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A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $216,000 Joint Income

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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 community engagement consultant who has a joint income of $216,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on baby pajamas.
Occupation: Community engagement consultant
Industry: Consulting
Age: 34
Location: Seattle, WA
My Salary: $190,000 (projected net revenue)
My Partner’s Income: $26,000 in severance, $1,019 weekly unemployment benefits (my husband was recently laid off).
Net Worth: $512,529.68 (assets: $1.16million home, $84,181.09 in my savings account, $2,537.40 in my personal checking account, $11,724.62 in my joint checking account, $104,022.94 in investment accounts, $186,063.83 in retirement accounts. Debt: $960,000 remaining on the mortgage, $64,000 in a student loan I co-signed for my brother, $12,000 remaining on a car loan. I am married and my partner and I pay all bills and household expenses from our joint checking account. We each have personal checking accounts that we use to purchase our own clothes, items for our hobbies, et cetera, and my partner has his own savings, investment, and retirement accounts that I didn’t include here.)
Debt: $1,036,000 (mortgage, student loans, car loan)
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $8,000 (This is the net amount I transfer from my business bank account to my checking accounts.)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $5,814.89
Car Loan: $492.13
Daycare: $1,586
Retirement: $1,000 to a SEP IRA directly from my business bank account (I may pause this while my partner is unemployed and transfer it to checking instead).
Savings: $500 (I may pause this while my partner is unemployed.)
Electric: $50
Garbage/Water/Sewer: $150
Gas: $150
Internet: $75 (I deduct half as a business expense.)
Cell Phone: $57 (I deduct half as a business expense.)
Home/Auto Insurance: $170
Health Insurance: Previously fully covered by my partner’s employer; we have not chosen a new plan yet.
Streaming: $27
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?
For as long as a I can remember, my parents talked about going to college like it was just the thing everyone does. I am from Latin America, and my dad went to college in the United States, so I had always been interested in studying abroad. I attended an American university with a campus in my country and a program that allowed students to transfer to the university’s main campus in the United States with in-state tuition. My parents paid my tuition (~$3,000/semester). I lived at home for the first two years, and when I transferred for my junior year they sent me $800/month for living expenses. I got some scholarships to cover living expenses my senior year. I also got a master’s degree and I was a teaching assistant so my tuition was waived and I was paid a small salary, which I used to cover living expenses.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
The first conversation I remember having about money was when I was about five or six years old. My dad had made some comment about whether he should buy something or not, and I said he should just go to the bank to get money. He told me that the bank can run out of money, and it blew my little child brain. So, that’s when I started to learn that you need to work to earn money. My parents had a savings account for me and taught me the importance of saving. I didn’t learn about credit until I moved to the United States at 19 since things don’t work the same in my country, so that was a learning curve.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first paying job was a teaching assistantship in graduate school. I got it so I could afford graduate school. In my country, it is not common for teenagers to have jobs for spending money — if you are working as a teenager, it is because your family needs your income.
Did you worry about money growing up?
When I was a child, my family was fairly well-off. My parents owned their home and we took a vacation every year. I was not worried about money. Then, as a teenager my dad lost his business. My parents refinanced their mortgage and became a lot more cost-conscious. I didn’t feel worried about meeting our basic necessities, but I did feel worried about big expenses like college tuition.
Do you worry about money now?
I do worry about money now because my partner was laid off a few weeks ago. His salary was ~$180,000, and between the two of us we contributed $12,000 to our joint checking account each month. He was laid off two weeks after he went back to work from paternity leave, which I think is super shitty. We bought a new house two years ago that increased our monthly housing payment by over $2,000 and I worry whether that was the wrong choice. I quit my day job two years ago and started my own business, and while I make a lot more money now than I ever did, I feel the constant pressure to bring in new business now more than ever. Seeing the numbers in my savings and investment account does calm me down a little — we will weather this storm.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself when I was 21 and started graduate school. My financial safety net is my savings, and if things took a truly horrendous turn we could move in with my parents or my in-laws until we got back on our feet (not an option I’d love since it would mean moving away from Seattle).
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
A few years ago, a friend lived with my partner and me and paid us $800/month.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — I hear my seven-month-old baby, J., stirring awake on the monitor. I slowly wake up, too. It’s Sunday and we’re on a weekend trip to a nearby island. We take the ferry back to Seattle today. I get up, pick up the baby from her pack, and play in the other room, and sit in an armchair to nurse. My partner, B., tends to the dog and starts getting our stuff packed up to go. I feed the baby a bowl of baby oatmeal.
10:15 a.m. — We stop by a bakery on our way to the ferry for pastries and beverages. I get a chai latte for myself, a caramel latte for B., two gorgonzola chive scones, and one peach croissant to share. I also leave a tip. $39.64
10:45 a.m. — We make it to the ferry line 45 minutes ahead of our ferry departure, like we’re supposed to. We pre-paid for the ferry before our trip. I nurse the baby while we wait to get on the ferry.
12:30 p.m. — It’s a scenic ferry ride. This weekend trip was my holiday present from B. since I prefer experiences as gifts. We had fun hiking, trying out local restaurants and the only brewery on the island, and generally taking it slow. The ferry drops us off and we stop for gas ($25.01). The baby had fallen asleep again on the ferry ride, so we pull into a grocery store parking lot where I can nurse. B. buys himself an iced coffee at the store ($3.99). $29
2:30 p.m. — We’re home! I greet my two cats. We have a short Zoom call with J.’s paternal grandparents and then go take a walk around the neighborhood when she starts getting fussy.
5 p.m. — I wash my hair during the baby’s last nap of the day. After my shower, I start feeling lightheaded and realize that I haven’t eaten nearly enough today, especially because breastfeeding takes a lot of energy. I prepare myself a snack plate of cheese, salami, and Triscuits and finish up just in time to get the baby up from her nap and nurse again.
7 p.m. — We play with J. and feed her a jar of carrot puree. I start her bedtime routine, which consists of nursing, changing into her pajamas, reading a book, and singing a song. While I do that, B. starts making dinner. He makes a carrot, broccoli, cabbage, and onion stir fry, chicken coated in a glaze of his own invention, and rice. It’s just about ready by the time the baby’s asleep for the night, and I gobble up my plate.
9 p.m. — I’m taking a marketing course for consultants. It’s the sort of thing I’d love to fit within business hours, but so far I’ve only had time in the evenings. After working on it for 45 minutes or so, my partner and I watch TV together. We’ve been watching The Americans on Hulu; it’s taken us months but we're finally on the last few episodes.
11 p.m. — I pump while my partner gives the baby a bottle. We always give her a bottle right before we go to bed to help her sleep longer. My bedtime routine is: take off my contacts, brush my teeth, wash my face, and put my hair up in a pineapple bun. We’re in bed by 11:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $68.64

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — I hear the baby crying on the monitor. I go to her room, nurse her, and put her back in her crib. She’s back asleep before I even leave the room.
8 a.m. — J. is up for the day. I’m tired, so B. brings her to me to nurse in bed. After she’s eaten, he drives her to daycare and I stay in bed.
9 a.m. — Time to start the day. I’m determined to eat more filling meals than I did yesterday, so I put together toast with lox and cream cheese. Afterward, I log onto work. I started freelancing on the side in 2019 and in early 2022, I quit my day job to fully dedicate myself to my consulting business. My projects mainly focus on gathering community input for government agencies and nonprofits. I check my email and I see my least favorite type of message: My proposal was not selected for a project I applied to. I sulk back downstairs and tell B. about my misfortune. We’ve calculated that between his severance and unemployment benefits, he has five months to get a new job before we’d need to dip into our savings. Still, I feel a lot of pressure to keep up my business revenue. He’s about to go to the grocery store, so I ask him to get me a consolation baked good.
10:30 a.m. — Finish my first call of the day. B. gets back from the store. He got eggs, bacon, and vegetables to make with some other food we already have in the fridge, and an éclair to soothe my soul. $69.25
12 p.m. — It is time to pump. Then, I heat up two pupusas for lunch.
3 p.m. — Finish a client call and then have a call with another consultant. We’re preparing for a big project kick-off on Wednesday. After the calls, I review and sign the contract for the project. This project will bring in $53,000 between now and August.
4 p.m. — B. gets back from a doctor’s appointment. The doctor thinks he had a nasal polyp, which isn’t severe but would need to be surgically removed. It’s not the best news with our insurance coverage up in the air. We are thinking we will pay for COBRA next month, and spend that month researching other options and deciding whether it makes sense to stay on COBRA or switch. I leave to pick up the baby from daycare.
5:30 p.m. — Back home with J. I really like her daycare because it’s Spanish speaking (my first language), they provide food, and it was hundreds of dollars cheaper than any other option we looked at. She’s been going since November and seems pretty content there. Even though B. is not working at the moment, we’re keeping her in daycare because spots are hard to come by. I check her daily report, which says when she napped and ate. She is due for a nap, so I set her down for 30 minutes. I go back to my desk and deposit a $2,000 check that arrived in the mail to my business account.
7:30 p.m. — Baby is in bed and I do a quick core workout and my physical therapy exercises. After giving birth, I had a lot of wrist pain, apparently this can happen postpartum since pregnancy loosens your ligaments. After that, B. and I eat our dinner, leftovers from yesterday. I open a letter from our insurance telling me they denied my physical therapist’s request for more appointments. It doesn’t really matter since we’re not sure if we’re keeping this insurance, but I’m still annoyed that they don’t care that it still hurts to put weight on my wrist.
10 p.m. — Watch The Americans, eat my éclair, pump, and go to bed by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $69.25

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — The baby woke up at 4:30 a.m., but I stayed in bed while B. offered her a bottle. I get up and eat toast with cream cheese and lox.
9 a.m. — At my desk. B. goes out to pick up his allergy medication at Walgreens ($7.70). I have a couple of calls and then I work on a project while I pump. $7.70
12 p.m. — I eat pupusas again, this time I add some avocado spread. I pump after and B. tells me he’s making good progress on deep cleaning the basement. A couple of weeks ago we had some electrical work done and the whole house needed a really deep clean after because our house is old and our walls tested positive for lead paint that was disturbed during the electrical work. It was a huge ordeal and a huge expense, over $40,000 total. We paid half of it using proceeds from the sale of our previous home in 2022 and we each contributed $10,000 from our individual savings to cover it. We also paid a little over $4,200 to patch the holes left in the walls after the electrical work was done, which we were able to pay out of our joint checking account. I feel fortunate that we had the funds available, but it’s an inopportune time to spend that much money.
2 p.m. — I have a blissful meeting-free afternoon, so I finish my prep for the kick-off meeting and check some other major tasks off my list. I get an email notification about another proposal I recently sent. I brace myself and open the message… And this time it’s good news! I got the project! This contract is a little over $10,000. Being a small business owner is a rollercoaster.
4 p.m. — I stop working to hang out with B. and bask in the joy of being awarded a new contract. I bask for too long and miss my chance to pump before picking up the baby. I go get her and she falls asleep in the car. When this happens, I sit in the car with her for up to 30 minutes because she doesn’t do well transferring into the crib. I listen to music and deal with some emails.
8 p.m. — Baby is in bed and dinner is almost ready! B. is making spiced carrots, mashed potatoes, and burnt ends. I finish up the mashed potatoes while I vent about work. Another tasty meal. Afterwards, we relax and watch The Americans. I pump and eat the second and last éclair in the pack. In bed by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $7.70

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — Baby slept through the night. Hurray! I nurse and she’s off to daycare. Today is the Big Kick-Off Meeting, so I pick a nice outfit and do my makeup. When B. gets back, we make an omelet and bacon for breakfast. I pump while I eat.
9:30 a.m. — I’m out the door and heading to the bus. I pay the $2.75 fare on my pre-loaded ORCA card. I have it set up so it automatically refills if I get below $5. Looks like I still have over $40 on it. The meeting is at the office of the lead consulting firm on the project, which is right on the waterfront. We get lucky and see some whales from the window before the meeting starts.
12:30 p.m. — The meeting ends and I chat with the client and show her some pictures of my baby. I actually think clients take me more seriously now that I have a baby, like they think I’m a real adult now. Afterward, I head to lunch with the other community engagement consultant on the project. It’s our first time working together so it’s nice to get to know each other. I get a red curry with tofu. The other consultant pays since she works at a larger firm and can expense it. I could also charge it to my business account, but at this stage of my business the line between my business paying for something and me paying for it feels very thin. I take the bus back home.
2:30 p.m. — Back home and I pump immediately. I manage to get a little work done before leaving to pick up the baby.
4:45 p.m. — Back from picking up the baby. I did it early because I’m on two non-profit boards and today is the monthly Zoom meeting for one of them. I make myself a snack of cheese, crackers, and a peach fruit cup to have before the call. While I’m on the call, B. places an Amazon order for formula, bibs, and a new receiver for our TV. I try not to order from Amazon, but it can be hard to avoid for baby items. $97.88
8 p.m. — Baby is in bed and B. and I have leftovers from yesterday. I text a friend to confirm our plans for tomorrow. Every month, B. and I try to have at least one activity out on our own, and one date night without the baby. I go down to the basement (which is finally clean and usable!) to do an arms and shoulders workout and my physical therapy exercises.
10 p.m. — We watch the last episode of The Americans, and then I pump and go to bed by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $97.88

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — I wake up and at first I can’t tell if I hear J. getting up or a cat meowing. Turns out it’s both! I go downstairs to nurse and change the baby out of her pajamas. B. is still in bed, so I bring him the baby and proclaim that she is ready to head to daycare and I am ready to get back in bed for a little while.
9:30 a.m. — I allowed myself a lazy start to the day and finally get up. I head to a bakery to pick up morning drinks. I get a chai for myself and a caramel latte for B. as well as a pretzel and a cookie ($23.12 with tip). B. has bagels waiting for me when I get home. He got four everything bagels, one plain bagel for the baby, and two chocolate chip cookies ($24.05 with tip). We each eat an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox and put the other two in the freezer. $47.17
11 a.m. — It’s the first of the month, so I work on one of the most important tasks for a small business owner: invoices. I prepare and send them to my clients and then I update my financial reports. I invoiced $13,430, which is great because my monthly business expenses (including paying myself and contributing to my retirement account) are around $12,500. So I made a profit! Every month, I transfer $6,000 to my joint checking account with B., $2,000 to my personal checking account, and $1,000 to retirement. Twice a year, I assess my business finances and pay myself a bonus if I have a surplus. Today I just do the joint checking account transfer and I will do the others once some of the invoices get paid. At noon, I’m not hungry yet since I had a later breakfast, but I still take a break to pump.
1:45 p.m. — Break from work to eat two pupusas with avocado spread before I have to spend the next couple of hours on calls.
4 p.m. — I go pick up J. early again because I’m meeting up with my friend. I bring the baby home and pump.
5:45 p.m. — I drive to meet my friend and pay for parking ($9.98). All of my previous purchases have been through my joint checking account, but for this outing I pay with my personal credit card since it’s an activity just for me. I meet my friend at her apartment and we walk to a restaurant. $9.98
7:45 p.m. — It is lovely spending time with my friend. I get a glass of wine ($8.72 with tip), followed by a turmeric latte and a molasses cookie ($10.92 with tip). $19.64
8:30 p.m. — B. and I eat a dinner of-baked salmon with leftover mashed potatoes and carrots. I always feel good after spending time with a friend, but the tradeoff is that the baby is already asleep by the time I get home. I see I have an email with a bill from the hospital where I gave birth. I log in to my patient portal and it’s a $1,813 bill for inserting my IUD six months ago. Ughhhh. It says it was not submitted to insurance. I’ll have to call the billing number to find out why.
10 p.m. — We’re adrift with no show to watch tonight, so B. and I just chill on the couch together. Our baby just got her first tooth, so we look up baby dental health and B. orders some supplies from Amazon ($24.24) as well as some other house supplies ($72.22) The baby recently went up clothing sizes, and even though we have a generous stash of hand-me-downs from friends, we need some more pajamas for her. I buy some from Target ($43). The baby shopping feels endless. $139.46
Daily Total: $216.25

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — B. brings me the baby to nurse in bed and I keep sleeping after.
8:45 a.m. — I’m up and I have a slice of toast with cashew butter on it. Today will be an unconventional workday. I’m facilitating a half-day retreat tomorrow and we’re starting the day with a potluck. I am making empanadas, so today I’m buying ingredients and making them. I’m blending this work errand with a personal errand since we’re getting our friends together on Sunday for a first tooth celebration. In my country, it is traditional to make rice pudding and share it with friends and family when a baby gets their first tooth, so I’m also buying things I need for the celebration. I make a grocery list, and then I call my sister. She lives in Europe, so we always talk before noon my time. My parents are currently visiting her, so it turns into a whole family call.
11 a.m. — I’m at the grocery store. I get chicken, shortening, evaporated milk, tomato paste, and a bell pepper for the empanadas. I charge these items to my business account ($18.25 expensed). I feel a little silly for separating out just a few items, but I remind myself that it’s important to maintain a separation between my business and personal expenses.
11:15 a.m. — At the same store, I get rice pudding ingredients, a few cheeses and dips, pita chips, baby carrots, two cases of sparkling water, three bottles of champagne, orange juice (I was feeling mimosas as an adult beverage for the tooth celebration), and compostable plates/bowls for the celebration. I charge these to the joint checking account. $160.99
11:45 a.m. — On my way home, I stop for gas. I pay for gas with my personal account since I’m driving my own car. $33.05
12:30 p.m. — I pump while B. puts away the groceries. We’re having a lunch date today! Every couple of weeks, we go out together to breakfast, lunch, or early happy hour while the baby is at daycare. It’s a nice way to get some couple time without having to get a sitter. We go to a Tex-Mex restaurant. We share queso with grilled onions and peppers as an appetizer and we each get an enchilada for lunch. We also each get a cocktail because why not? $91.71
2:30 p.m. — Back home and the weather is feeling spring-like. I decide I’m just going to focus on preparing the supplies I need for the retreat tomorrow, and once I’m done with that I go out in the yard. I take my hammock out of the garage and enjoy half an hour of hammocking before I get too chilly (spring-like in the Pacific Northwest means mid 50s). I find sitting in the hammock so relaxing, it reminds me of my childhood. After, I make the empanada dough and filling before pumping.
5 p.m. — Pick up the baby at daycare and set her down for a short nap when I get home. I could work out, but I decide to take a nap instead. I try to do strength training three times a week, but if my body is telling me it needs more rest, I listen.
8 p.m. — The baby is in bed and we have chicken tikka masala, rice, and naan for dinner. Another remnant from last week’s Costco run. After dinner I assemble the empanadas, which is the most laborious part of the whole process. They're in the oven right before 10 p.m.
10 p.m. — The empanadas are ready and I split a trial one with B. It’s delicious! I’m always tweaking the recipe. B. suggests watching a show about garden makeovers — gardening is one of his main hobbies. I agree but I fall asleep while we watch. I usually get more tired as the week goes on. I begrudgingly pump before moving from couch to bed — I will not miss the pre-bedtime pump when I’m done nursing.
Daily Total: $285.75

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — I get up to get ready for the retreat and it’s earlier than I like to start the day. B. optimistically asks me to nurse the baby and put her back in the crib to see if she sleeps until 8 a.m. (she does not). I heat up the empanadas in the oven while I get dressed and get my other supplies together.
8 a.m. — I get to the community center where we’re having the retreat. I set up the room with the client and another consultant who is providing logistical support today. The retreat participants (a group of community partners) arrive 30 minutes later and we eat breakfast together. It’s a great potluck spread, there’s quiche, banana bread, breakfast burritos, yogurt, and fruit.
10 a.m. — We have a scheduled break. The community center staff points me to a private room where I can pump, which does not feel like much of a break but it has to be done.
12 p.m. — We wrap up the program and have lunch with the retreat participants. I catch up with the community partners during lunch, and once we’re done we all clean up the room together.
1:45 p.m. — Back home and the J. is napping. I’m tired from the early day and being on for facilitating, so I also take a nap.
3 p.m. — Baby and I are up and I nurse her. It’s another spring-like day and we take J. for a walk on a trail near our house. Then we go to a nearby taproom. We each get a beer, and B. gets fries ($28.63 with tip). On our way out, we grab a variety four-pack of 20 oz. beers ($21.39). $50.02
5:45 p.m. — Back at our house and we put the baby in her crib for a power nap.
8:30 p.m. — We have leftover chicken tikka masala for dinner. We’re going to a wedding on the East Coast in May, and we got the invitation in the mail today. We RSVP and look at the lodging options. We will be going for about a week and staying with my in-laws for most of it, but we want to stay closer to the wedding venue the night before the wedding and the night of the wedding. Two of the hotels recommended on the wedding website are fully booked, and the other one is over $300 a night. We look for Airbnbs in the area and end up booking one. B. texts one of his friends to see if he and his wife want to share the Airbnb with us, and it sounds like they’re interested. Savings and spending more time with friends! $238.83
10 p.m. — We decide to give Succession a try as a new show to watch. It fits our criteria for a show with a lot of episodes that has already ended its run. It’s not my type of show, but I’ll give it a chance and watch another episode. We go to bed at 11 p.m. and I’m excited for the baby’s first tooth party tomorrow!
Daily Total: $288.85
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