A Week In Portland, OR, On A $67,880 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a visiting assistant professor working in higher education who makes $67,880 per year and spends some of her money this week on a tabletop pine tree.
Occupation: Visiting Assistant Professor
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 31
Location: Portland, OR
Salary: $67,880
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,965
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,550 (I'm renting from a professor who is on sabbatical this year. I pay this amount for a two-story house in a nice neighborhood close to campus, and utilities are included. I am grateful.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (College in my home country was very affordable, and then I received tuition remission and TA stipends for my Master's and PhD.)
Car Insurance: $407 for six months (My car is paid off.)
Internet: $60
Phone: $60
Netflix: $11
ClassPass: $50 (I go to a studio nearby for heated yoga twice a week.)
Medical, Dental, Life, AD&D, & Travel Insurance: $345.26 (paid by my employer)
403(b): $84.85 per paycheck (This is my first year working at this job, so my employer doesn't match yet.)
Savings: $100 is automatically transferred to my savings to avoid fees, and then I save whatever is left at the end of each month.
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Day One

8:30 a.m. — My first alarm goes off. If I get up now, I can have avocado toast before leaving the house. Now, I've always been a congee and steamed bun kind of girl, but you have to try this combination: a thin slice of sourdough, strawberry jam, Trader Joe's kale-cashew-basil pesto, and avocado. It's divine! But I had a bad dream last night, so I give up on the toast in favor of another 30 minutes of sleep.
9 a.m. — Second alarm goes off. No more excuses! I get up, go through my morning skincare routine (which includes Deciem's CAIS serum, NeoStrata's brightening serum and eye cream, and Eucerin's redness relief night cream. I use prescription tretinoin at night for acne, so I wear EltaMD's Replenish SPF during the day. It's oil-free, reef-safe mineral sunscreen, and it's the only SPF that doesn't irritate my skin). I am going to Hawaii in two weeks (hooray!!!) with my long-distance boyfriend, G., so I make a mental note to buy an extra tube to share. Then I slap on a bit of mineral makeup to cover my zombie dark circles.
9:30 a.m. — I'm out the door! It's a five-minute drive to school. I lug my laptop, lunch, students' homework, and books with me every day, so I'd rather drive than walk the 30 minutes. I get to my office and immediately start to work. It's the last week of the semester!
10 a.m. — A professor from across the hallway comes over to discuss a teaching-related question. We have a little chat — it's a small department, and I am close with all of my colleagues. I get an email from the business office that my reimbursement request for book purchases has been approved ($219.50). The college has a faculty development fund which allows teachers to buy books for research and teaching. It's not a lot, but it's much appreciated.
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11 a.m. — By now, I've gone over the slides for today's class, graded all the leftover homework, and answered a few emails. I heat my lunch (chicken sausage, steamed veggies, and rice) in the faculty lounge, quickly eat, and get ready for class.
12 p.m. — I teach two classes every day. (I rely on a very strong herbal throat drop to get me through two hours of speaking at the top of my lungs.) Today, we finish the last lesson, and I prepare a study guide that will hopefully help the students get ready for the final exam.
2 p.m. — My boyfriend, G., texts to tell me he just gave a lab tour to a prospective postdoc. G. is a research scientist and a postdoc at a big university in the Midwest. He earned his PhD a few years ago, and hopefully I'll get mine next semester. We've known each other our whole lives, but only started dating a few years ago after years of studying in different countries. It has been the best relationship I've ever had. I accepted my current one-year visiting position because I really wanted to get some teaching experience under my belt, so we've been doing long distance. G. also tells me that a great public university wants to do a phone interview with him while we're in Hawaii next week. That is excellent news! I'm both nervous and excited for him!
4 p.m. — My office hour ends. I get an email from Lovelyskin.com with a 30% off code for EltaMD products today, which couldn't have come at a better time. I immediately place an order that saves me about $10. This site also lets you pick two deluxe samples with your order, so I pick a mini FixMySkin Healing Balm and a small tube of SkinMedica Total Defense, both things I've been wanting to try for ages. Score! $23.10
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4:30 p.m. — I want to get gas today before it's completely dark outside, so I leave school early and drive to the nearest Shell. Pumping your own gas is not allowed here in Oregon, and I'm still getting used to having someone else do it. $39.30
5 p.m. — I constantly crave watermelon but decide not to go to Trader Joe's at this time of day. I get home, Skype with G., and immediately regret my decision: he is eating watermelon right in front of my eyes!
5:20 p.m. — Doorbell rings. Two packages from my Thanksgiving shopping spree arrive today. One of them is a Deborah Lippmann polish set. It contains two small bottles, one of which is the color “Dirty Little Secret.” I put it on, and it's the most beautiful and sophisticated grey-silver shimmery color.
5:40 p.m. — For dinner, I make Trader Joe's orange chicken (saving most of it for tomorrow's end-of-semester party with students), steamed veggies, and rice. G. and I keep the Skype on for the whole evening, but we mute each other when we eat so we can watch our own shows. I recently got him into The Final Table, an international cooking competition on Netflix, but I've finished it myself, so I watch a couple random Vlogmas videos on YouTube, which put me in a festive mood.
6:30 p.m. — I shower to get myself out of my post-dinner fatigue, and then start to work. A few students send in their final presentation materials. I edit through them and send back feedback as quickly as I can so they have enough time to make changes and rehearse.
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9:30 p.m. — I see G. snacking on chestnuts. Bad influence! I take a chai tea mochi out of the fridge. Then I see the garlic peas I picked up from an Asian market. I eat a very small packet.
10:30 p.m. — Just last weekend, I started using Duolingo to brush up (relearn) my German and Japanese. I go through about two lessons for each language every day. Not sure how long this will last, but I've been enjoying it so far, and it doesn't take too long at all.
11 p.m. — This house is great, but it's a little too big for one person, and I get a little nervous at night. I check the windows, doors, alarms, and the door jammer G. bought me (lol). Then I go upstairs to brush my teeth and put on my nighttime skincare — serum, eye cream, night cream, and tretinoin. I say goodnight to G., and we both go to bed.
Daily Total: $62.40

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I slept much better last night, and get up before the alarm goes off. I get myself ready, then head down to the kitchen to make that avocado toast. I also re-crisp the orange chicken from last night and a Cantonese roast duck I got from the Asian market in the oven. I pack up everything — the food, my work bag, a yoga bag — and drive to a local dim sum restaurant to pick up food for my class.
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11:30 a.m. — I placed a take-out order last Saturday, so it doesn't take too long to get my food ready today. I get two large trays of vegetable fried rice and noodles and a variety of steamed xlb, shrimp buns, sesame balls, etc. A waitress kindly helps me load everything to my car, and I quickly drive to school. It takes me two trips to lug everything from the parking lot to the classroom, but my timing is perfect and all dishes are still hot when they get to the students. Success! ($122 expensed)
12 p.m. — My students are all so excited about the food! Today is also the day they do teaching evaluations, so I leave the classroom when they fill out the forms. It certainly helps that I'm close in age with them, and the content of the course is a lot of fun to begin with, so I'm not concerned. I'm more nervous about an upper-level seminar I'm teaching next semester. I'm teaching three courses next semester — and everything needs to be prepared from scratch. On top of that, I have to finish my dissertation and apply for jobs. Gosh, It's going to be so hard, but I'll power through.
12:30 p.m. — They finish the evaluations and come to my office to get me. We regroup in the classroom, enjoy the food, and watch an episode of a (course-related) documentary about cooking together.
1:50 p.m. — They loved the film. I love it, too. I share links to other episodes of the same documentary with them after class so they can watch more on their own.
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2 p.m. — I do some editing of students' presentation scripts.
3 p.m. — I packed a hard-boiled tea egg from home this morning for snack. (They are eggs braised in a soup of oolong tea, soy sauce, and spices, and I typically make a batch on weekends.) I eat the egg now because I have a yoga class at 4 and need the energy.
4 p.m. — I park near the studio, change, and head on into the class. I recently upgraded my yoga mat and mat towel (Manduka was having a sale on Black Friday), and I try them out for the first time today.
5:30 p.m. — I love my new mat-towel combo for heated yoga! The towel has sticky nubs on the back and doesn't get slippery at all during practice. I'll never go back to my cheap Amazon version ever again.
6 p.m. — Get home, shower, and put sweaty clothes and towels in the washer. Then I Skype G. and eat Trader Joe's Cod Provencale with ratatouille and rice. G. tells me he's set up a time for the phone interview. An article he's worked on for months is going to be published, so he needs to work on final formatting and a press release. I'm surrounded by highly intellectual humans, but G. is still one of the smartest and humblest people I know. And it doesn't hurt that he's got annoyingly cute cheeks!
7 p.m. — I have endless homework to grade because I give mini assignments almost daily. I draw a star on the most well-written ones. So now they all try to be really creative to get a star. They might be in college, but they are all still kids at heart. Aren't we all? :)
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8:30 p.m. — G. goes to shower but runs back to the camera to tell me he will bring me the dreamcatcher I left at his place when he visits next week. “You need it more when you sleep alone, and I can be your dreamcatcher when you come here!”
10 p.m. — Feeling tired from yoga. I do my Duolingo lessons, then go to bed early.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — A student emailed me her presentation materials after midnight. The presentation is in a couple of hours! So I quickly get up, edit through it, and send back my comments. She will need every minute to rehearse.
9 a.m. — I get ready. No time for breakfast. I pack a no-effort lunch with frozen fried rice and pre-made spicy chicken wings and head to work.
11 a.m. — Lunch. I receive a notification of a $9.95 charge for my annual Zazzle membership. I used the site last year to make personalized notepads and Post-its for G. and me, but forget to cancel the auto-renewal. I log in to cancel it so it won't charge me next year, but it's perhaps time to order more Post-its. They look cute and come in handy. $9.95
12 p.m. — It's presentation time! Most students choose to come to the second session because they all want extra time to rehearse, but they all end up doing a fantastic job. I bring them garlic peas and cookies, and we all have a great time.
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2 p.m. — That completes the course! Several students come to my office for more snacks.
4 p.m. — I go to Trader Joe's and pick up some fresh veggies, bananas, frozen entrees, two small watermelons, mistletoe, and an $8 tabletop pine tree! All of their holiday treats look appealing, but I'll wait for G. to get here first. $43.41
6 p.m. — I shower, make a simple dinner, Skype G., and eat. I really don't feel like working tonight, so I download an app called FaceQ that lets you create adorable personalized cartoon profile pictures. I make cartoon faces of G., myself, and my close colleagues, and then make customized Post-its and notepads on Zazzle with the pictures. With a 50% off discount code, these notepads come to only about $4 each, but they look so cute and will make great gifts. $60.72
10 p.m. — I do my Duolingo lessons, eat half of a watermelon, then get ready for bed. Best night of the week!
Daily Total: $114.08

Day Four

11 a.m. — I sleep in for the first time this semester! Then I go to school to join two colleagues for lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant. I'm genuinely in awe of the food scene here in Portland. I have yet to be disappointed by any restaurant since I've been here! I order a shrimp curry served in a coconut and take more than half of it home for dinner. The senior colleague who initiated the get-together offers to pay, so we oblige.
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12:30 p.m. — Back at the office, I start reading a monograph I recently discovered for my dissertation project. I plan to get some writing done before Hawaii.
3:30 p.m. — It's garbage collection day tomorrow, so I go home, tidy up, and pull out all three roll carts to the curb — honestly, I don't think I'm ready for all the extra work that comes with living in your own house.
4:30 p.m. — I eat watermelon while looking into my health insurance. After three months of busy work, I finally have some time and energy to get myself established with a local primary care provider. I book a video appointment for tomorrow, since all I need are some referrals.
6 p.m. — I shower and heat up my leftover lunch for dinner. It's still yummy. G. is back at his apartment as well. We Skype, catch up, and agree to go to this Thai place when he comes.
7 p.m. — I am a big theater fan, and I love going to plays. I look into Portland theater companies and find one called Artists Repertory Theatre, which seems lovely and well-priced. Regular tickets are $60, but for students and anyone under 35, it's $30. There's a coupon code for $20 tickets across the site, and on Sundays you can even find $10 seats! We quickly order two $10 tickets for Dec. 23. I hope the show doesn't disappoint! G. kindly pays.
9 p.m. — I resume reading that monograph for an hour.
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10 p.m. — J.Crew is offering an extra 60% off sale items, and I just received a $25 gift card in the mail today. I buy a pair of $138 black tie-waist wool pants for $16.60 (I know!). I have a similar pair in emerald green that have been a real compliment magnet, so I have high hopes for this pair. $16.60
10:25 p.m. — Thoroughly cheered up by the late-night impulsive purchase, I happily start my Duolingo lessons before getting ready for bed.
Daily Total: $16.60

Day Five

11:15 a.m. — I finish the video visit with my doctor in about 40 minutes. She seems lovely and patient, and I'm happy to have her as my primary provider for the year. I book my eye exam and dental visit of the year as well. There is no better time to take care of all my routine medical needs than over winter break. It's going to be a $10 copay for dental and $20 for vision at the time of visit.
1 p.m. — I boil some frozen shrimp-scallop dumplings for lunch. Since I'm traveling soon and will spend the majority of January at G.'s place, I switch to ClassPass Lite, which gives me five credits for $10 per month.
3 p.m. — As I get ready to go to school to see my students' final presentations, I notice that my Eucerin night cream is almost out, so I order a new one on Amazon ($9.55). I also buy a three-pack of anti-cavity mouthwash ($10.71), and a small nail foil palette ($4.98). I see beautiful watercolor nail art everywhere online and really want to try to DIY it for the holidays. $25.24
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4 p.m. — The presentations today are a lot of fun!
6:30 p.m. — I'm home and heating up Trader Joe's vegan tikka masala for dinner. It's still the best curry I've ever tasted. I load the dishwasher and then book my return flight back to Portland. I decide to come back a couple days prior to the first day of class so I have enough time to settle down and prepare. G. and I make sure we see each other once a month, but airfare quickly adds up! $118.98
Daily Total: $144.22

Day Six

8 a.m. — I can't believe I'm getting up this early on a Saturday, but I'm determined to go to yoga today. I usually go to the 10:00 session, but they moved it to 9. I packed the bag and laid out workout clothes last night to make it easier this morning. I eat a tea egg and head out.
11:30 a.m. — Quite the turnout for a Saturday-morning class! I loved the energy in the room, and the instructor today was wonderful. I always get an extra sweaty workout with her. I drive home, and my neighbor is walking his adorable shih tzu in front of my house. I pet his dog, and we chat a little. I get home with serious dog envy, and text G. telling him we're getting either a shih tzu, a pomeranian, or a poodle next year. I shower, eat toast and another egg for lunch, and then do laundry and chill.
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5:30 p.m. — Both G. and I have been trying to write this afternoon, but neither of us has been productive. I hate cooking when it's just me, so I make a one-pot pasta with some frozen shrimp, leftover chicken sausage, a handful of spinach, and pesto. I bring my food back to computer and see G. cooking in his kitchen on Skype. I laugh at him, and then turn on The Great British Baking Show's holiday special! This show is weirdly addictive for someone who's never baked a thing in her life.
8:30 p.m. — I'm procrastinating. G. overhears me watching a random “boyfriend tag” video on YouTube and asks if they're doing a relationship self-test. He's had this idea of us doing annual relationship health evaluations for a while now — yes, we're nerdy like that! So I do a quick Google search and find a few tests that look promising. I start doing one of the tests on my own and get pleasantly surprised by how insightful the questions are — they encourage you to examine your relationship in ways you normally would not. I look forward to finishing these with G. over the holidays!
10:50 p.m. — Finally made some progress on my dissertation.
12:30 a.m. — Feeling exhausted mentally and physically now. I brush my teeth, finish Duolingo in bed, and sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

11:30 a.m. — I sleep in and wake up with sore arms and a sore core. I typically get used to a workout after two or three times, but this yoga class somehow manages to kill me every time, even though I've been going for two months. I think I've finally found a workout that I truly enjoy and can stick to. I drag my body downstairs for toast and almond milk.
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12 p.m. — Sunday has become my chore day. I do laundry and then grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, where I pick up veggies, fruits, chicken, sausages, eggs, and two bags of dried baby bananas. I don't like coming here on Sundays, especially gloomy and rainy ones, but I have yoga and office hours tomorrow. Luckily, there aren't too many people at checkout. $34.90
3 p.m. — I haven't cooked a proper meal this whole week, so I'm doing it now. I cook rice, throw all the veggies left in the fridge into my Instant Pot for a stew, then make chicken drumsticks braised in soy sauce. I use a variety of spices and a mixture of four Lee Kum Kee soy sauces —totally excessive, but I swear it makes all the difference. While the food is simmering, I water my indoor plants and vacuum the whole house. It is a full-time job and more to keep a house in order.
4 p.m. — The drumsticks turned out perfectly if I do say so myself. I transfer both dishes into glass containers, clean the Instant Pot, and then start making tea eggs. Instead of using my own spices, this time I experiment with a store-bought kit that came with a tea bag and a spice bag, to which I add boiled eggs (with crushed eggshells on), water, soy sauce, and a little sugar. The kitchen smells amazing after all the cooking.
5 p.m. — I enjoy dinner and check on the eggs. They do look more professional and have a beautiful aroma to them. I consider using this kit from now on. I clean up the kitchen and start the dishwasher.
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8:30 p.m. — I slip into a food coma and nap. When I wake up, I email my students telling them that I will hold regular office hours tomorrow, and they are welcome to come with last-minute questions.
9 p.m. — G. has been working the whole day today, and I want to catch up! So I attempt to write my fifth and final chapters for two very unproductive hours.
11 p.m. — Finish the last bit of chores of the week: fold laundry, clean makeup brushes, and put away clean dishes. Then I do Duolingo and go to bed. Two more days 'til I reunite with G. and three more days till we head to Hawaii. I am so excited for next week!
Daily Total: $34.90
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