Career & Money

Bad Lattes and Stolen Snacks: A San Francisco Money Diary

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

In this edition of MR Money Diaries, Luis, a 29-year-old health care consultant living in San Francisco documents his expenses for eight days.

My situation with money has changed drastically over the past few years. I graduated from business school a year ago and I now work as a healthcare consultant. With student loans, I have about the same disposable income as I had my first year out of college (granted, I was working on Wall Street back then). After seven years in New York, I moved to San Francisco a few weeks ago in search of a change and a chiller lifestyle, and I’m still getting used to my new routine. The past few weeks have been emotionally exhausting as a result, so I’ve been in search of things outside the happy hours, hangovers and questionable decision-making I used to lean on in New York City. I’m actually pretty nervous about sharing my spending habits because I feel like it’s not going to be very entertaining, but then again, I think it’s really fascinating to see how people spend their money, whether on boring stuff or not.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

I work in the financial district by the bay and take the bus there every day. (The recurring $2.50 charge is taken out of my pre-paid Clipper Card, which is like SF’s equivalent to an MTA card.) The weather tends to be a lot nicer in this neighborhood than the rest of the city, so I try to take advantage of it during lunch. Today, I toured the ferry building, which is full of artisanal goods, and after sampling chocolates from all around the world, I got a banh mi bowl at Slanted Door and ate out on the deck.

The green juice is a result of sampling guilt. I felt guilty for trying so many, and the girl at the register was really nice (I also think she thought I was straight/flirting with her), so I felt obliged to buy something.

As for that $50 “Harvest” charge: I decided to check out a pot dispensary (fully legal in CA) and got some cannabis balm for my shoulder.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

I’d actually really like to unpack my $5.70 latte purchase: Ever since I moved back to SF and into an ~authentic,~ non-touristy area, I can’t find lattes anywhere. Regular coffee makes me jittery. I also didn’t realize how grumpy I get if I don’t have a morning latte (I know). And not just any latte: an iced ALMOND MILK latte with STEVIA. I snapped the previous weekend when I was hungover and couldn’t find one…I am shocked by the amount of healthy cafes and places that don’t have 1) ice, 2) almond milk and 3) STEVIA. Not a fan of Starbucks’ almond milk, but I had no choice!

As for that free bus ride, I didn’t pay because my friend covered me. My Clipper card was empty, and there are no convenient refill stations. You have to go to a Duane Reade/Walgreens! I didn’t have time for that! And the two Lyfts: You will see this a lot this week given that I was in a constant rush and Lyft is very convenient in SF (taxi cabs are hard to come by, and the overground bus is spotty and extremely slow).

I also bought a flight back to New York to go to Fire Island Pines for a friend’s 30th bday. YOLO.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

Juul has been catching a lot of flack because it’s infiltrating middle schools/high schools, which I think is terrible considering nicotine is highly addictive. I think I may be the only person older than 18 actually using Juul, but it got me to quit cigarettes. Now I just need to quit Juul.

My roommate and I wanted to get out of the city this day, so we decided to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and drive to Marin to go to Bed Bath & Beyond. It was a necessary, refreshing escape. We got lunch, went to Trader Joe’s and then we went to Kiehls, where I bought a toner. I’ve been REALLY into skincare recently but I’m still learning. The fake scientist at Kiehl’s told me toner is like the “primer before your first coat of paint.” Touché, fake scientist. Anyway, adding the toner to my routine.

Speaking of routine, I have been really into sparkling water recently. The only harm it really causes is erosion to tooth enamel, apparently, but I think that only really applies to idiots who gargle their water before drinking?

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

Joe & the Juice has been keeping me sane in SF, but THEY DON’T HAVE STEVIA. They do have nicely upholstered furniture and fiddle-leaf figs, though! But again, no Stevia.

I took that Lyft Line to the doctor. I never use Lyft Line because I think it’s the most awkward thing in the world, but it’s half the cost of a solo Lyft and I am trying to get over my anxiety around sharing a ride with strangers (feels very grade school). Overall, the ride was a success, but there was an air freshener dangling in my face in the back seat so that made me kinda nauseous. Upside: took a Lyft Line home later and had a cute driver. I willingly took the front seat and pretended for a second that we were boyfriends just driving to pick up dinner to take back to our $3 million dollar home in Pacific Heights overlooking the bay. A girl can dream…

That expensive doctor’s appointment: I forgot to pay my $80 co-pay last time, so this was a nice surprise. Health care co-pays are getting ridiculous.

And that even more expensive candy bar: I ate these Cadbury chocolate bars my roommate had stowed away, and she got mad because she bought them internationally; I tried to explain to her that Cadbury is not that novel and is like the Hershey’s of the U.K., i.e., you can get it anywhere. I was able to prove my point and bought the candy bars on Amazon Prime to make it up to her. Thank you, Amazon.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

I worked from home today. This latte made me jittery — still trying to get into my coffee groove out here. The food I bought from Trader Joe’s sustained me, so no spending there. The Ketone Body urine test strips: I’m trying a ketogenic diet…not necessarily to lose weight, but to see if it gives me more energy through reduced inflammation by using ketone bodies instead of glucose for energy. I work in life sciences and I love this stuff, so I wanted strips to test whether I entered Ketosis.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

I worked from home, so once again so I sustained myself on Trader Joe’s food. For dinner, I ordered chicken and vermicelli with imperial rolls (so good). For some reason, I feel like vermicelli noodles are not that bad for you because they’re so thin, but I’m sure it was a carb-packed meal.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

Thursday, May 10th

This was a totally “free Luis” day. I worked from home and sustained myself on Nespresso and other Trader Joe’s goodies. I also ate one of my roommate’s bag of crackers so I’ll have to buy her a bag of those to make up for it later — maybe after I finish this diary. I am a really great roommate otherwise, but I admit that I gotta start buying more emergency snacks for myself to keep around.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

I went to the office today because it’s dress down day! I hate wearing work clothes, specifically tucking my shirt in and wearing my shoes that make a clicking sound with every step I take, so thought I’d put in some face time while comfortable. If my office allowed a more casual dress code (like the rest of San Francisco), I think I would actually go in more often. I had back-to-back meetings, so I snuck out and went to Joe & the Juice and got an açai bowl and yet another (small) iced almond milk latte because I worked until 3 a.m. the previous day.

A Healthcare Consultant keeps a money diary while in San Francisco

At first glance, it’s really shocking to see that I spent over $1,000 in one week, especially since I worked so much. My biggest expense was my flight to New York, which I think really speaks to the fact that I live to travel. I get very antsy staying in one place for a long period of time (hence my move to SF). I’d much rather save up money to go on an awesome vacation or, in this case, fly cross country for a friend’s 30th than save up for material things.

I also never thought I’d be one of those “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” people, but I really am. Although my latte habit may seem a bit excessive, I think when you have a demanding job and work long hours, you need to have your “cookie” — just a small thing that brings you so much joy and makes life so much more tolerable.

I completed this diary a week or so before writing this conclusion. After reviewing my purchases, I didn’t realize how much my inner dialogue resembled that of Larry David’s. I complain a lot about life’s minor inconveniences, of which there have been many since moving from New York — arguably the most convenient place in the world. All the inspirational yoga Instagram accounts I follow remind me to “name three things I’m grateful for,” which I used to think was a complete waste of time. I recently started trying it, however, and it may actually work. Instead of ruminating on an incessant list of Larry David complaints, I now punctuate them with what is going well. It’s proving to be a good mood booster.

Also, this sounds really sad, but I need to go to the office more, put in a better effort at making friends and do more social things. My work hours have been intense (65+ last week), so when I do have free time, I just want to watch TV or sleep. That said, maybe I need to be more diligent about using my free time wisely. Join a club or something. This sounds way too tactical, but I made a list of people I want to see in a note on my phone and I browse through it occasionally to see who I can text to make dinner plans or get drinks with. Maybe I’ll start another diary and see how that goes.

Photos by Madeline Montoya. 

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