A Week In Washington State, On A $123,000 Income

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Today: a freelance writer and bookstore employee in Washington State who makes $33,500 per year and spends some of her money on Muji pens.
Occupation: Freelancer/Bookstore employee
Industry: Online/Retail
Age: 26
Location: Washington State
My salary: $33,500-$35,00 (estimated)
Husband's salary: ~$88,000
My Paycheck Amount (Bookstore paycheck: 2x month, Freelance paycheck: monthly): Bookstore: $220; Freelance: ~$2,700,
Husband's Paycheck: $3,340 (with deployment pay, usually $2,740)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (Rent $1,650 and utilities ~$80-150 for our two-bedroom house is covered by our $1,800 housing allowance)
Car Loan: $0 (Paid cash and share the one car)
Student Loans: $0 (Finished paying off my $28,000 loan six months ago; my husband, T., did ROTC)
House Cleaning: $210
Yard/Garbage Service: $150
Cable/Internet: $90
Work Subscriptions: ~$75 (Includes cloud storage, invoicing/tax programs, website hosting, etc)
Pet Insurance: $39
Online Therapy: $220
Phones: $120 (Four lines, we also pay for my mom and sister)
Patreon: $30
Netflix/HBO/Hulu: $0 (Mooch off my/T.'s parents)
Savings: ~$3,000-$6,000 (Currently we have ~$45k in liquid savings and ~$180k invested from a combo of T.'s bonuses and a small inheritance I received.)
Annual Expenses
Car insurance: $576 (works out to $48/month instead of $51/month)
Amazon Prime: $119

Day One

5:30 a.m. — Alarm shrieks at the usual wakeup time. My husband, T., wakes up at this time because he has to be in to work early, and I usually get up with him. Even though he has been deployed for the last few months, I've been trying to stick to the same routines to help ease the transitions. I let the pup out to zoom around the yard and water the grass while I make tea. She comes back in and plops herself at my feet while I scribble three pages of word vomit into my morning pages notebook and comb through email and social media.
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7 a.m. — We leash up for our morning constitutional. I listen to an episode of the Ask Me Another podcast and play along in my head as we walk around the neighborhood and watch the sky turn pretty colors. We end up walking by a bakery café (how did that happen?), and it smells so good that I can't help but pop in. I get a still-hot blueberry scone and a small cappuccino ($4.02). I pay with a $5 and leave the rest in the tip jar, The barista and I catch up for a bit while the rest of the early-bird regulars trickle in. I often come here to work whenever I start feeling cooped up at home, but I just got back from a week of visiting my sister at college, so I haven't been by in a bit. $5
8 a.m. — I make more tea to have something warm to sip on while I work. I only started freelance editing/writing full time a few months ago and the shift has definitely been an adjustment. Luckily, I was able to land two stable-ish editing clients, who take up the bulk of my time making invoicing and budgeting so much easier. The writing side is still...getting up to speed let's say. I spend two hours muddling my way through a long report for one of my clients.
10 a.m. — I decide I deserve a mid-morning break and make myself some coffee and avocado toast with tomato and olive oil. I let the pup into the yard, and we spend way too long playing before I make myself go back inside to be an adult.
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12:30 p.m. — Another two hours done for the same client, and I'm pretty much over this report. I jot down my hours and throw together some spaghetti with pesto and spinach for lunch while I answer emails for my other client. It's nice because they're two very different types of companies with two very different needs and styles of editing, so I get a nice brain workout when switching between the two.
1 p.m. — The best thing about freelancing is definitely being able to run errands while places are practically ghost towns. Since I was gone for a few days, the fridge is pitifully empty, so I head to Safeway and load up on spinach, carrots, red peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes, grapes, cabbage, avocados, eggs, cold cuts, sliced cheese, feta, bread, milk, chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, Sun Chips, and some ginger beers ($67.97). The gas tank is still fairly full, but I figure I might as well top it off while I'm here ($17.97). I don't drive too far or too often so this should last a while. I also swing by the library to drop off some books and pick up some new ones. $85.94
3 p.m. — Home and back in front of the computer with the Sun Chips already opened. I revise some pieces for my second client and send them back with the changes. The pup comes over to see what all the fun is about, but we both know she's just here to catch any crumbs. I spend the rest of the afternoon doing research and fleshing out an article I pitched.
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5:30 p.m. — I pull on leggings and an exercise top and head to the gym for pilates. No matter how hard I try I always seem to end up inhaling when I should exhale and vice versa. I guess I'll get the hang of it eventually?
7:30 p.m. — Put on an episode of Lexicon Valley while I cook a large batch of rice and coconut curry with chicken and veggies. I'm not one for old time-y show tunes, but John McWhorter is an expert at somehow making them relevant, and I ain't mad about it. Take the pup out for a quick evening walk around the block.
9 p.m. — I take a quick shower and get into some cozy PJs before writing what T. and I have dubbed the "deployment diary." All deployments are rough, but his are particularly tough because there's absolutely no communication while it's underway. Six months is a long time to go without knowing anything about what the other is thinking or feeling so to help us cope, each night T. and I write about our days and anecdotes in a notebook for the other to get in a mail drop or once the deployment is over. I know I would forget to regale him about all the funny little things the pup does or how I'm feeling on a given day without writing it all down. Bit of Instagram and out like a light by 10.
Daily Total: $90.94

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off, tea gets made, pup goes out, and morning pages get written. My pre-6 a.m. handwriting is definitely larger and messier than my post-6 a.m. handwriting.
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6:30 a.m. — We head out for our walk a little earlier than usual today because I'd like to get some writing done this morning. It's still dark out and not nearly as much fun without a mid-walk bakery pit stop, so I listen to some Pop Culture Happy Hour to lighten the mood.
10 a.m. — Spend some time working on my own creative writing projects before switching gears and start writing for money. Before I began freelancing, I was nowhere near this conscious of how much time I spent on any given task, but boy did I learn that lesson quick once the salary stopped and I had to start invoicing. I make coffee and some oatmeal with shredded coconut and Craisins. It's gloomy and drizzling out, so the pup and I play for a while inside.
11 a.m. — The doorbell rings, and it's a local florist. Each time before he leaves, T. orders flowers to be randomly delivered a few times throughout the deployment as a surprise. I tip the delivery guy $5 and put the arrangement front and center on the dining room table. I know absolutely nothing about flowers but they're gorgeous and the card is so sweet it makes me tear up a little. $5
12 p.m. — More words edited, more emails sent out. I get an email that a short story I submitted to a website's contest got selected! The prize is a $50 gift card, and it's definitely going to get put to good use. I triumphantly post a link to the story to the writing portfolio section of my website, which is growing slowly but surely. I've been eyeing this cute wooden jewelry tree on Etsy for a while, so I buy it for myself to celebrate before finishing the curry and rice for lunch. $32.98
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2 p.m. — I end up falling down a rabbit hole of Twitter, Longreads, and potential sites to pitch articles to. Now I just need to come up with ideas. The drizzling has semi-stopped and the pup and I go outside to jump in some puddles.
4 p.m. — On Tuesdays, I meet up with a writing group for happy hour and some "on the spot" writing. I order a Moscow mule, tip a dollar, and we sit down to write. I used to feel really self conscious about reading my just written ramblings in front of people for them to critique, but this has been a great way to get out of my own head and comfort zone. $8.50
6 p.m. — The group disbands, and I head across the street to the bookstore I work at on Fridays and Saturdays to meet up with a friend. She still has an hour left on her shift, but it's rainy and quiet and a grand total of one customer wanders in while we're there. I help her close up shop by bringing in the street signs while she does the till. Since she's coming over for a movie night, we strap her bike onto my car and head home.
7 p.m. — We throw a frozen pizza into the oven and open a couple of the ginger beers for dinner. The pup is happy to have a guest over because it means she's the center of attention (though I don't know when she's ever not the center of attention) and insists on sitting on my friend's lap the whole time. We decide to watch Roma on Netflix and are both blubbering messes by the end of it.
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9:30 p.m. — My friend heads home, and I let the pup out in the yard while I write in the deployment diary. Shower and reading before bed.
Daily Total: $46.48

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — I fell asleep later than planned because books will do that to you. Snooze the alarm and end up sleeping for another half hour.
6 a.m. — I wake up again and feel really sad. I'm writing about the potential reasons why in the morning pages (tea made, dog out) when Clue sends me a notification that "PMS is coming up." Thanks hormones, that explains so much.
7 a.m. — Another drizzly walk because this is Washington but this time I bring my laptop with me so I can do some work at the cafe. Based on this morning, I have a feeling that it's a good day to make myself get out of the house. I get a large latte and treat myself to a freshly baked cinnamon roll ($6.75). I pay with a $10 bill and leave the change in the tip jar. $10
9:30 a.m. — I spend way too long writing a very keyword-heavy blog post for a client. SEO is clearly not my forté. The pup and I pack up, and she gets pats from her adoring public.
11 a.m. — I put The Daily podcast on for background noise while I do some work and life admin and text with my therapist about today's jumbled up feelings. I started going to traditional therapy a few years ago during T.'s first deployment, but I've since found that online therapy works so much better for me. It's pricy and not covered under our insurance, but I feel like the ease of talking whenever I need to instead of waiting for a set session is worth its weight in gold.
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2:30 p.m. — I spend a few hours dealing with emails and busywork. I feel like I overthink pitch emails way too much and write a million drafts before I finally press send. I log things into their respective Excels because otherwise trying to keep track of everything would be a complete disaster. I make myself some sandwiches with a side of carrots and Sun Chips for lunch. Some requisite pup playtime. I consider trying to make her an Instagram star and fantasize about quitting everything to become her dog momager.
4 p.m. — Decide that nothing else productive is going to get done today. I change (from leggings to...other leggings) and head over to the gym. I'm one of those who can't be on a treadmill for longer than 10 minutes before getting bored, but I find a YouTube playlist with Motown music videos and it puts some pep in my incline walking. I finish with some stretches and feel much better. I stop at a gas station on the way home to get gum, a berry Naked Juice, and a few packets of emotional support Red Vines. $7.68
7 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon is spent reading and eating popcorn with Red Vines with House Hunters on in the background. I love to hate on HH (how much entertaining do you think you're REALLY going to do, Sharon?), but it's not as much fun when the pup's the only one around to hear. Dinner ends up being a graze-fest of more carrots, grapes, and trail mix. Shower, diary, some Instagram, and fall asleep at 10.
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Daily Total: $17.68

Day Four

5:30 — Alarm, tea, morning pages, email. The pup goes into the yard and comes right back in because it's cold and wet out there, and I don't blame her.
6:30 a.m. — It's raining again and neither the pup nor I feel like venturing out. I make coffee and toast with peanut butter and huckleberry jam and hunker down in front of the computer instead. I get an email saying that an article I pitched a week ago isn't what the website's looking for right now. Oh well, thank u, next.
10 a.m. — A few hours of editing and writing, but mostly reading personal essays and wishing I could write like that. It's stopped raining, so the pup and I leash up and head out before the sky changes its mind. I love the way things smell after it rains. The air smells so...green.
11:30 a.m. — I get an email from the family ombudsman that they're organizing a mail drop. Since we live far-ish from base, I decide it's easier to send her a package via priority mail than to drive over an hour each way to drop it off at her house. I find a box and fill it with some letters and knickknacks T.'s family has sent, a pair of socks that my grandma knit for him, and the deployment diary. I head over to Target to print off recent pictures of me, the pup, and some random ones of the house and around town. I get a box of the ginger tea he likes and peanut M&M's to send as well ($11.23). I missed the cut off for overnight delivery, but the ombudsman assures me that next day is fine ($14.35). $25.58
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1 p.m. — Since I'm already out of the house, I figure I might as well get some errands done. But first, coffee. I get a caramel brûlée latté and a cheese danish from Starbucks and immediately regret not getting a regular latté — this thing is way too sweet for my taste ($6.79). I stop by the hardware store to get lightbulbs, a power strip, Draino, and grout sealer ($17.94). I also stop at the vet to get a flea and tick collar and the pup's special food ($60.10). Who knew dogs could be allergic to chicken protein? $84.83
3 p.m. — At home and don't feel like eating anything I have until I find a forgotten Trader Joe's chicken burrito bowl in the freezer from the last time we made a pilgrimage to TJ's. I alternate between answering emails and filling up a Muji shopping cart. I know it's kind of ridiculous, but I love their notebooks and refuse to write in anything else. I stock up on stationery and pens and add lint roller refills in for good measure. If there's anything the pup and I have in common, it's how much hair we shed. $20.24
4 p.m. — The ombudsman has been busy today. I get another email from her, this time to let family members know that in two weeks there will be two days of R&R (rest and relaxation? I'm horrible with all these acronyms) in a European city, in case we were interested in going. I look up tickets and decide to make it a five day trip to have some extra time to explore. I'm able to use some credit card points, but even so the price makes my eyes water. I remind myself that these trips are part of the reason why we keep so much in savings. Plus, after four months of not seeing each other and very minimal communication, two days of getting to know a new city with T. will be priceless. $1,329
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6:30 p.m. — After a few hours of work and Googling hotels, I take the pup for a quick lap around the block and hop in the shower before a friend and her husband pick me up for our traditional Thursday trivia night. I get a pint of German-style ale ($6.60) and tip a dollar. $7.60
9:00 p.m. — My friend's husband and I split a plate of smoked salmon and crackers, and I get two more ales. Our team ends up coming in seventh out of ten but we don't mind. This week was really sports heavy and none of us had any idea about World Series winners or their batting averages. My friend's husband pays and refuses to let me pay my share, so I say I'll get next week's tab. Since she's pregnant, my friend good natured-ly refers to herself as our begrudging designated driver. At home, I let the pup out and we play for a bit before writing in the diary and falling asleep to an Australian baking show on Netflix.
Daily Total: $1,468.25

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — The wakeup just isn't happening today. Snooze and fall back asleep for another hour.
6:30 a.m. — On Fridays and Saturdays I do the opening shift at the bookstore, so I quickly go through my morning routine to be able to put a few hours of writing in beforehand. The pup and I take a lap around the block.
9 a.m. — I make a large egg-and-spinach wrap to help keep hunger at bay and head over to the bookstore. I only work a five-hour shift twice a week, but after I quit my job to freelance full time, it has been great way to get out of the house and have a designated time to interact with other humans. As an added bonus, the store itself is really cute, and it always makes me feel like I'm in a west coast version of Stars Hollow.
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11:30 a.m. — There's a kid's story time on Friday mornings so after opening, I spend the first few hours setting up chairs and arranging the books. We also provide coffee for the adults who come to story time, and I grab some for myself. By the looks on some of their faces, I can tell they wish they had something a little stronger to help get through the 500th reading of Where The Wild Things Are.
2:30 p.m. — I close out of my shift and get a copy of The Cruel Prince to send to T.'s kid sister. Her birthday is coming up, and I know she used to really like The Spiderwick Chronicles, so hopefully she'll like this. It comes out to $10.79 with my 15% discount. Head home and have some rotisserie chicken and rice with furikake and soy sauce for lunch. $10.79
3:30 p.m. — T.'s paycheck lands in our joint checking account. Semi-last minute trips to exotic foreign military bases aside, we're not huge spenders, so this paycheck usually gets immediately sent to savings. This month though, I'll use it to pay for the upcoming trip. We run almost all purchases through a few credit cards to reap the sweet, sweet points, and pay them off in full every month. I spend some time looking up things to do in the area and get excited at the thought of seeing T. again, even if it's only for a few days.
4:30 p.m. — The cleaning service comes twice a month and isn't scheduled to come until next week, but I have a friend from home coming to visit tomorrow, so I put on some Aretha Franklin (because she is nothing if not a great motivator) and start Getting Stuff Done. I set the Roomba on its merry way and while the pup tries to make friends with the invader, I run the dishwasher, throw a load of laundry in, and put fresh sheets and towels in the guest room.
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6 p.m. — I head to pilates and stop by Safeway on the way home to pick up breakfast items, popcorn, olives, noodles, snow peas, and spinach. $17.98
8 p.m. — I listen to an episode of Hidden Brain while making snow pea noodle stir fry. The pup and I play for a bit before taking our evening constitutional, and when we get back it's time for a shower, diary, and a little light Instagram scrolling before bed.
Daily Total: $28.77

Day Six

5:30 a.m. — I always sleep really well after pilates (maybe it's a sign I should do it more often?), so I get up when the alarm goes off. I make some coffee and toast with butter and cinnamon sugar and let the pup out while I do the morning pages and get some creative writing in before heading to the bookstore.
10:30 a.m. — Saturday mornings at the bookstore are always popping because of the farmer's market and all of the nearby brunch spots. My friend is driving up from Portland, and she texts to say that she's about an hour away.
12 p.m. — My friend stops by the store to get the house keys. She's going to hang out with the pup until I finish my shift. I'm so happy to see her!
2:30 p.m. — I close out my shift and head home. My friend and I are both starving so we decide to get a late brunch (I guess by now it's more like a linner?) and walk around town. Places here are pretty dog-friendly, so the pup comes along on the adventure. We head to a diner, and I get a chorizo breakfast burrito and an iced tea and she gets pulled pork and biscuits. I insist on paying because she drove all the way up here ($36.45, including tip). We wander around town and go into a few stores. She ends up getting a scarf at one of the boutiques, and I get a small handmade ceramic ring plate to go with the jewelry tree I got on Etsy ($7.39). $43.84
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6 p.m. — Back at home we open up a bottle of wine she brought and make popcorn to settle in for a good, long catch up session. We haven't seen each other in a while, and she was recently diagnosed with a chronic condition so we cover everything from her lifestyle changes to the plans T. and I have post-military. We end up spending a while looking at dresses for the wedding reception T. and I are planning for next summer in our hometown. We got married "on paper" three years ago for the practical and financial benefits, but wanted to wait for his contract to finish before officially celebrating.
9 p.m. — She offers to take the pup out while I shower and quickly write in the diary. We fall asleep on the couch watching random episodes of Parks and Rec.
Daily Total: $43.84

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I've slept in, but I know my friend won't be up for a while. I make some coffee and toast to have while I do some writing and play freelance admin catch up. This stuff is never ending. It has been a very steep learning curve, especially learning how to set appropriate rates and stick to them (hi, no I won't work for free), but I'm grateful for the privilege of being able to work on projects I'm genuinely interested in. Being able to do it from home and having the pup as a coworker is just an added perk.
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9:30 a.m. — My friend is up, and I make us some oatmeal and scrambled eggs for breakfast. The weather is great today (shocker), so we decide to go for a walk along one of the dog-friendly beaches. Even though it isn't raining, it's still chilly so on the way we stop and get some coffee to-go to warm our hands. I pay. $6
3 p.m. — After the beach we go for another walk around town. My friend gets a jar of huckleberry jam to take back with her, and I decide to get one, too ($4.30). We get lunch at a sidewalk café and split the bill. I get lentil soup with crusty bread and a side salad ($15.31). $19.61
5:30 p.m. — We head home, and my friend gets ready to drive back to Portland. It was so nice having her visit. We don't talk all that regularly, but whenever we see each other it's as if only hours had passed since the last time instead of months. When she leaves, I spend the rest of the afternoon tidying up and thinking about what to cook next week. I make some black bean and spinach quesadillas for dinner.
8 p.m. — I slather my hair in a coconut mask and figure that while I'm at it, I might as well do a charcoal face mask, too. I book a haircut and eyebrow thread for next week and spend some more time looking up places to eat at for the upcoming trip. I don't like planning trips down to the last detail, but I have a lot of fun pinning places onto Google Maps to use as a reference. Cute coffee shops? Yes, please. The pup goes out, I take a shower, the diary gets written, and lights go out at 10.
Daily Total: $25.61
Editor's Note: This Money Diary has been updated to reflect the OP's spending for the week.
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