Oct 31

The Former Temp Who Just Got a Big Time Job as a TV Writer but is Paying Off Major Debt

LaRhonda*, a television writer, lives in Los Angeles and makes $258,000 a year, minus the twenty-percent that goes to her agents and manager. She is single and rents her one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. She was a temp at various entertainment companies for several years but recently landed her big break: A writer on a TV show! Because she didn’t make a lot of money for many years, she still isn’t used to the larger paycheck–she leapt several tax and income brackets in a small stretch of time. Right now, she’s focused on paying off debts including student loans, medical debt from before she had Obamacare, a car loan, personal loans, and credit cards that helped her survive during her leaner years. To do so, she’s keeping pretty much the same pre-six-figure lifestyle, not buying anything she doesn’t absolutely need, and living leanly so she can be debt-free, sooner rather than later. (Though she did treat herself to a few things when she got the new gig.) She’s also happy to be able to give back as well; it’s important to her. 


The Stats:

Estimated yearly income: $258,000 a year

Fixed monthly payments:

  • Rent: $1506
  • Student loan payments: $400
  • Car loan payments: $200
  • Netflix: $7.99



7:30 am, $500 – Transfer to savings account

Since my income varies from writing job to writing job, and I’m still not yet used to making this kind of money, I’m saving as much as I can. Due to of years of income insecurity and some time spent near the poverty line, I’m afraid it’s all gonna vanish. Even though I’m making money now, the work is still insecure. A writer can leave a TV show when the job ends and not work again for a year or more. Plus, every TV writer is afraid they’ll never work again, we’re an anxious bunch. 


8:30 am, $4.25 – Co-pay for my Rx

I’m grateful for my union and the ability to get prescriptions for a reasonable co-pay.


9:15 am, $25.05 – Gas

I have a very fuel efficient car, but every time I have to buy gas, I wonder why I don’t bike to work more. I could easily save $70 to $80 each month by biking to work and yet I still don’t do it.


3:10 pm, $21.57 – Imperfect Produce box

Imperfect Produce fights food waste by selling “ugly” produce at a discount. It’s perfectly good food, but its rejected by grocery stores for aesthetic reasons and I don’t care if all my apples are the same size. I’m always happy to get my produce box because I love fresh produce and it helps the environment by minimizing food waste (although I, once again, got a million onions that I guess I’ll be pickling).


6 pm, $69.99 – Internet service

I’m always annoyed and a little mad that I have to pay so much for spotty internet service. A utility shouldn’t cost this much. It should be half that, frankly.


Day total: $620.86



8 am, $28 – Pilates class

This class is great. I feel amazing–almost jubilant–every time I leave class, and I’ve noticed and I’m getting a little bit stronger every week. I’m happy to pay for it. I wish it had been more affordable, and therefore available to me, when I was making considerably less money.


9 am, $750 – Loan repayment to my parents

My parents helped me out several times while I was broke, writing and temping. They loaned me a few thousand dollars over several years with the agreement that I would pay them back whenever I could afford to. It doesn’t impact our relationship because we’re just not the kind of family that makes money an issue; they trust that I’ll pay them back because I will. It makes me incredibly happy and proud to finally be able to return their money to them.


11:15 am $150 – Donation to an arts foundation

This organization gave me a career-boosting grant and fellowship at a critical turning point in my career when I needed to decide whether or not I was going to keep pursuing this goal I’ve had since I was six years old or give it all up to become some other unknown, more stable profession. This fellowship and grant, which some of my heroes have received in the past, gave me confidence in my work and the money to keep pushing forward. I don’t know if I’d be a full-time writer now if I hadn’t received it. It paved the way for all of the steps that led to where I am now. I’m glad to pay it forward and contribute to grants for other artists in need of the same critical financial and career break I got.


4:50 pm, $21.19 – Amazon

My mom and I both needed more food storage containers, so I bought some on Amazon and had it shipped to each of us. (Me in LA, and her at home on the East Coast.)


Day total: $949.19



8:30 am, $1,506 – Rent

I love my apartment and it’s rent-controlled. LA has a reasonable housing market and there are rent controlled apartments available throughout the city. Five years ago, I saw a ‘For Rent’ sign in front of a building that I loved, so I applied for it and got it pretty easily. I’ve lived there ever since. I’ll probably stay there at least two more years until I’ve paid off all or most of my debts.


9:30 am, $7.99 – Netflix

Who doesn’t like Netflix? I switched to the cheapest subscription recently, which suits me better and saves me a couple of bucks each month.


9:50 am, $90.85 – Dresses and a romper from Zara

I really needed some new clothing, and I was glad I could afford to buy it.


3:15 pm, $22.32 – Bakery/Cafe

I stopped for a loaf of bread and also picked up a late lunch/early dinner because I didn’t feel like cooking. I left full and happy.


Day total: $1,627.16



9:15 am, $29.53 – Groceries

I bought basics for my Sunday batch cooking. When I’m in the mood to cook, like I am today, this is a fun trip. My grocery bills are low because they buy us lunch, snacks, and coffee at work.


Day total: $29.53



8:15 am, $165.63 – Student loans

This is one of two student loans I have. I get really angry every time I have to pay these bills: College should be affordable and not something that hobbles you financially for decades.


Day total: $165.63



7:00 am, $28 – Pilates class

I love this class!


8:00 pm, $40.74 – Laundry service

I have a very busy job with long hours so I’ve needed some domestic help lately. This laundry service saves me so much time and hassle, so it’s worth the money.


Day total: $68.74



1:30 pm, $116.07 – Workout clothes from Sweaty Betty

I hadn’t intended to spend money today, but there was a sale online, 50 percent off!  Sweaty Betty makes the best workout clothes. I’m happy to have my items, but I would’ve waited to buy if there hadn’t been a discount.


Day total: $116.07


Total weekly spend: $3,577.18


*Name has been changed



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