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A Week In Portland, OR, On A $105,000 Salary

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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 dollar.

Today: a communications specialist who makes $105,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on The Ordinary skincare.
Editor's Note: This Money Diary is a follow-up diary that was written in December 2022. You can read the original Money Diary here.
Occupation: Communications
Industry: Labor
Age: 32
Location: Portland, OR
Salary: $105,000
Net Worth: ~$33,000 ($60,000 in savings, $5,000 in checking, $46,000 in 401(k), minus $48,000 in student loans and $30,000 for my car loan).
Debt: $78,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,127
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $750 (I live in a four-bedroom house with three roommates).
Car Payment: $524 ($350 of this is covered by my car allowance at work).
Student Loans: $0 (on hold).
Cell Phone: $89 (covered in full by cell phone allowance).
Car Insurance: $60
Gas/Water/Sewer/Internet: ~$100
Subscriptions: $180 (this includes things like Netflix and Amazon Prime but also my wine club memberships).
Savings: $1,000
401(k): $0 (I can't invest in my organization's 401(k) plan for another two months but after that I will be putting in 10% of my paychecks. My employer matches 15% of my salary, which is nuts, I know).
Gift Savings: $100 (trying to soften the blow at Christmastime).
Donations: $100-$200
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?
My mom didn't really pressure me to continue my education but I always just assumed that I would because I did really well in school. I did take two years off between high school and college to work and decide what I wanted to study/do with my life, and I think that was a really helpful growth period for me. I was the first person in my entire extended family (for reference, my grandparents have 27 grandkids. Mormons, ya know?) to go to college. I got as many scholarships and grants as I could but I still had to take out about $40,000 in student loans for the four years I was at university.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I never had conversations about money with my mom. I think the education that she provided to me about finances came mostly from watching her make very poor decisions about money for my whole life. She was actually very private about how much or how little money we had, but it was very obvious to me at a very young age that we were poor.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I babysat from age 12 until I got my first real job at a fast-food restaurant when I was 15. I got a job because I knew my mom couldn't afford to pay for the things I wanted, like nice clothes or school activities. I also wanted to help out around the house because there were times when we didn't have a lot in the refrigerator or my mom couldn't pay our phone bill.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Constantly. We were on public assistance most of my life because my mom is disabled, but her financial decisions put us in a lot of traumatic situations that still haunt me to this day. She would always prioritize our wants, like buying us the expensive toys we wanted for Christmas or our birthdays, but then couldn't afford groceries or other basic necessities. We would get food benefits at the beginning of the month and she would spend recklessly on all the junk food things we wanted, and then we would be struggling to eat by the end of the month and would have to rely on food banks. We were technically homeless a few times, staying with friends and family for short periods because it was (and still is) hard to find Section 8 housing. It has been a long road to healing my relationship with money (and with my mom).
Do you worry about money now?
Honestly, no. I have such a complex relationship with money because I do feel anxious about having enough in savings for emergencies and to invest in my future but I also have poor people brain, which gives me this sense of urgency, like I need to enjoy it now because I don't know when I'll have it again. This year has been an especially spendthrifty one because I left my husband and went from a dual-income household with a partner who had good financial habits to being on my own in an HCOL city with no supervision. I spent a good chunk of my savings living my single-girl-in-the-city lifestyle. Luckily, I got a new job a few months ago, which almost doubled my annual salary, so I'm feeling pretty secure right now. I plan to start using the "virtual envelope method" for my budget tracking in the next few months. I know I need to have a visual accountability tool because I have some travel goals in the next few years that are going to require some serious discipline.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out when I graduated high school at 17, and I have not taken any money from my mom since. Now that I am no longer attached to my ex's upper-middle-class family, I don't have that safety net anymore.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I don't really consider it passive or inherited income but my ex did buy me out of the house we bought together in April 2021. We had a lot of equity because we made a good profit from the first house we owned together (which his parents gifted us the down payment for) and put most of it into the down payment on the new house. I got a $60,000 payout, which I have in a savings account until I decide what to do with it.

Day One

7 a.m. — I haven't actually gotten up at 7 in over a year, but I refuse to set my alarm for later. There's a part of me that really wants to be one of those early riser, meditation and exercise, eat-a-real-breakfast kind of people. It's probably time to admit that I am more of an "Oh shit, I have a meeting in 30 minutes," medication and coffee, "Is this sweater dirty?" kind of person.
8 a.m. — I wake up to my boyfriend, J.'s, second alarm of the morning. We snuggle and fool around for 15 minutes until I realize that I, in fact, do have a meeting in 45 minutes. I get dressed in a cropped sweater and some yoga leggings, pull my hair out of the French braids I slept in, and head upstairs to make coffee for J. I work from home but he has to make a 50-minute commute to his job, so I always make him a big to-go cup for the road. I also make myself a protein smoothie with a shit-ton of spinach, frozen berries and vanilla protein powder. I settle myself into my office/walk-in closet and log in for my 9 a.m. meeting.
10 a.m. — Meeting's over. I quickly add my team's to-do tasks into Asana and assign them with due dates. I remember that my dog needs to eat so I head upstairs and start the ridiculously complex process that is her twice-daily meal (she gets a raw diet with a variety of ingredients). She's actually my boyfriend's dog, but I share my dog with my ex and only have her every other week, so I am really glad to have a full-time fluff baby in the house.
11:30 a.m. — J. sends me a Venmo request for groceries for the last two nights of dinner ingredients. He took some culinary school courses and really loves to cook, which means he's fine going to three different grocery stores to get exactly the right ramen fixings. Luckily we split groceries, so our bills don't quite reflect the very bougie dinners that we have grown accustomed to. $28
2 p.m. — I have an in-person meeting in an hour so I need to wrap up my current project (writing explanations and talking points for all of the priority bills in our legislative agenda) and eat something. I heat up some pork buns from the Asian grocery store and they're dry as hell. I bury them in kimchi and mostly just eat the filling. I spill some on my jeans. Cool. I change and finish getting ready with minutes to spare and make the five-minute drive to my office. Then I realize I left my backpack at home and turn around. I hate being late!
6 p.m. — We go way over time and I am drained. I'm still really new to this position so I am in a lot of meetings right now, trying to learn as much as I can. My boss takes us out for happy hour. He pays for appetizers but we buy our own drinks. I get two beers and pay for my associate staffer's too. I get some one-on-one conversation time with a coworker that I am really trying to become friends with, yay! $30
8 p.m. — J. made teriyaki chicken tonight but I am pretty full from the beer and fries so I just take a small bowl of it. I live with my brother, my best friend, and J., and we have a pretty close relationship as a house. We plan meals for the week and eat dinner together almost every night, but J. and I are the best at cooking so we do most of it. I want to drink more, but we're out of beer. I convince my brother to drive me to Fred Meyer so I can get a six-pack of stouts. $14
10 p.m. — I'm a little tipsy and I have to go into the office again tomorrow, so I throw on Wednesday and watch two episodes in bed. J. and I talk for a while and then get down to business before we fall asleep.
Daily Total: $72

Day Two

8 a.m. — Wake up after the usual alarm song and dance. Get in a little morning quickie and then get in the shower. I decide I can get another day out of the French braid waves and that I have time to put on the bare minimum makeup. I do my brows and then slap on some concealer, blush and mascara. I grab a cropped sweater and high-waisted mom jeans from my wardrobe rack and throw my black pea coat over it. Looking as good as the people at my office deserve. I feed the dog, make coffee and blend a smoothie, then I'm out the door.
10 a.m. — Meeting with a staffer to talk about story leads for one of our priority bills. I am so grateful to work with people like N. Storytelling is my favorite part of the job so I am stoked to be in charge of this project.
12 p.m. — Our retired members are holding a meeting in the office today and they invite us to eat lunch with them — score. It's Panda Express, which would not be my first pick, but it's free. I get an email from one of my wine clubs that their new line of swag is available. I was already going to order some wine to give to my mom and the new design is so cute. These women make incredible wine and they are an adorable lesbian couple; queers gotta support each other. Two bottles and a crewneck sweatshirt, add to cart. $93
3:20 p.m. — I am running on dregs at this point in the day, but I still have one more meeting before I can leave. I need to get the last bits of my Christmas shopping done. My best friend told me that she really wants to try some of The Ordinary skincare and my little sister wants some spendy liquid eyeliner, so I pull up Ulta and start dumping stuff in the cart. I get myself an Anastasia Beverly Hills brow pen because the NYX one I bought turns red throughout the day. $78
5 p.m. — I have done all the work I can manage for the day and I still need to go grocery shopping for the rest of the week. I go to Fred Meyer and pick up a ton of veggies, a jar of roasted red peppers, vegetable and chicken bouillon, canned jalapeños, rigatoni pasta, cooking wine, feta, shredded parmesan, eggs, butter, half and half, and Juanita's tortilla chips. I also grab beer and cider for the boys. I check out and Venmo request everyone for their part of the split. $156
6 p.m. — I'm making Mediterranean farro bowls with kale, cucumber, bell peppers, feta, olives, roasted chickpeas, and a red pepper dressing tonight. All of the roommates told me they hated kale, but they had been eating it raw with no treatment! I served it to them a few weeks ago after massaging it with olive oil, lemon juice and salt, and now they can't get enough of it. This meal is a house favorite, we eat it at least every other week.
8 p.m. — J. finally gets home and the four of us sit around the dining room chatting for a while. He still has some work to do, so my brother and I have a little jam session on the piano and I have a beer. Then I take a shower and braid my hair for bed. We put on Wednesday but start getting busy five minutes into the episode.
Daily Total: $327

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I am actually awake right now, trying to motivate myself to leave my warm bed cocoon. I have an acupuncture appointment at 10 and I want to get some work done before then because I have to go into the office after. I have to be in-person twice a week, which I don't love, but my job is pretty flexible with hours so I'm not too upset. J. already left for work so I make coffee for myself, blend a smoothie, feed the dog, then open my laptop and check Asana for due dates this week.
9:40 a.m. — Shit, my appointment is in 20 minutes. Throw on my uniform of high-waisted mom jeans and cropped sweater, and decide to wear some cute low heels with my long, camel-colored peacoat. No makeup, no time.
11:30 a.m. — I just started going to a new acupuncturist and I really like her. I have multiple sclerosis, which affects a lot of different things in my body, but the most noticeable symptoms are muscle cramping and headaches. I've been getting monthly massages for years (luckily covered by insurance) but a lot of my friends do acupuncture for a variety of things, so I'm giving it a shot. She gua shas my face, neck and shoulders and they feel so much better. My copay for the appointment is $15. $15
1 p.m. — I haven't eaten since my protein smoothie and I'm getting a headache. Lunch is a leftover farro bowl from last night and it still slaps.
4 p.m. — My ex texts me to tell me that our dog's flea medicine is going to be $300 and that she has an appointment coming up. I'm reminded that our pet insurance emailed me to let me know the rates went up. An update from my Money Diary two years ago: I came out as a bisexual woman, left my husband and moved to the city. We still share our dog (my friends find this arrangement insane) and he's still on my car insurance and a few other things, so we're in pretty regular communication. It's been just over a year since we split. Unfortunately, I'm no longer in contact with his mom, which was a pretty devastating blow. $150
6 p.m. — J. is making dinner tonight, French onion pasta. This is a new recipe and I'm excited to try it. Our roommate, V., comes out to hang out and talk to us while he caramelizes onions and I have a stout. After living alone for most of this year, I'm really glad to have a home with a family dynamic again.
8 p.m. — I'm stuffed. The pasta was delicious and now I'm ready to relax. I need to do laundry, though. All of us tend to want to wash clothes on the weekends so I try to do as much of mine on the weekdays as I can. I put in a load of towels and then J. and I get in bed to snuggle. We've been struggling to make intentional quality time for each other since he moved in, so tonight we just lie in bed and talk for a couple of hours before we fall asleep.
Daily Total: $165

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — It's Fridayyyyy! J. has another early day so he wakes me up to give me a kiss goodbye and he's out. He has a holiday party tonight so I won't see him until late. I call the dog to come get into bed with me and we snuggle for an hour while I check emails and plan my day.
8:30 a.m. — I don't have any meetings today so I'm working on the couch in my sweats. I make coffee and a smoothie and then do some social media housekeeping across all of our channels. I need to go to Costco at some point to get gifts for J.'s dad and brother since he will be working all week next week and won't have time, and I also want to get some secret stocking stuffers for everyone in the house. I'm going to try to go right after they open so there won't be so many people because crowded stores make me anxious.
9:30 a.m. — I truly cannot muster the desire to work so I pull up my Amazon cart and add a few things that I have been meaning to get. I want a game for us to play at the house on Christmas Eve, so I throw one called Bad People in the cart. Our whole house plus our auxiliary housemate is going to my mom's on Christmas morning, so we are all going to get together on Christmas Eve for dinner and drinks, and then open gifts from each other and play games and watch movies. Last year, I was alone on Christmas Eve after over a decade of spending it with my ex and his family. I'm really excited to have a new tradition! Our pantry cabinet is messy and I am getting real tired of digging around to find things, so I'm finally buying some slide-out cabinet organizers to install. Then I pull on some jeans and one of J.'s hoodies and ask V. if she wants to come to Costco with me (she also works from home). $107
11:30 a.m. — WHO ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE AT COSTCO AT 11 A.M.? We find a spot without too much of a kerfuffle but it is poppin' in this parking lot. They're out of the jackets J. wanted so I grab half a case of prosecco, some Ferrero Rocher for the stockings, a couple of chuck roasts so J. can make birria, two new pairs of sweats for him because he always wears mine, and some dried mango for the house. $130
12:30 p.m. — I stop at Lowe's to get a new toilet seat because my big booty boyfriend literally snapped ours in half with his magnificent dump truck. I get the most expensive one they have so hopefully we can avoid this in the future. $43
1:30 p.m. — Back at home, ready to pretend to work for another few hours. I'm eating some of the leftover French onion pasta for lunch and it's even better on the second day.
4 p.m. — J. calls to say he'll be home in 20 minutes and tells me to get ready so we can go out for happy hour. He decided to skip his holiday party and I'm so excited for us to have date night! I hop in the shower and tell my brother and V. to order out tonight.
5 p.m. — We go out to a newer Vietnamese place that J. saw on TikTok. We order some delicious egg rolls and two drinks and sit outside on the patio, even though it's cold as hell. J. pays.
6 p.m. — Next door, there's a Mexican place that also has great drinks and we want to snack a little more. Their patio has good heaters so we get some tequila drinks, a couple of tacos, and some chips and guac. We talk about our dream of opening a food cart and discuss different concepts that fit our cooking styles. The margarita is perfectly spicy and I want to keep the night going, so J. offers to drive to our favorite neighborhood spot so we can be close to the house. I love that the neighborhood we live in is so walkable. I pay for this round. $56
8 p.m. — We discovered this place a few weeks ago and I want to come here every weekend. It's got a dark, glowy vibe and there is no shortage of interesting cocktails. It's small and pretty busy, so we sit at the bar and talk over our first round of moody drinks. The last couple of weeks have been rough for us, we've both been really stressed with work and haven't been making a lot of time for each other, so it feels nice to get some alone time. We each get two drinks and I grab this one too. $63
9 p.m. — We stop by a brewery on the way home so I can get a four-pack of stouts. V. is watching TV when we get in, and we all watch the Disney classic Hercules. I have a salad and V. eats leftover pasta as the three of us discuss the liberties taken by Disney in recounting this classic Greek myth. After the movie, J. and I go to bed and get handsy before falling asleep. $24
Daily Total: $423

Day Five

9 a.m. — The heater kicked on at some point during the night and turned the whole basement into the ninth circle of hell. I text my brother to turn it off upstairs. By then, J. is awake too, so we snuggle and get cozy for a while. I have a tattoo appointment today so we jump in the shower and then clean up the bedroom and do some laundry.
11 a.m. — I make a smoothie and some coffee and then feed the dog. I'm seeing a new tattoo artist and she only takes cash, so I need to leave early to stop by the bank. She's someone J. knows so he's going to come to my appointment and hang out. We get there right on time and I settle in for the three-hour session.
3:30 p.m. — I am in love with my new tattoo! I got a portrait of my dog on my forearm and it's literally perfect. I'm so impressed by the line work, I will definitely come back to this artist. I already gave her a $50 deposit so the cost today is $350 and I give her a $75 tip. $425
4 p.m. — We need a couple of things for eggplant parmesan tonight so we stop by Fred Meyer on the way home. I get parmesan cheese, fresh sourdough from the bakery, a bunch of cheese and meat for charcuterie, crackers, more spring mix, cucumbers and tomatoes. I'll add to the list of things I will Venmo request everyone for next week. $60
7:45 p.m. — J. makes dinner tonight and it is excellent. I help by making the salad and try not to let it hurt my feelings that he is so much better at cooking than I am. The four of us sit at the table and have eggplant parm, garlic bread and salad, and talk about our plans for tomorrow. J., V. and I are going to drag brunch with our other bestie, Q., and then we're all meeting my brother's new girlfriend. Drag brunch often turns into an all-day event so I'm trying to set realistic expectations for J., who thinks he's going to make birria tacos after.
9 p.m. — I've forgotten to mention that I've been drinking prosecco all night, so I'm making my brother and J. teach me how to play Fortnite while we all talk shit and laugh. I drink one of my brother's ciders because he's always mooching my booze. I'm in bed by midnight and fall asleep almost instantly.
Daily Total: $485

Day Six

9 a.m. — Sunday Funday! We have to be quick this morning with the hanky panky because I need to shower and blow my hair out to look fierce for drag brunch. We are out the door by 10:15. We're running late so I decide to drive. I immediately regret this decision. I text my brother to ask him if he and his girlfriend can come get my car so we can Lyft home later. He is annoyed, but he knows I do so much to help him out, so he does.
11 a.m. — We get seated at a booth and wait for Q. to arrive. He gets there about five minutes after us and we all get our first round of mimosas. The cost of the tickets covered the first drink and our breakfast. I get $60 of $1 bills to tip the performers. The mimosas disappear quickly. Q. and I go up to the bar to get another round. He pays separately and I start a tab for me and my housemates. V. paid for the tickets so I will get her drinks today. J. and I kind of alternate who pays when we go out, but I am in a much better financial situation than he is so I tend to pay a little more often, especially when we're going out with my friends. We're all on our third (fourth?) drink by the time the show gets started, and J. is very enthusiastic about it. I love that he puts so much effort into doing things with my friends and me, and that they accepted him into our group so quickly and seamlessly. $185
2 p.m. — The show is over and we are all pretty drunk, but drag brunch Sundays are not complete without a trip to the gay bar after. We pile into a Lyft ($17) and take a quick ride to our favorite spot. Each of us gets one drink (Q. pays). J. is adamant that he is still making birria so the three of us get a Lyft ($19) to Fred Meyer and get a few groceries. My mental faculties are in the best condition of the group so I do the self-checkout and pay ($49). I'll add this to my Venmo request list. $85
4:30 p.m. — J. starts the cooking process. I sit down at the piano so my brother and I can sing a few numbers and impress his lady. Then I am ready for a nap.
7:30 p.m. — J.'s alarm goes off, which means the birria is done. Yum. We are still groggy and a little hungover from the day, but the tacos are so damn good. And there are so many leftovers, I am already looking forward to lunch tomorrow.
9 p.m. — I am stuffed full of tacos and I need to get some good sleep tonight. I snuggle J. and my dog for a few minutes and then pass out.
Daily Total: $270

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I'm sad that the weekend is over. I need to get some serious work done today so I can coast for the rest of the week. My acupuncturist texts me to let me know she had a cancellation today, so I am going in at 11:30 and I need to do as much as I can between now and then. After J. and I snuggle and get frisky for a while, I get up and feed the dogs and make a smoothie but skip the coffee because my stomach is a little iffy from yesterday's events.
10 a.m. — I have a meeting with a legislative consultant this afternoon to get her feedback on the plan I wrote for our organization's agenda. I need to make a bunch of edits so that it is as complete as possible before she sees it, so I dive in while eating some grapes and cottage cheese.
12:30 p.m. — I go to acupuncture and pay my copay then rush home to my meeting. $15
3 p.m. — I feel a lot more confident about my ability to do this job after that meeting. I got great feedback from everyone, I just need to make a few more edits before I submit the final draft to my boss. I take a break to go check the fridge and pantry for dinner ideas. Usually, we sit down as a house to make the menu for the week on Sundays but yesterday was a whirlwind, so we're a little behind. Generally, we only eat out on Saturdays and I spent a lot of money this weekend, so I am determined to make something with what we have. I snack on some flatbread crackers while I clean out the fridge and take inventory. J. texts me to tell me he's planning to make birria ramen with all the leftover broth and meat from last night. Swoon.
4 p.m. — J. gets home and isn't feeling well but insists on still making dinner. He discovers that we don't have enough ramen noodles so I offer to go get some. I head to Fred Meyer and grab noodles, raspberries, spicy water (LaCroix), and radishes to add to the top of the ramen. Most of this is just stuff that I wanted so I won't charge the house for this trip. Honestly, half the time I just forget to charge everyone for things. $14
7 p.m. — I could eat ramen every single day but birria ramen is next-level delicious. And there are still leftovers for tomorrow, yay. I need to get my gifts wrapped, Christmas is literally five days away and I want my office back. Instead, I watch four episodes of Buying Beverly Hills and lie in a cuddle puddle with the dogs and J. and eventually fall asleep.
Daily Total: $29
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