A Week in California on a $98,000 Salary


Welcome to Spending Notes, where we do a weekly deep dive into how our readers spend their cash.

Today: a plumber who makes $98,000

Occupation: plumber

Age: 58

Location: Fresno, CA

Salary: $98,000 (approx. $3,769 per pay period)

Day One


I work as a plumber in Fresno CA, my hometown, and believe me—there’s a lot of plumbing to be done. However, I’m far enough in my career that I’m not just working through installations and the plumbing services that most people think of. I still do plenty of that, but I also get to work with the company’s apprentices and supervise others on our team. Today, I’m doing the latter, but I have to do a bit of plumbing at home, too, replacing an outdated faucet and doing a bit of routine drain cleaning.

Total: $182

Day Two


Before I head into today’s projects, I’ve realized that my nails are a mess—a natural hazard of the job. So rather than trying to preserve my natural nails or constantly heading to the salon for my technician to touch up a gel manicure, I’ve found that stick on nails is the perfect middle ground. These are easy enough to apply and, more importantly, simple to replace, too. That only takes about five minutes, then I head to my first appointment, grabbing a coffee on my way.

Total: $4.50

Day Three


My focus is on customer service today, with an apprentice doing an excellent job on the plumbing issues we encounter. I treat the kid to lunch, making sure to let him know he‘s doing great. I often think I’d love to have had someone encouraging me when I was his age, so I try to be that person for others, too.

Total: $42

Day Four


I have years of experience in the plumbing industry, so I’m pretty good at identifying the issues at the root of homeowners’ plumbing needs. Nowadays, a lot of my daily work involves helping new recruits in Fresno plumbing learn to catch these plumbing problems, too. Sprinkler issues and blockages in the garbage disposal are widespread this time of year! After work, I meet an old friend for dinner and catch up on each other’s lives.

Total: $24

Day Five


Another day, another set of repairs and preventative maintenance. Thankfully, most Fresno locals seem to prefer the peace of mind they get from calling professionals over trying to DIY their own fixes. It’s always a better experience when we’re working on a project that hasn’t been made worse first, even when dealing with an issue-ridden old house. I‘ve been with this plumbing company for decades, and I still hesitate to do my own work sometimes! After work, I grab a sandwich and soda from the convenience store, then make my way home for the weekend.

Total: $12

Day Six


When my kids were growing up, they loved Saturday morning cartoons. I suppose I have my own version of that, catching up on my favorite shows each Saturday morning. With the new episodes finished, I sit down to update my budget for the month. I pay a few bills, transfer some money to savings, and figure out how much I have to spend until my next payday. Then, I head to the grocery store to restock on a few essentials.

Total: $743

Day Seven


I finish up the week doing routine maintenance around the house, replacing lightbulbs, cleaning filters, and testing the smoke detectors, complete with a quick hardware store run. That takes up most of the day, so I make an easy spaghetti dinner and enjoy it.

Total: $12.50

Total for the week: $1,020