Money Diaries: What An East Bay Student Can Spend In A Week

When living in San Francisco, most would assume that Oakland is vastly much cheaper. And to some degree, I can attest but shocker, we live in the Bay Area—expense is written up in our leases.

I tracked my spending for a week in the East Bay and what I discovered about myself was telling—overall, I am thoroughly amused.

Grocery shopping for all the essentials.Grocery shopping for all the essentials.

Grocery shopping for all the essentials.


Morning: It’s my day off from the restaurant job and I wake up later than usual and get ready to make my way to SF while my S.O. makes us a smoothie. I have a few boutiques that I need to visit for a story I’m doing for my internship and have to pass by three neighborhoods, rather than take public transportation I decide to drive. I stop by the gas station and fill up my tank halfway. I make my way through the Bay Bridge and since I have a FasTrak pass I get into the city at a reasonable time. I realize I’ll be done with my boutique visits right at the least convenient time and make dinner plans with a friend so that I don’t get stuck in traffic. // $19.46

Afternoon: I make my way into the city and go to the store #1, luckily I’m able to find street parking in the Fillmore district but don’t want to go through the hassle of finding street parking in Nob Hill and downtown, so I find parking garages. I finish my window shopping earlier than expected after finding out that the last boutique has been closed. Thanks for the update Yelp! Luckily, I’m right by my friend’s workplace so I pick her up and we drive to Japan town for dinner. // $5.25

Evening: Even though my friend and I haven’t seen each other in a week, it feels like we need to catch up on a lifetime’s worth of news. We head to her favorite ramen place, Waraku, which is probably the best idea I’ve had yet. I forget how much colder SF is in comparison to the East Bay. After dinner we head to Uji in Japan town for some lavender ice cream taiyaki, fish-shaped, cone. I’m a sucker for trying food trends at least once. I drop her off at her place in NoPa and head home to Oakland in under twenty minutes, traffic gods are on my side today! I come home and  in an effort to be healthy my S.O. and I go to the Cleveland Cascade stairs and workout for a while. // $29.50

Credit Card automated payment: $35

Total spent: $89.21


Morning: I wake up have about an hour to head to work. While I’m getting ready my S.O. makes me one of his filling, but not so tasty smoothies. I work in downtown Oakland and although I could use the walk to work I catch a ride with my S.O. // $0

Afternoon: After a four-hour lunch shift I order a salad from the back of the house. I get an employee discount which is the only way I could afford eating at my place of work every day. My S.O. meets up with me at my job and we walk to a further BART station and make our way to Oakland Coliseum. He bought tickets a while back to a baseball back with a fireworks show afterwards, his treat, and has invited a few other friends to join us.  I add money onto my Clipper card and make sure I have enough for the way back. // $11.50

Evening: We arrive to the Oakland Coliseum earlier than our friends who are commuting in from SF, so we hangout for a little until they arrive. We make it into the A’s vs Padres game just as they’re finishing the bottom of the second inning. I am by no means a baseball fanatic, I’ve mostly come for the mythical helmet nachos that were promised by a friend, and the fireworks show at the end of the game. But after searching endlessly for helmet nachos with no luck I opt for a polish dog. As I make my way back to my seat the game is wrapping up and we enjoy the fireworks show. // $7

It takes us about an hour to leave the Coliseum and make our way to BART. After exiting out of Lake Merritt Bart station we find some friends that are heading in the same direction as us and we walk home together for part of the way. I’ve been craving Haagen Dazs ice cream bars and convince myself that if we walk home the treat will be justified. I also pick up other basic groceries (i.e. eggs and avocados) and split the total with my S.O.. We head home, and I quickly devour my ice cream bar and then go to sleep. Maybe not the best idea in retrospect? *thinking face emoji* // $7.71

Automated Hulu payment: $7.99

Total: $34.20



Morning: It’s the Fourth of July and we wake up late against our better judgement and get ready for the day’s festivities. His friend has invited us to his bachelor party in the city and I’m not sure why, but I was invited too. We take Bart to the spot that offers an all you can eat buffet for $5 and as entertainment there are “rhythmic clothes removal professionals.” My S.O. pays for me and upon entering I decide to break my 28 days of no drinking rule today, I will not be in this establishment sober! Given that it’s happy hour all day I decide to stick to mimosas and buy the first round. And the second round. And the third. // $30

Afternoon: Around three p.m. I make a mental note that maybe I should politely decline future invitations to bachelor parties. We decide to leave and I am suddenly rather hungry, most likely from my light buzz. We head to Super Duper and I order a burger and milkshake. // $14.02

Evening: We take Bart back to Lake Merritt and meet up with friends that are hanging out by the lake. We walk over to the liquor store and I pick up a bottle of gin & ginger beer to be able to make Moscow mules. // $20

As the sun is setting S.O.and I head home but not before stopping by the grocery store to pick up ingredients for nachos. He pays the total and I VenMo him half. // $12

Total: $76.02


Morning: I wake up twenty minutes before work and realize I’m going to be late for my shift. I’m not necessarily hungover but the excess sun and sugary mimosas from the day prior aren’t helping me function as normal. I get a ride from my S.O. to work (thank God for a partner who freelances from home) and make it to work 15 minutes late.

Afternoon: I’m famished by the time I clock off work and luckily for me another server messed up on an order meaning there is a free untouched chicken sandwich waiting for me at the bar. // $0

Evening: I head to the bank to withdraw money for rent. My S.O. has been living in the same studio apartment near Lake Merritt for seven years. After being priced out of SF I decided to move in with him last year and therefore reap the benefits of living in a rent-controlled apartment where we split the rent. // $380

I walk home, something I usually do on a daily but haven’t given the holiday that just happened to be mid-week. It’s completely screwed up my routine and so in an effort to get back to the usual week day schedule I force myself to walk to the gym for a Caribbean dance class. When I arrive the instructor who I LOVE isn’t there and instead has been replaced by another instructor whose moves mainly consist of hair flips. I decide to leave the class after ten minutes and do some cardio and weightlifting on my own. I walk back home from the gym and come home to my S.O. making chicken quesadillas. I love it when I don’t have to cook! Not long after I crawl into bed. // $0

Automated Fastrak & ITunes payments: $27.99

Total: $407.99


Morning: Usual routine. Wake up, get ready for work, have a smoothie thanks to S.O. and get dropped off work.

Afternoon: Treat myself to a Moroccan spiced chicken entrée at work and walk home in an effort to rake up some steps. // $11

Evening: I finally have a day to stock up on groceries and maybe do a little much needed TLC or as some would call it go shopping. S.O. and I head to San Leandro and stop by the Nordstrom Rack to see if we can find more gym wear. I realize that I’ve been living near a Nike Clearance store and I’m both wonderfully surprised and nervous for my wallet. I find breathable shorts and leggings and leave before I black out from excitement and spend all of my money in one place. After I head to Costco and stock up on food plus a new food processor and two cast iron skillets. I’ve been cooking more often and find joy in having all the kitchen appliances possible. While I’m checking out at the cash register my S.O. buys us chicken bakes before leaving because it’s basically a requirement to buy something from Costco’s food court, that’s why. // $156.03

It’s Friday night and although usually I would want to go out I don’t feel the least bit motivated to leave my apartment so we rent the movie Downsizing through Redbox (hadn’t realized these kiosks were still around until a few weeks ago) at our nearest Lucky’s store. We spend the night eating our chicken bakes and watching a rather disappointing movie. // $3.82

Total: $171.15


Morning: I wake up to my alarm clock only to turn it off and go back to sleep for another hour. When I finally do wake up I quickly get on my computer and work on a social story for my internship. Meanwhile my S.O. makes breakfast with the groceries we bought at Costco.

Afternoon: With no plans for the day S.O.and I start a new series on Netflix, The Sinner.  Not only does the first episode immediately hook us but four episodes later we decide we might as well finish the first season. To our defense it is only eight episodes long. S.O. convinces me to go for a walk and so we spend two hours walking around the neighborhood.

Evening: We stop by Trader Joe’s to buy a snack and ginger beer which he pays for. Once home we finish up the series and have a serious discussion about the plot holes in the show. // $0

Total: $0



Morning: I wake up craving pancakes and instead of going to a diner for breakfast I VenMo my S.O. money to buy pancake mix and eggs. While he’s gone I start tidying up the apartment, something that I’ve been procrastinating on all week. // $10

Afternoon: After breakfast we continue to clean the apartment and do a load of laundry. It takes a lot of effort for me to complete mundane tasks  and I find myself taking many breaks before finally finishing up cleaning. Once the place is spotless we get ready to go for a short hike in the redwoods.

Evening: We’re hungry by the time we are done with our hike and opt for pizza instead of making dinner at home. We call in an order at Philomena’s, I haven’t tried their pizza before but have been to their sister restaurant, and decide to give them a try. I pay for the food since my S.O. has been paying for a lot of the grocery runs this week. // $38

Before heading home we pick up Ale Industry beer at Trader Joe’s. I realize that this day has escalated to a cheat day once we also pick up a baking mix to make Blondie bars. My boyfriend pays for the TJ’s run and we head home. Luckily we get too full from the pizza and liquid bread and leave the blondie mix for another day. We go to sleep early, after all tomorrow is the start of a new week. // $0

Total: $48

Total for the week: $826.57

Weekly Breakdown

Clothes & Beauty: $52.66

Eating & Drinking Out: $157.02

Groceries: $133.08

Transportation: $53.71

Entertainment: $14.80

Other: $415

Total for the week: $826.27

Looking at back at my spending habits I was surprised to see how much money went into eating out and grabbing drinks. I always justified treating myself to a lunch or dinner with friends, I had not realized how much money actually went into that weekly habit. I don’t think of myself as an excessive spender but even with purchasing only the basic necessities I found myself spending a paycheck in one week. Luckily for me, my rent is so cheap that I am able to get by with my current income. Still, I wonder if cutting down on eating out could go to something that I could appreciate long-term? Thoughts?

// Want to tell us your money diary? Submit their own Money Diary at; photography by Anthony Rogers.

Money Diaries: What An East Bay Student Can Spend In A Week
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