Francesca, 24, lives in Los Angeles and works as a digital video producer. She shares a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, and the two evenly split rent, utilities, and Internet. She earns $50,000 a year, and while she’s never been into budgets, she tries to put about $500 into her savings and 401(k) each month. Francesca also pays for her cell phone, entertainment subscriptions, and a gym membership, which she considers crucial to her self-care. Luckily, she’s still on her parents’ health and car insurance.
Francesca takes us a through a week of spending, during which she travels cross-country with her boyfriend Albert for his sister’s wedding in Philadelphia. (You can check out more of our spending diaries here.)
Yearly Income: $50,000
Monthly Savings: $500 to $600
Fixed monthly payments:
- Rent: $1,125.00
- Student loan: $250.48
- Cell phone: $119.67
- Climbing gym membership: $80
- AMC A-List: $20
- Hulu: $11
8:51 am, $14.09 — Travel toiletries
In the rush of packing for my trip to Philly, I forgot a few essential items from my own bathroom, so I stopped before work to get quick replacements. I try to avoid buying things I already have, but these are travel-sized. I needed them!
5:20 pm, $11.00 — Gas
I drove to my boyfriend Albert’s apartment after work to drop my car off before our trip but was low on gas. All I could hear was my dad’s voice in my head, lecturing me, “You and your mom always run your car until you’re out.” It makes me laugh every time. I stopped by a gas station and had a $.05 reward per gallon so it wasn’t terrible. I’m glad I’ll have gas when I get back from the trip.
Day total: $25.09
1:40 pm, $7.58 — Lunch
After landing in Philadelphia at 8:30am and driving to Albert’s hometown in southern New Jersey for a shower and nap, we got a light and true townie lunch: Wawa hoagies. According to my boyfriend (and pretty much every East Coaster I’ve ever met), Wawa is an important institution, so while planning for this trip, Albert insisted that it go on my food checklist. We each ordered a snack-sized sandwich and some regional brand chips from a fancy-schmancy high-tech computer. It was a pretty cheap and fun novelty experience.
1:52 pm, $4.99 — Slushies
We stopped by a 7-Eleven and bought slushies made with Boost, a soda syrup local only to South Jersey and deliciously addictive.
8:16 pm, $6.00 — Beers
After a medium-sized family dinner with two types of homemade pizza(!), we went to a local bar to meet up with one of Albert’s high school friends and to watch the Eagles game. I paid for two Yuenglings, an East Coast beer I had heard so much about but never tried. The best part: The bar’s Thursday Night Football tap beers were $2 each! What a steal! I then tipped one dollar per beer. As someone who used to work in the service industry, I try to tip every time.
10:09 pm, $11.00 — Wings and more beer
Albert’s friend met us after getting off work and ordered food, so we also split an order of honey hot wings (emphasis on hot — so spicy!), since my boyfriend raved about them.
Day total: $29.57
1:47 pm, $6.55 — Uber
We got a late start to our day in Philly, getting in around 11:00 am. Then we walked around and went as far east as we could before realizing that we needed to eat lunch. So we called an Uber Pool, which took forever to arrive, and was scary — the driver kept swerving to avoid cars that were stopped in lanes or pulling out of parking spots. The Uber was a necessary evil since we were hungry and too far from where we were going to have lunch — Reading Terminal Market — to walk.
2:15 pm, $13.91 — Po’boy
Reading Terminal was just like Grand Central Market in Downtown LA, another food emporium/indoor marketplace with pricey food vendors and practical grocery stands surrounded by neon vendor signs — and was probably even more crowded. We had plans to eat cheesesteaks for dinner, so I ordered a po’boy. I wasn’t sure if I would finish it, so I was hesitant to pay for it. But I ended up eating the whole thing, so I didn’t feel guilty about the price.
3:37 pm, $9.51 — Uber
Albert and I argued at the Art Museum, so we solemnly walked up the steps (instead of running like all the other tourists). We sat for a while and looked down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in silence. When we had enough of the view and calmed down, we took an Uber back to the Liberty Bell since we skipped it the first time we got into Philly. It was too far to walk back so I gladly paid for Uber. I even took a nap, which was nice after all the walking and fighting.
6:12 pm, $18 — Mini golf
We had some time to kill before getting drinks with Albert’s friends, so we played some mini golf. We LOVE mini-golf, so this was a fun activity to do between long walks and meals. I was tickled that there were Philly monuments and locations as part of the course. I got a hole-in-one and won, so I was pretty pleased with myself and properly hungry for dinner.
7:52 pm, $30.24 — Dinner
We didn’t end up gettings cheesesteaks, but we went to an Italian restaurant/gelato place and shared yet another pizza. It was hot and just filling enough after a long day in the brisk Philly weather, but then we treated ourselves to gelato. (I ordered an affogato since I needed to perk up for drinks.) We both kinda regretted how cold we felt after eating gelato, but it was a good dinner. We split this meal, as we tend to do when we have a big day out.
8:20 pm, $2.80 — PATCO tickets
We bought PATCO transit tickets to get to the bar where we were meeting up with my boyfriend’s friend, Robbie. My first foray into the Philly public transit system! It’s a bit more complicated than the Chicago trains and even the LA transit line, but compared to Ubers, very cheap and great. And this is the price for two tickets!
8:28 pm, $5.20 — PATCO tickets (again)
We got off the train to meet with his friend but decided to buy return tickets there, so we wouldn’t have to deal with it later. These were two tickets that would take us all the way back into New Jersey, which was pretty mind-blowing to me.
9:00 pm, $20 — Beers
We met Albert’s friend, who is super nice, at a bar and split two rounds of beers (more Yeungling). This place also had pretty cheap prices, which is always a plus.
11:15 pm, $13 — Cocktails
We met up with Albert’s friend’s girlfriend at the rooftop bar at The Continental and ordered funny cocktails. Albert ordered a Tang and vodka cocktail — truly the best of both the child and adult worlds. Robbie’s girlfriend showed up, and she was also fun, and I felt really included, which was a great ending to a long day in Philly.
Day total: $119.21
1:30 am, $20 — Uber
Albert and I get to the Camden stop, which is the last stop of the line, and still have to find a way back to his parent’s house. We split an Uber from the train station and I take a nap on the way back.
12:12 pm, $1.70 — Pretzels
After sleeping in, we went to a local town festival and crossing off another food checklist item, I tried a Philly pretzel. We bought two at the low price of $.85 each. They were a lot thicker than the mall franchise pretzels, and a solid snack after a light breakfast.
1:16 pm, $6.38 — Lunch
We met up with Albert’s high school friends at a restaurant that had every type of commercial Italian food imaginable. I ordered a chicken chipotle pizza and a ginger ale. Everyone was really friendly and happy to see my boyfriend after such a long time, which made me happy as well.
4:28 pm, $50 — Wedding gift
Albert withdrew $100 cash as a gift for his sister and her husband as a wedding gift. I gladly split it with him as we didn’t get a physical gift for them, and honestly, if I were them I would much rather receive money as a gift anyway.
Day total: $78.08
7:18 pm, $11 — Pat’s Cheesesteak
The wedding was held in a brewery with an open bar but was a little light on the food. After a couple of drinks, lots of dancing, and some finger foods, I was HUNGRY. So we stopped at Philly staple Pat’s (of Pat’s and Geno’s rivalry fame) after the party was over! We shared a single cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz (or “wiz wit” to Philly locals) in our wedding fineries, then drove back to his parents’ place.
8:04 pm, $3.07 — Wendy’s Frosties
Before getting home, Albert wanted to stop by his childhood ice cream shop for a scoop, but they were closed, so we got Frosties at Wendy’s instead. It was a good follow-up after the cheesesteak but left me feeling chilly again!
Day total: $14.07
8:38 am, $15 — Kickstarter
I woke up and scrolled on Facebook a little bit while still in bed and saw that my friend shared his post for his short film’s Kickstarter. They had reached their initial goal but had an additional stretch goal that I donated to. It always makes me feel good to help out fellow filmmakers and friends in any way that I can
11:37 am, $42.19 — Gas, coffee, and snacks
We drove down to Ocean City but had to stop for gas. I went into the Wawa to buy coffee and some candy. I knew I shouldn’t be buying candy (I have such a sweet tooth) and would regret it later, but hey, I was on vacation!
12:45 pm, $1.75 — Toll
Tolls generally annoy me. But Albert told me that they’re needed to upkeep the roads and, okay fine, that makes sense, so I let it go.
1:30 pm, $15.60 — Candy
We visit the nearly completely shuttered boardwalk and stop for some saltwater taffy, but we also see some chocolates that catch our eye. The store can’t sell just one unit of candy — the least they can sell is a quarter pound — so that was a bit annoying in the moment, but I was happy to have candy for the plane.
1:51 pm, $9.33 — Pizza
Yes, pizza again. And yet, I was not tired of it! I will admit that the East Coast has some pretty good pizza. And because this slice was particularly greasy and delicious, it was a very nice thing to spend money on. Also, I realize that this may be the last pizza I eat for a long time, so ciao pizza!
Day Total: $83.87
12:18 am, $40 — Parking
This is my half of the airport parking for the trip. Although $80 seems like a lot, it probably would’ve been equivalent to the amount spent on Ubers to and from the airport. Plus it cut down on waiting time, so it was completely worth it.
8:09 am, $17.16 — Trader Joe’s salads for a week
I obviously didn’t have time to prepare lunch for the week as I went straight right back to work Tuesday after landing back in LA at midnight on Monday. So I stopped by the dependable Trader Joe’s near work and picked up lunches for the rest of the week. They’re healthy and filling, and cost much less than what I would’ve paid than if I got fast food or other lunches throughout the week.
Day total: $57.16