Money Diaries logo

A Week In Seattle, USA, On A $103,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last penny.

Today: a marketing manager who makes $103,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Patagonia bum bag.
Currency in USD.
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Industry: Technology
Age: 25
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $103,000
Net Worth: ~$2.5 million (Savings: $30,000; personal investment portfolio that will go towards my mom's retirement: $36,000; 401(k): $40,000; condo: ~$554,000; company stock: ~$2.3 million)
Debt: I still have $434,841 left on my mortgage
Paycheck Amount (2x/month for base salary and side job, 1x/quarter for bonuses): $2,700 from base salary (after taxes), $400 from side job
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,400 (Homeowner's association dues — including water, sewage, garbage, and gas — were pre-paid by seller as part of an agreement when the condo was purchased)
WiFi: $65
Electricity: $30
Cell Phone: $0 (paid by work)
Medical/Dental/Vision Insurance: $0 (paid by work)
Homeowner's/Car Insurance: $150
Netflix: $0 (my mom pays for family)
Spotify Premium: $14.99 (I pay for family)
Amazon Prime: $119 annually
Gym: $55 (I coach CrossFit as a side gig and get a free membership from it, but I pay this amount for additional programming)
Whoop: $17
Planned Parenthood Donation: $50
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Absolutely. My mom got married very young and never finished college. She was a stay-at-home mom until I was a teenager and I know that she really regrets not graduating as she is now financially dependent on my father. She grew up teaching us that education should always come first, and my sister and I both attended very competitive schools on the east coast. The majority of my education was paid for by financial aid, a bit from my grandparents to help buy books, and then I paid off student loans within the first year after graduating.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom always wanted my sister and me to be financially independent however we could. My father is not the greatest person and was very controlling/abusive towards my mom throughout my childhood, but she felt tied down to him because of money. In terms of how to get to financial independence, etc., I learned on my own as I went.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My main extracurricular as a kid was musical theatre — I loved singing and acting on stage. I did it professionally and was paid starting around the time I was eight years old, so I guess that was my first job, even though it didn't seem like one. My mom helped me to set up a savings account with the money I earned, and I didn't touch it until after I graduated college and needed furniture for my first apartment.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Absolutely. My dad had a contracting company and because of some shady business dealings, he went bankrupt. I would say that leading up to this, we were pretty much middle class, but this really changed things. My mom had no idea about the dealings going on and it added my tension in the house. Figuring out how to keep myself and my sister in school was a huge stress.
Do you worry about money now?
I think everyone does in their own way. I'm definitely not as worried as I was as a kid, but I do worry about some longer-term items. For one, housing in Seattle is insane, and I worry about being priced out of the area when I want to settle down and buy a single-family house. My other worry is my mom — because of my family's financial situation, all of her money from her job went to keeping my sister and me afloat in school, which I am incredibly thankful for. Because of this, she doesn't really have any savings for retirement or any financial literacy. I secretly keep an investment portfolio on the side that hopefully will help her out when the time comes, but it isn't much. I plan to care for her however I can when she is ready to retire.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Probably when I graduated college (was no longer living with my parents during school breaks). I moved into my first apartment with roommates in Seattle and got my first full-time job downtown. If anything bad happened, I know that my mom, grandma, and sister would do what they could to be my financial safety net, and I would do the same for them.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I wish.

Day One

4:30 a.m. — Crying at my early alarm. I scroll through my emails for a couple minutes before getting up to make coffee and throw on some clothes. My drive to the gym only takes 90 seconds, which I'm super thankful for, because I need all the sleep I can get. I stretch for about 10 minutes before training with my group at 5 a.m. sharp.
7 a.m. — Workouts are done and I rush home for my first meeting at 7:30. My entire team is remote, so I start work a bit early in the day to be on the same track as my colleagues on the East Coast. I'm a morning person so this works well for me. By 9:30, I'm super hungry and finally have time to make some eggs with toast and honey.
12:30 p.m. — Time for lunch! I ordered Thai food over the weekend and still have leftovers — shrimp fried rice, pad see ew, and red curry. I am so wiped out from all the video calls I've been on today — I'm in the process of hiring an associate and it feels like another full-time job. While I eat, I call my sister to catch up. She is in college on the East Coast, but we are super close and talk almost every day.
2:30 p.m. — Time to log off. I usually work way more, but on Wednesdays, I coach CrossFit classes starting at 3. It's a great side gig as someone that works remotely because it gives me time to interact with people. Today, we are doing tempo front squats and a little sprint work on the rowing machine.
6:05 p.m. — Done coaching! I stop at the grocery store on the way home to buy a baguette. The guy I'm seeing, T., is coming over tonight to make dinner and we will have this on the side. We met through CrossFit about a month ago and things have been going really well. $2.19
11:55 p.m. — Dinner is a hit — it's so fun to cook together. We make one of my family's recipes with cod, shellfish, and chorizo in a tomato/pepper sauce with toasted baguette on the side. Even more fun is the post-dinner activities ;) Afterward, we snuggle in bed and stay up way too late talking and laughing. Going to be tired tomorrow, but very worth it.
Daily Total: $2.19

Day Two

7 a.m. — It's rest day! Thursdays we take off from training and get to sleep in. It's glorious. I don't have any early morning meetings but T.'s calls always start at 8. We snuggle a bit more in bed before it's time to get up. Neither of us wants our date night to end so we make plans to hang out again tonight.
8:30 a.m. — Breakfast of eggs and toast done, teeth brushed, skincare regime done, and ready to start work. Living on the West Coast, I usually log on to a million emails needing a response, but this morning is a bit lighter. My mom calls and we catch up while I answer emails.
10:05 a.m. — Another interview and this candidate is actually great! I know these things take a while, but it's been difficult to find any top contenders with the correct work experience. This puts me in a good mood and I dive into writing a case study afterward, more refreshed.
1 p.m. — I recently started therapy (via Zoom). I don't have any history of anxiety, but I started having panic attacks and anxiety about a month ago, and with my great insurance through work, it's completely covered. Most of the time we talk about work stress and digesting my childhood trauma surrounding my father. It's been really helpful to have an outsider validate that what I went through was real. Everyone should have a therapist (and free healthcare in general). Today is a bit emotional talking about family issues. Afterward, I make a chocolate peanut butter protein shake for lunch.
2:35 p.m. — When I was a kid, my mom would always celebrate the first day of school with a little treat or fun food for dinner. Now that I'm an adult, and she works as a teacher, I return the favour for her first day of school. I head over to Madewell and get her a few new necklaces — she has been mentioning that she wants some to update her wardrobe. On the way home, I stop at the drugstore to buy rubbing alcohol. My new car tabs came in the mail and I need to clean them off before applying them. $100.29

5:15 p.m. — I shower, put on a bit of makeup and a cute sundress, and unload the dishwasher before swinging by my mom's work to give her the necklaces. She is super surprised and seems to like them a lot!

6:20 p.m. — Back home, T. and I go on a three-mile walk down by the lake to enjoy one of the last warm days before the impending nine months of Seattle winter (aka rain). We stop at a taco truck on the way home. I get three chicken tacos and T. gets four different types. He pays and we bring them home to eat.

8:55 p.m. — We are in bed pretty early, but definitely stay up way too late fooling around. Asleep around 10:30.

Daily Total: $100.29

Day Three

3:05 a.m. — T. wakes me up in the middle of the night for sex. Not mad about it.
4:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off and so not ready to get up today. We cuddle in bed for a bit, and I secretly hope that T. will fall back asleep but alas, he's up and ready to go. Make coffee, brush teeth, and to the gym by 5.
7:10 a.m. — Leaving the gym and I'm hungry. I took it pretty easy today — did a short AMRAP, a clean complex, and then just rode a stationary bike. I'm running a Spartan Beast tomorrow (half marathon with 30 obstacles) and don't want to be sore. I have done ZERO training and I'm terrified. The last time I went on a run was probably in April.
11 a.m. — I have a phone call with an insurance company for about an hour. Washington State passed a new law requiring long-term care insurance. We have until November to either find private insurance or get automatically looped into the public option. I absolutely support this law, but personally want to see what my options are and stay educated on the topic.
12:30 p.m. — Work can be pretty quiet on Fridays, so I finish up and head over to do my weekly grocery haul with Slack still open. I do the majority of my shopping at Trader Joe's and fill in with Whole Foods since it's next door. I get my staples (bananas, chicken, lemons, berries, veggies, coffee, eggs, oat milk, frozen jasmine rice packs, tissue paper, pita crackers, vegan kale pesto) along with some fun new pumpkin-flavoured items, including the pumpkin overnight oats and pumpkin bread mix. I spend a bit more than usual to get some extra snacks for my race. $144.50
1:35 p.m. — Next I run to REI. One of my Spartan enthusiast friends recommenced toe socks. I also grab a Patagonia fanny pack and some energy gummies, Nuun tablets, and salt tablets to keep in there. I am so out of my comfort zone with this race, and have no idea what I've signed up for. $61.07
1:50 p.m. — Before heading home, I stop to fill up on gas. I do this about once every two weeks. Wow, gas prices have gone up! Over $4 a gallon! Luckily, my car is pretty cheap to fill, all things considered. $33.56
4:45 p.m. — My mom texts me and invites me over to eat and watch Schitt's Creek (we are on season four and I love it). I stop at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant on the way over and order two tofu vermicelli bowls and two coconut waters. When I arrive, she has also made brownies as pre-race-day fuel. I get home a few hours later to finish up some laundry and I'm in bed by 9:30. $33.56
Daily Total: $272.69

Day Four

6:40 a.m. — I am so not ready for this. Nothing about me is excited. I get up, make a breakfast sandwich with a Dave's Killer Bread everything bagel, egg whites, and chicken maple sausage. Braid my hair, pack up, and drive over to the gym to carpool with friends. I was a bit wary of this event in terms of COVID, but people seem to be doing a good job of keeping their distance and are masking up when they get close.
9:45 a.m. — It's go time! See you on the other side.
12:45 p.m. — One of my friends and I end up at the same pace and cross the finish line holding hands. After a few minutes of adrenaline, EVERYTHING seizes up. I compete in CrossFit, but, wow, this is a different type of pain. So much respect for all my long-distance runners and Spartan racers out there!
2:30 p.m. — Time to head home and scrub all of the mud off in a shower. They have hoses at the event, but I'm going to need to lather-rinse-repeat a few times. On the car ride home, I notice a layer of mud in my nostrils. Lovely. T. came to the race watch me cross the finish line and he drives me back and joins me in a muddy shower. I am so dirty, hungry, and tired, I don't know which to address first. I bring some Trader Joe's pita crackers into the shower with me. Not exactly sexy, but we laugh the entire time. Once I'm all clean, we get out and move to the bedroom for some fun.
5:20 p.m. — Fashionably twenty minutes late to meet the Spartan crew at a local burger place. Pretty sure everyone knows why… I am incredibly hungry and order a burger with bacon and a fried egg, sweet potato fries, and a cider. T. orders truffle fries with his burger and I eat most of them as well. While we eat, my friend E. shows us pictures of a house he is going to put an offer on. The Seattle real estate market is bonkers — single-family homes are going for $100,000 over asking price in cash — so he is mentally preparing to go pretty high. No one wants the fun to end, so we all make plans to meet back up in an hour at E.'s apartment. $31.99
7:05 p.m. — We swing by home so I can grab a jacket and change into sweats. Get a liiiiiitttle bit preoccupied and once again make an entrance at E.'s. I pour some Casamigos Reposado with a splash of lime and pretty soon the girls break off into E.'s bedroom to catch up. Our other friend recently moved out of state and is back visiting for the week, so we catch her up on everything. It takes about five minutes before we are all laying on the floor laughing and then we go back to join the guys.
10:30 p.m. — It's only 10:30 on a Saturday but it feels like 3 a.m. T. and I head to my place then snuggle up in bed and pass out.
Daily Total: $31.99

Day Five

10:10 a.m. — I seriously cannot remember the last time I slept in this much. Before I even move, I can tell that I am seriously hurting. Back, core, hamstrings, calves, hips... all feel terrible. Nonetheless, I need coffee so I slip out of bed while T. still sleeps to make a big pot. I come back to bed with two mugs as T. is waking up. This is my perfect morning.
11:45 a.m. — Although I'm still very sleepy, I'm also very hungry. Definitely in a massive calorie deficit from yesterday. T. is from New York and is very dismayed to find out that my neighbourhood doesn't have a single bagel shop, so we trek out in his car to find the perfect bacon, egg, and cheese. T. pays. We bring them back home and wolf them down at the kitchen counter, and immediately regret not ordering seconds. I toast bagels I have in the freezer to keep us going until our next meal, and we go back to bed for a nap.
2 p.m. — Really embracing this lazy Sunday of eating and sleeping, so we walk down the block to a local gelato shop and order two affogatos. I pay. I get mine with vanilla and T. gets his with coffee gelato. The shop is on a cute street with a ton of restaurants and cafes, so we sit outside and people-watch. Still hungry, so we stop in a bakery on the way home and get a mini vegetable quiche and a mini salmon quiche. T. pays. $15.85
3:15 p.m. — Time for nap number two! More sleep as well as some more not sleeping. I could spend every day doing absolutely nothing with T. and still have the best time.
5:45 p.m. — Once again we wake up ready to pound some food. This time, we walk to the Vietnamese restaurant that I frequent multiple times a week. Summer is ending and it's pretty chilly this evening, so we get pho. T. pays. On the walk home, we pass Shake Shack and see that they are doing a collaboration with Milk Bar. I guess today is a double ice cream day. We get a cornflake milkshake with hot fudge and marshmallows on top to share. I pay. $6.82
7 p.m. — Back at my condo, T. gets his bag together to go home and do laundry. One thing leads to another and suddenly we are back in bed. Oops. We stay there until about 9:30 talking about life until he finally has to leave. I go to bed shortly after.
Daily Total: $22.67

Day Six

4:30 a.m. — Anddddd we are back. Didn't sleep that great last night since I napped so much. As soon as I stand up, I realise that I am not any less sore than yesterday. I consider getting back into bed, but decide against it — moving will probably help me feel better. Coffee, brush teeth, change clothes, and out the door.
6:55 a.m. — Done with training. I took it really easy today and dialed down all the percentages for lifts. I definitely feel better than when I woke up, so I consider it a success.
12:05 p.m. — So, so busy today — work is flying by with a ton of projects. My team and I chat about one of the candidates for the open position and there is a bit of hesitancy that she isn't a great writer, which is the most important part of the role. Luckily, there's another strong candidate who I've already talked to and they are going to meet tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
2:25 p.m. — Time to start tying things up and switch my focus to coaching. I brush my hair, put on some shoes, and am out the door.
5:10 p.m. — Done with coaching and I drive home. I text T. to figure out what we are doing for dinner. I don't really like cooking after I coach and he's not much of a cook, so we decide on take-out. I shower and call my mom to catch up.
6:20 p.m. — T. and I are back at the Vietnamese place and get bowls. T. pays.

7:15 p.m. — Back home. We decide to watch part of a movie before bed, but end up just snuggling on the couch and talking. Not mad about it. Before bed, T. brings up defining the relationship. We both agree that on the one hand, things are moving super-fast, but on the other hand. we are really enamored with each other. So we decide to circle back before he goes to New York in a couple of weeks. On the outside, I think I play it cool. I don't want to rush things because I really like him and don't want to ruin anything. But on the inside, I would legit run off and elope with this guy tomorrow. Lights out around 9:30.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

4:30 a.m. — Will this wake-up time ever be easy? It's even more tempting to stay in bed with T. here. Once we are up, we snuggle for a few minutes on the couch in silence with our coffees, then hit the road.
6:35 a.m. — Feeling much better today and I'm able to train as usual. It's pretty chilly and I make a mental note that shorts season at the gym is officially over.
7:15 a.m. — I make a packet of bacon in the oven to last me through the week. I have been on a bagel, bacon, and egg kick lately with Dave's Killer everything bagels. Highly recommend it.
8:20 a.m. — I clean up my breakfast dishes and log-on for the day.
12 p.m. — I make myself a smoothie for lunch and text with my friends. One of my best friends broke up with her boyfriend over the weekend, so our group is getting pedicures after work.
3:15 p.m. — Time to log-off for the day. I grab a mask and head to the nail salon. All three of my best friends are in attendance, and we let my friend vent about the guy, and offer lots of hugs and reassurance. After nails, I head home and scroll on TikTok for too long. My sister got me into it last year and most days, we just communicate by sending each other funny videos. $32
5:45 p.m. — My mom texts me and invites me over for homemade chicken noodle soup. I jump in my car as soon as I receive the text and sit on the kitchen counter to update her on all my friends while she finishes dinner. Fun facts about our soup: We use udon noodles and this is the best way to have chicken noodle soup. Also, chicken noodle soup is always served with apple slices on the side. We have done this since I was a kid, don't ask me why.
7:05 p.m. — Dinner is lovely, my mom is lovely, and it's time to head home. I shower, prep coffee, and set out my clothes for the morning. I'm in bed by 8:30.
Daily Total: $32
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.

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.