or worry about my mail going to an insecure mailbox, so I pay for a mail service called Earth Class Mail that allows you to have a secure address in multiple places. I’m planning on forming a legal entity for some of the software projects I’m working on, so it will be useful to have access to multiple addresses once I get that up and running. I’m technically overpaying right now because I’m only using one location, but I would rather pay a little extra and be able to use it if I need it.


Day Total: $198



I didn’t spend any money today! There was an evening event at work, so I ate dinner there in addition to lunch, and I biked home afterward. It’s not that unusual for me to go a day without spending money, especially if none of my monthly recurring payments are due. But it’s a nice feeling.


Day Total: $0



7:00 pm, $32.21 – Thunderbolt cable

My personal laptop, which was about 5 years old, recently stopped working, so I had to buy a Thunderbolt cable to transfer the data to my work computer. Spending the money on the cable didn’t bother me but I was bummed about the laptop. I’ll probably have to buy a new one sometime soon.  


8:00 pm, $10.50 – Spotify monthly payment

I love listening to music and hate ads, so I can’t imagine not paying for Spotify. Listening to music while I’m working, skateboarding, or traveling brings me a lot of happiness, so it’s definitely money I’m happy to spend every month.


10:15 pm, $24.61 – Ramen

There’s a ramen place near my house that’s usually pretty busy, but I came back from the gym late and there wasn’t a line so I figured I would try it. I’m sure this place was good, but it turns out that I just really don’t like ramen.


Day Total: $67.32



2:30 pm, $0 – Burrito

A few friends were in town visiting, so I hung out with them in the afternoon. I let them keep their luggage in my apartment for the day, so one bought me a burrito to say thanks, even though I told her not to. I hadn’t seen these friends in a while, so it was fun catching up and showing them some spots I like to visit.


3:00 pm, $5.50 – Brownie

I took my friends to one of my favorite chocolate shops, Dandelion Chocolate, and I bought us a brownie to share. It came divided into three sections, so it was perfect to split.


4:10 pm, $15.01 – Lyft

My friends had plans, and I offered to buy them a Lyft ride because I thought I had a promo code. I realized at the end of their ride that the code had expired, so I was kind of bummed. I never feel amazing about spending money on ride-sharing apps because I feel like there are cheaper ways to get around. But I’m not one to send Venmo requests over small amounts – especially since I told them I’d pay for the ride, and my friend had treated me to a burrito earlier – so I just tried to let it go.


5:00 pm, $5.50 – Orange juice

I had a meeting at a coffee shop and I needed to buy something to access the WiFi. For some reason, it tasted terrible, but I didn’t feel like going through the trouble to return it.


11:55 pm, $138.87 – Cell phone bill

I forgot to pay my cell phone plan bill last month and it’s one of my few bills not on autopay, so I had to pay for two months at once. There’s no penalty for paying it late, at least that I know of, so I didn’t feel bad that I missed a payment.


Day Total: $164.88


Total Weekly Spend: $1,118.65


*Name has been changed.



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