A 30-Year-Old Gets Real About Living on a Budget in the Bay Area


In our “Let’s Talk Money” series, we ask respondents from all walks of life the same set of raw money questions. The answers reveal intimate details of their financial lives.

Talking about money is one of the longest held taboo subjects in our culture. With this weekly series, we open people’s wallets (and with them fears, hopes, and closely held beliefs). We don’t approach this with a certain outcome in mind—we just want to open doors and find out if money is taboo for good reason, or if remaining quiet is keeping us all down. We hope you’ll join us in considering this question: Is it time to reimagine polite society when it comes to money?

To participate in this series, please email us at HLContributor@gmail.com

From Amanda, Age 30

Location: East Bay, San Francisco Area

HipLatina:  How do you make your living?

Amanda:  I am a paralegal and commute daily to San Francisco’s financial district.

HL: How worried are you about money? How do thoughts of money affect your life?

A: I am always worried about money, as I still live paycheck-to-paycheck. Due to my lack of money, I have to constantly be planning what I can and can’t do. Something as silly as wanting to try a “weight loss meal plan” I found on Pinterest is complicated—I have to figure out how much it would cost and see if I can afford it.

HL: How do you spend your money? How would you describe your level of debt?

A: I have this down to a science, actually. I spend about 40% of my monthly take-home on rent. My largest monthly expenses after rent are $200 to commute to work, $300 on car payments, $500 for food (which includes morning coffees and work lunches). I even have a budget for irresponsible spending ($300) for things like going to the movies or buying a video game. I am currently only in debt for the car I never use.

HL: How would you describe your credit score? How does your credit score affect your life (for good or for bad)?

A: I checked my credit score about five months ago and it was around 750. This doesn’t really affect me now as I haven’t been looking for a loan.

HL: What regrets do you have about money–decisions you’ve made, actions you’ve taken, or not taken? Have you changed anything because of these regrets?

A: I regret spending $10,000 on the KAPLAN program to help me pass the LSATs. Long story short, I had a good enough score to get into law school but my credit score was too low to get any loans at that time and a relative who promised to help backed out. This taught me that if I want something I need to be able to do it myself and not rely on others. It sounds negative but this belief only applies to money.

HL: How do your parents talk about money–with each other, with you? How is money handled in your family? 

A: I have only the one parental unit. In the past, we never really talked about it but over the last two years it has been a normal topic for us. My mom makes three times as much as I do but still seems to struggle. She only recently started a 401k which shocked me since it means we both started our first 401k’s around the same time. I just can’t imagine making that kind of money and having issues.

HL: Are you in a relationship? If so, how much money does your partner make? How do you handle money issues in your relationship?

A: I am! He makes about $30k more than me. The current setup is that we each still maintain separate checking accounts but share a small savings account. Everything was split pretty much down the middle until we moved to Alameda, CA. Now with my added commute costs and his now being nonexistent, he pays $200 more in rent to balance my $200 more for taking the ferry. I pay for our car insurance and internet. He pays for the utilities. We trade off on groceries. The one issue that I always bring up is when it comes to going out. My small budget limits me greatly so I feel obligated to remind him that if he really wants to go, say, to the movies again, I can’t afford to go, so we can either stay in, he can go with friends, or, and this is usually what happens, he buys my ticket.

HL: Do you have children? 

A:  No. I do not plan on having children.

HL: Do you have friends in different economic situations? How do you make social decisions with friends who have different incomes?

A: Yes. We have two couples on opposite spectrums. Let’s call them JK and IC. JK has plenty of money and can buy anything they want whenever they want. IC has one partner working two jobs while the other was fired and went back to school. Luckily for all of us, the things we most like to do are basically free.

HL: How does your financial life differ from others in your life, such as friends, family, or neighbors?

A:  With my friends, I would say there are three categories: those with plenty of their own money, those like me, and those who have parental assistance. All of my friends who own a home had help from their parents.

HL: If you had more money, what would you do with it?

A: I would finally buy my own place! I have never lived in the same place for very long. My mom has been divorced five times and she never kept anything. She was more of a run-and-start-over kind of person. Then, when I moved out, I became a renter. My dream is to find a place and stay there! No more moving around, no more worrying about rent hikes or being asked to move out. I am over it!

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