A Week In Seattle On A $60,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennial women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.)

This week, an executive assistant living apart from her husband on a "no-dine month."

Industry: Biotechnology. I work full-time as executive assistant and marketer, and I maintain a small freelance business with a select clientele of executives and business owners. In addition, I’m starting to save next month to go back to school to finish my degree, and I’m launching a comedy/food podcast — so I have a lot going on.
Age: 25
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $60,000
Paycheck amount (2x a month): $2,033 (WA doesn’t have income tax like a lot of states do, so I get more in my paychecks than many people with this salary. It balances out, though, because WA has an exceedingly high sales tax — 9.6%.)
# of roommates: 0. Because of work, my husband and I live apart and have separate finances. We split flights to see each other, but nothing else, since he’s doing all of the saving.

Monthly Expenses (I use YouNeedABudget for money management)
Housing costs (rent or other): $1,290 (rent is $1,200; W/S/G and parking is $80, all paid to landlord with rent; renters' insurance is $10)
Loan payments/credit card (consolidated): $561
Utilities: Electric is ~$30 or less every other month; cable/internet is ~$150.
Transportation: $255 car payment (last payment is the first of September!)
Car Insurance: $160
Gas: $40
Flights to see my husband: $200 a month
Phone bill: $140. I have unlimited everything and international calling/text/roaming, so I can contact my husband freely.
Health insurance: $0. Paid 100% by my company — score!
Savings: Negligible, around $200 per month. My husband has been the one aggressively saving. I got injured in a car accident (not my fault) that resulted in a host of health issues that I’m still recovering from, so I have spent most of my savings on emergency items, high medical bills, and litigation. I have around $5,000 worth of medical bills, and I was slowly paying the minimums on this stuff, but in August I decided to get aggressive so I could tackle it in half the time.
Netflix/YouNeedABudget/Spotify: $40
Medical bills/co-pays/pharmacy: $400 (half of this used to be my dining-out budget)
Stuff I forgot to budget for (cushion): $150
Podcast stuff: $50
Dropbox: $10.95

Day One

8 a.m. — Today is payday!

9 a.m. — It feels like I've been at work for hours, but it's only been 30 minutes. I go to the mini fridge for water and see LaCroix; I thank my frenemy who ordered them.

10:15 a.m. — I forgot to bring food to work because I was running late. I reluctantly go downstairs and get a small quiche. Since I will have no time to go home for lunch, I buy lunch, too (salmon and Brussels sprouts with mushroom bisque). I'm disappointed in myself. I pay up. $24.71
11:30 a.m. — It's very quiet around the office, so I decide to handle some personal matters. I renew my car tabs, which expire tomorrow, and leave the car registered at my mom's address in the 'burbs because it's $80 cheaper ($89.75). I renew my driver’s license ($54) and my Costco card ($55). $198.75

12 p.m. — I'm on a roll and still no action in the office, so I just go ahead and pay 50% of all of my bills due on the first early, and pay the final 50% of all my bills due on the 20th. I split everything over both paychecks so I'm not burdened by a large payment coming out at once. Rent/utilities ($640), car payment (second-to-last one, $131), cable/internet ($76.20), cell phone ($71.24), car/renters' insurance ($84.30), medical bills ($157.78), credit card/debt ($237.70). Counted in my monthly expenses.

12:30 p.m. — I eat my lunch that I bought earlier.

2 p.m. — My favorite coworker tells me she's given her two weeks’ notice, and happy hour tomorrow is going to be her last. I was going to skip it to save money; usually, when I’m not knocking back a gin fizz, you’d find me eating, dancing, tipping go-go boys and drag queens, and slaying trivia, but this week is different. I was blowing my budget monthly on going out (>$400 per month), so I decided to try a "No-Dine Month." But now, I have to go to my friend's final work happy hour. I don't know what I'm going to do without her!
4 p.m. — I'm finally off work, and I need to go to the grocery store. I have to give a girl from Freecycle some stuff at 5 p.m., so it gives me a perfect opportunity to take inventory of what I have before shopping. I use an app called Pepperplate to catalog my recipes and then generate them into a shopping list. It's overkill, but I love it. It shouldn't come as any surprise that I'm one of those neurotic people who goes to three different grocery stores to get the best deal.

6 p.m. — By the time I get home, do the Freecycle exchange, and change out of my work clothes, I feel totally beat and lose all motivation to go to the store. I have a free trial of AmazonFresh left (I used it for years before they started charging $299 — actually, WTF Amazon?), so I decide to order from there for delivery tomorrow morning before work. I end up getting lettuce, tarragon, sage, cilantro, parsley, coconut water, tomatoes, avocado, cheddar cheese, portobello mushrooms, cayenne, jalapeño, spinach, ginger, eggs, and zucchini. $47.91

7:30 p.m. — I start to feel like I might actually be getting sick, so I go lie down.

9 p.m. — I wake up, and my mind starts racing. I drop my phone off my bed, and my phone case finally gives up. I go on the Amazon app and buy a new phone case. $24.10

10 p.m. — I laze around watching TV and drinking water, trying to feel better. I switch between Tiny House Nation, Outback Nation, and Catfish (Nation! Just kidding). This guy thinks he's dating Katy Perry, and I start to ponder how I would execute moving out of the country if I did something so embarrassing on national television. I suddenly get a late-night craving for pasta. I usually don't eat after 6 p.m., but I have "emergency orecchiette" for moments like this.

1 a.m. — I go to the bathroom and see I'm out of room spray. I'm very specific about this Mrs. Meyers Lavender air freshener, so I go to Amazon for the third time in eight hours and order that, too. It is somehow 1 a.m. now, and I try to go back to sleep. $13.81

Daily Total: $309.28

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up with a stuffed-up nose and swollen eyes, and I hit snooze repeatedly.

7:20 a.m. — Probably the fourth snooze, and I realize I have six missed calls from the front door. Oops. Luckily, AmazonFresh calls back, and I open the door for them. I put everything away quickly. I have to run errands on my lunch break, and I'll come home to eat; I pack an apple and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast.

9 a.m. — I read this article about donating white blood cells at Fred Hutch. They give you up to $800, but I am more interested in helping cancer research. I fill out the donor forms and email them to the program director.

10:45 a.m. — No one is in the office. I've been reading Refinery29 for the past hour. I eat a nectarine from the office fruit bowl.

12:30 p.m. — I'm starved and need to get away from staring blankly into the computer void at my desk. I'm starting to volunteer at an assisted living community next door to my apartment, so I need to get a few shots. I stop by the nurse’s station at the ALC to get my first of two required TB shots, and it's a complete shitshow. I leave with blood running down my arm and rush home to get a Band-Aid and to have lunch (Mediterranean tuna salad with canned tuna, olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes I always have around, and spinach from AmazonFresh). I stand outside on the balcony for a few minutes and breathe deeply — the weather is amazing and the air smells so fresh today!

1:30 p.m. — On my way back to work, I decide I want a brownie. I go to Starbucks, and the line for the drive-thru is outrageous, so I do the unthinkable: I go inside. I get a brownie and put it on a gift card from my boss. After I get my brownie, I notice a S’mores Bar in the case, and can't believe I wasted time on a brownie like an amateur when there was a molten marshmallow gift waiting to be purchased.

4 p.m. — I leave work. I am launching a comedy podcast with my best friend, and we usually record on Thursdays, which tampers any guilt I have for not staying at work until 5 p.m. My friend has to skip this week, but I leave anyway so I can do some chores before Happy Hour.

5 p.m. — I decide to take a shot of vodka so that I will drink less/spend less tonight. Rookie move. One, it tastes horrible. Two, I'm not 18 anymore.

5:20 p.m. to 9 p.m. — I'm late to Happy Hour as usual, but I get a Mai-Tai and a margarita and almost cry because work is going to suck even more without my friend. An hour of complaining about work turns into four hours. I cash out. $18

10 p.m. — I talk to one of my colleagues outside who's totally bumming me out. A homeless man berating us gives me an excuse to bail, so I head home. I decide I can't live without pizza, and after two days of arbitrarily craving carbs, I read up on "Carb Cravings" over a pepperoni slice. $8.95

11 p.m. — Bedtime.

Daily Total: $26.95

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — I wake up late and remember I hate drinking. I'm not even hungover; I just feel like a garbage person — dehydrated, filled with late-night pizza, and opening my eyes 45 minutes before I have to be at my desk.

8:15 a.m. — I go to Starbucks and get Nitro Cold Brew. This is where we're at in Seattle; the craft beer culture and the coffee culture are so ubiquitous that it's coalesced into Starbucks putting cold brew on Nitro taps. Also, I finally get my S’mores bar, and it totally sucks. I feel vindicated about going with a tried-and-true brownie yesterday. Cost is $7.43, but I put it on the gift card.

1:20 p.m. — It's already past 1 p.m. and I haven't eaten lunch today…not sure I even feel hungry after the S’mores bar.

5 p.m. — After eating erratically like a college freshman for the past two days, I decide to assert some grown-ass-woman control over my life. I take out the compost, trash, and recycling; I start roasting broccoli and simmering barbacoa I had in the freezer. I clean the kitchen and bathroom, put together a box of Goodwill stuff, and stack all the paperwork I need to go through.

5:45 p.m. — I do some elliptical and strength training and find quarters for the laundry. I'm lucky my laundry is cheap. I eat barbacoa lettuce wraps. $1

6:30 p.m. — I take a shower and go to switch the laundry over to dry. Then I go back to my apartment and slather a hydrating mask on my face. $1

7:30 p.m. — I diffuse-dry my hair and put it up in a pineapple. I steam some wrinkly clothes with my garment steamer (the best thing I've ever bought).

8 p.m. — My freelance client texts that he wants me to come by in the afternoon tomorrow, so I plan a brunch with my friend in the morning. I say I'll bring champagne.

11 p.m. — I keep cleaning late into the night. I look like one of those "cleaning as a metaphor for moving on after a breakup" movie montages, when the protagonist is all "out with the old, in with the new," and then she stands back to look at her work, and you're watching saying, "Good work, Margaret! You go, girl!" Only I'm not wearing overalls, and Don Henley’s "Heart of the Matter" isn't playing in the background. Okay, maybe it is. On low volume.

12 a.m. — Bedtime.

Daily Total: $2

Day Four

9 a.m. — I wake up totally frazzled because I meant to get up early to work out. I am supposed to be at my friend's place by 10 a.m. and I have to get myself together for my freelance meeting and brunch.

10:20 a.m. — Running late, and as I park, I realize I forgot champagne. I go up to my friend’s apartment and apologize that I'm a mess, and he says he needs some groceries for brunch anyway. I pay for parking on my phone. $3.60

10:40 a.m. — We walk down to Whole Foods to get champagne, orange juice, yogurt, and berries. Watermelons are on sale, so we get one and two La Croix (coconut for him, apricot for me). He picks up a few fashion magazines. I pay ($39.59) and he pays me back $20 in cash. $19.59

11 a.m. — We eat bacon, eggs, and English muffins he already had, plus yogurt and berry parfaits, and drink mimosas while watching Jackie's Back. I'm wondering how this movie was made in 1999 but looks like it's from 1984. Either way, I'm living for it.

1:15 p.m. — I tell my friend I have to cut our kiki short for work. He has to get going, too, for a wedding. He sends me home with a container full of watermelon, and I head over to my client's house.

2 p.m. — My client has just gotten back from traveling and is going off the deep end. He cuts our time short, but still pays me for three hours. +$75

4 p.m. — I contemplate going out, but it's 100 degrees outside, and I have air conditioning. I go home and eat barbacoa lettuce wraps again and continue getting rid of my old stuff.

5 p.m. — It seems like no one is in my building, which is amazing because I have the whole laundry room to myself. I unapologetically use three of the washers at once. $3

7 p.m. — Switch over to dryers. $3

9 p.m. — My mom texts me. We make plans to hang out tomorrow before she goes out of town for two weeks.

10 p.m. — I debate whether to have a cocktail or not. I decide no and edit the last podcast.

11 p.m. — Bedtime.

Daily Total: $29.19

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — I wake up and see my mom has text me asking about my ETA. We agree to meet at 1 p.m. She wants to get her nails done, and after my failed attempt the other night, I decide to bite the bullet and let a professional do this.

12 p.m. — I run over to the assisted living facility next door to get my TB test read. I had a horrible allergic reaction to the shot, and the area looks awful, but they assure me that I'm tuberculosis-free.

1 p.m. — I meet my mom at the nail salon, and I get a manicure with her. The manicurist does a horrible job. I should confront her and refuse to pay, but I don't want to sit there any longer to get a redo. $46

3 p.m. —We go to lunch, and I eat an enchilada. My mom feels really bad that my nails were done so poorly at her go-to place, so she pays.

5 p.m. — We go to my mom's house (my childhood home) and girl-talk for an hour. She sends me home with two microbrews her employee gave her (she hates beer).

6 p.m. — I arrive home and text the Mr. to tell his cousin happy birthday, because I assume my husband forgot. (He forgot.)

7 p.m. — I invoice my Boulder client for $77, and she pays right away. After credit card processing fees, I keep $74.16.

8 p.m. — I make homemade miso soup with tofu and seaweed, and I hard-boil some eggs.

9 p.m. — I set out my clothes and bag for tomorrow and go to bed.

Daily Total: $46

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — On my way to work, a man from the suite upstairs joins me in the elevator. After several moments of silence, he turns to point at me and says, "I hope YOU have an awesome day today." I say, "You too." He laments that "people don't talk to each other enough." I respond, "I don't know if that's true — it's early in the morning," and get off at my floor. He yells "have a good one!" behind me. I try really hard not to be a participant of the Seattle Freeze, and I get that it's a real thing, but honestly, isn't 7:30 a.m. too early to talk in any city? I haven't even had caffeine yet.

8 a.m. — I drink some coffee so I can live, and hit the ground running; there is a ton to do right away

9 a.m. — I text my dad to tell him happy birthday and let him know I'll call him later.

11 a.m. — I eat two hard-boiled eggs from home.

1 p.m. — My boss piles on three huge projects, and I feel like I have no bandwidth.

4 p.m. — I verify with my podcast partner that we are recording tomorrow. I look over the recipe we'll be making on-air, and we separate out the ingredient-buying duties.

5 p.m. — I stay late because I have a lot to get done before a company event in a couple of days.

6 p.m. — I go to CVS for hair gel and end up buying everything besides hair gel, including NYX Liquid Lipstick, a pepperoni stick, and laundry detergent. I look for my favorite Essie nude shade (Perennial Chic). They don't have it. $26.98

8 p.m. — I hate all of this lipstick and confirm that I can't pull off cool-toned brown. I set aside the bag and receipt so I can return all the makeup.

10 p.m. — I get a second wind and start a project I've been putting off: lining all my drawers with cedar paper.

11:30 p.m. — I look at the time and realize I'm way past bedtime. No one else is going to see the mess that I made, but I group all my materials together into a neat pile anyway before bed, because I'm totally judging myself.

Daily Total: $26.98

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I get to the office early. I'm really horrible at remembering to take pills, but I made sure to take my vitamins again.

9 a.m. — I'm totally overwhelmed. I eat an apple and avocado from the office fruit bowl.

12 p.m. — I've had four cups of coffee, and I'm buzzing and sweating. I don't do well with caffeine after a certain point. I realize I've passed that point.

2 p.m. — I've been jogging all day, back and forth around the office. My frenemy is casually relaxing and reading instead of bothering to ask if I might need a hand. She's truly one of the worst coworkers I've ever had, but her lack of awareness is so laughable that I can never get mad enough to hate her.

3 p.m. — At the 11th hour, someone tells me that we don't even have beverages for a company event tomorrow. I run out of the office like a madwoman to get to the store.

5 p.m. — I run into Trader Joe's and beeline to get ice cream for our recipe, plus alcohol and some other essentials that I've run out of at home. $70.31

6 p.m. — I eat some weird meal bar and a pepperoni stick I picked up at TJ’s in the car on my way back to my house. I arrive in the nick of time and put everything away before my partner arrives.

7 p.m. — I'm panting and having an adrenaline- and caffeine-induced existential crisis while my partner begins to quietly do the mise en place so I can breathe. I realize I don't have any ice, so we have non-ideal-temperature Palomas to take the edge off.

8 p.m. — We make a double batch of Mexican Chocolate cookies so I can take some for my company event tomorrow.

9 p.m. — We record, drink cocktails, and eat so many cookies. They are delicious. We finish recording, and I download the files for editing. I walk her to her car a couple of blocks away. On my walk back to my apartment, the air smells really fresh, and some sprinklers from a yard are hitting the sidewalk. It’s still warm from the heat wave today, and I can finally relax. I stand right in front of the sprinkler for a few minutes, and then run down the hill to my apartment.

11 p.m. — I clean up our baking mess, package up the cookies for work tomorrow, and go to bed.

Daily Total: $70.31

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Have a money diary you'd like to share? Email moneydiary@refinery29.com.


More from Work & Money