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A Week In Portland, OR On A $98,300, Salary

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

This week: a front office manager who makes $98,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a donation to her cousin’s leukemia GoFundMe.
Occupation: Front office manager
Industry: Education
Age: 39
Location: Portland, OR
Salary: $98,300, plus monthly variable side hustle checks (estimated average: $300).
Assets: HYSA: $20,996; savings: $10,735; checking: ~$11,000; estimated condo value: $230,000; Roth IRA: $56,306; retirement account for public employees: $37,495; estimated car value: $1,675
Debt: $149,808 balance on mortgage
Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,350
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $1,564.36. The breakdown is: monthly mortgage payment: $1,000 ($856 loan payment/$144 to principal); HOA dues: $564.36. I live alone.
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses
Payday Savings Transfer: $1,029.17 ($475 deposited biweekly/26 times annually, averaged out to monthly); $200 of that monthly amount is set up to automatically transfer from my traditional savings account to my HYSA.
Recurring Donations: $26
Hulu: $17.99
Apple iCloud: $2.99
Apple+ MLS Pass: $17.42 (average)
Planet Fitness: $13.25 (monthly fee + annual fee averaged)
HBO Max: $15.99
Internet: $101
Pet Health Plans: $89.90
Spotify: $11.99
Kindle Unlimited: $13.03
Pet Meds: $75
Phone: $68.01
Walmart+: $8.16 (annual fee averaged)
Electrical Bill: $109 (averaged)
Home & Auto insurance: $103.42 (paid annually to get a discount, averaged out)
Roth IRA Contribution: $583 (average)
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 parents expected us to attend higher education, but seemed pretty naïve about how to pay for it. I started community college with maybe $1,500 in savings towards tuition, so that didn’t go far. My mother has an AA, and my father completed some college while in the military, but neither has a four-year degree, and they enrolled when the circumstances surrounding college expenses were much different, so I just think they didn’t know what I was getting into. They helped with tuition when I was in community college, and then with books when I was at a four-year, and the loans took care of the rest. My path through college was pretty aimless, including two failed graduate programs, so even though I was in-state and lived at home for the majority of it, I amassed some hefty debt. I also didn’t know how to manage the debt once I had it, including keeping my payments in full when I experienced a period of unemployment, until a friend educated me on things like income-based repayment and forbearance. I took care of my debt in full when I refinanced my first home (or, rather, turned that debt into something much easier to swallow), and then a few years later I completed an MBA in an affordable program that I paid for entirely out of pocket. My parents gifted me $1,000 toward a computer for my program, since they were really excited that I finally had focus nearly 20 years after graduating high school.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Money was a central focus, bordering on an obsession, with my family. We were always financially secure, and we never wanted for any necessities, but my parents were stingy when it came to any quality of life spending. No real fun back-to-school outfit purchases, going on vacation but staying somewhere with a kitchen so we could cook all of our meals, and so on. I think my mom got me one tube of concealer when I started middle school, and then I was on the hook for any other makeup I wanted. The money moves they made at the time led to extreme financial security and have benefited me greatly as an adult, but we scrimped, saved, and ate from the scratch-and-dent aisle for so long I thought we may have been legitimately poor, and then when I realized that we weren’t — they were just choosing not to let us have the fun and the clothes and packaged snacks that all other kids had. I got extremely resentful and felt like my parents maybe just shouldn’t have had kids if they didn’t want us to have a good time. I have a better perspective on it now, but I still think they could have loosened the grip a little bit and let us have a more normal childhood — let us fit in better with our peers when we started at new schools, and so on. This restriction led to a pretty severe shopping addiction and binge-eating disorder when I finally had money of my own, so there was a cost to their thriftiness, even if they are generous with their wealth now.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was 15 and I worked at a grocery store in the neighborhood. I got it because my parents provided minimal allowance, and I was also pressured by my family to teach me some responsibility since I was kind of a flighty, forgetful kid (thanks to undiagnosed ADHD).
Did you worry about money growing up?
My parents’ emphasis on money made me worry about it in a way that I don’t think was necessary. I worried about money as a concept, but not as a practical concern. When we would go to restaurants, I always ordered the least expensive thing on the menu that looked palatable, because I had a legitimate worry that if I was greedy with a “treat” I would get a lecture. As an adult, I do recognize what they were doing was trying to teach restraint and prudence, but they did so in a way that didn’t really translate to a developing brain. Perhaps it’s my particular mind that got affected this strongly, but the way they treated money really did a number on me.
Do you worry about money now?
Conceptually, yes, but as a practical concern, once again, no. I’m always afraid of getting fired, even when everything goes perfectly at work, so it’s turned me into a little bit of a hoarder with my money. I am trying to focus on the enjoyable objectives, like saving for a good retirement, but I also want the financial security to insulate me from harm if I do lose my job, so having a year or two of income on hand is one of my more immediate (unnecessary) goals. I’m sure my unnecessary anxiety around money can be traced back to childhood — what a shocker.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out of my parents’ home when I was 26, which was later than most folks, but there was no pressure to leave from them, so I had a great time living as a baby adult with basic needs met. I now know that my parents would help me out in the event of a true emergency. I have so far been able to rely on my own savings, which I have had to call upon for things such as emergency medical expenses last year.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. When my grandmother passed away, she gave me and my brother $20,000 each, which I nearly exhausted on student loans, including making a lump payment of $10,000 that I thought would lower my monthly bill (it did not). My parents are also getting returns on a lot of the investments they made when we were kids, and they don’t have grandkids, so I think they’re in a “well, we can’t take it with us” mindset at the moment. Roughly once a year, we’re each gifted some cash. I super appreciate it, and last year I put it toward my Roth IRA. I think we’ve averaged getting about $1,500 a year for the past six or so years. However, since I don’t need them to do this, I kind of wish they’d been a little more generous when we weren’t able to provide for ourselves, and lived it up a little more in our youth. My brother and I are also set to inherit several rental properties, their primary home, and all of their other assets, which will hopefully be something that happens very, very far in the future.

Day One

5:15 a.m. — I wake up a couple of moments before my alarm, which always bugs me since I neither get the satisfaction of being able to go back to sleep, or the knowledge that I got to soak up every last second of sleep. I spend the first few minutes that I’m awake listening to my sleep recordings to see how my snoring was (very light, but present — my nose is stuffed up a lot from the pollen lately), and whether I have sleep apnea. I’ve been recording several nights and never once had an episode, so that’s reassuring. I’m in a free trial for this app, but I probably will cancel it since I’m not talking during my sleep or making any other interesting noises. I putter, get ready for work, eat some leftover pasta, and get out the door on time-ish.
8 a.m. — I drive to work today, which I’m really trying not to do since I have a bus pass, and the permit fees are starting to add up ($6). I drink a can of Diet Mtn Dew Baja Blast (kind of gross) on the way, since I didn’t have time to make coffee. When I get to work, I make a mug with the employer-provided Keurig and have half a bottle of a vegan chocolate protein drink. I get a reminder text that one of my cats has a dental cleaning on Friday and he won’t be able to eat for about 12 hours beforehand. $6
10 a.m. — I have another mug of coffee with the protein drink, some crackers, and a Larabar (I am ridiculously hungry today for some reason). I also remember I have a prescription refill I need to get, and since I’m at work I’m closer to my pharmacy today, so I go online to order my refill, hoping it’ll be ready in time for me to grab on my way home.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch. I heat up a freezer meal from home — tofu and veggies in BBQ sauce over baked potatoes. I guess I didn’t cook the potatoes well enough when I made these meals because I have to zap it for ages. I hate food smells, and I hate doing this in an office where everyone is affected, but everyone else does it, too. I contemplate grabbing some ingredients to make things that don’t announce themselves so much in this shared space.
4 p.m. — It’s a slow afternoon where I snack too much, but I can wrap up and leave basically whenever I want, so I decide to head out. The pharmacy texted me earlier that my prescription is ready, which means I can get it today on my way home ($4.13). This would mean I wouldn’t necessarily have to drive on Wednesday, but then one of my employees informs me that the lunch order we placed for a leadership meeting is outside the restaurant’s delivery zone, so we’ll need to run across town to get it. Every time I think about it, I make a “Jim Halpert looking at the camera” face — this was information we could have found out before we committed to this restaurant! $4.13
7 p.m. — I stopped for groceries on the way home, and got a lot of meatless protein since there was marked-down tofu, and deals on Beyond and Quorn. Some salad and some vegan cheese rounded out the trip. I mostly stopped because I wanted the Beyond fake beef tips to make something like Ram-Don from Parasite for dinner, except I use two different spicy ramens and add peanut butter. It’s pretty good (especially with some beer). Brownie for dessert, watching Girls5eva and a little reading all round out the evening, and I’m in bed around 10 p.m. $72.53
Daily Total: $82.66

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up way before my alarm, and I’d been tossing and turning a while before that, too. I have a headache, my nose is plugged up (thanks, pollen), and my sleep app tells me I’ve snored a lot. That’s fine, it’s just a relief to know I am not having sleep apnea. I laze about for a bit before I get up to make coffee and an omelet for breakfast, and log into work on time but in my bathrobe. I’ll sneak away between off-camera meetings and use a break for a shower. I’m salaried, but I come from years and years of hourly work, so I still do the “eight hours at my desk, breaks no longer than 15 minutes, answer messages during my lunch” type of thing even though I absolutely don’t have to and none of the other managers in my department would do that. Deprogramming these habits will take a while, but perhaps “showing up” for work in pajamas is my first real rebellion.
11 a.m. — I eat an early lunch: a freezer meal that I needed to clear out since I have to make room for more ice, and a lot of produce from the garden before too long. I have a phone call with my Edward Jones office, who manage my Roth IRA. The conversation usually entails “max out my contribution and then stay the course until I’m 75,” but sometimes we switch up how risk averse I am with how they manage the money based on their own assessments of markets and stuff I cannot be bothered to learn myself. We make a small edit on the investment strategy, and I get the total dollar amount I have left to max out my contributions, and the call is done in about 10 minutes.
5 p.m. — I eat a very early dinner, in part because lunch was so early, and in part because I have to go to bed early to get up early to work on site tomorrow. It’s the same sort of ramen thing as last night, but I make it into soup rather than noodles with sauce, and it’s so much soup, I can’t believe I finish it all.
8 p.m. — After my stomach settles, I go clean my car out so my employee remains under the impression that I have my life somewhat under control. My new-ish Homeika cordless vacuum does an amazing job, and the handheld cordless Bissell I have will probably be put on Buy Nothing. The work is messy, so I take a body shower after I get done and wind down for bed. I’m asleep before 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

5:45 a.m. — I slept horribly last night, but my sleep trackers all say I got over seven hours, so I’m not sure what’s true anymore. I let myself sleep in a little later than normal for working on site, which means getting ready is a whirlwind, but I make it out the door on time, albeit with my breakfast joining me in the car (reheated freezer chili with an egg scrambled into it, plus a Diet Baja Blast, still kind of gross, but better when paired with spicy food). I eat at red lights, and finish before I have to get on the interstate. I make it to the office on time, only to find basically no one here who I was expecting, so I probably could have taken my time, but oh well. I pay for parking as soon as I get in the lot since I forgot to reserve last night, but thankfully there are still passes available. $6
10 a.m. — I get a headache, which has been happening sort of a lot this week. I don’t get them as much as I used to in an old job, but I’m exposed to more sunlight lately which might be doing it. I have Advil, Tylenol, and crackers in my desk, and I have a second Diet Baja Blast (I don’t feel like coffee today) to get the caffeine in my system and keep me from getting too hungry before lunch. My employee and I hit the road to the other side of town, pick up the pre-paid lunch order, and head back well before the meeting begins.
12 p.m. — Lunch during the leadership meeting is Vietnamese. My order is cơm bì chả chay (rice and tofu and veggies), and I make a mug of ginger turmeric tea since I forgot a water bottle today. It’s a lot of food, so I don’t finish it all during the meeting, but I have something to pick at for the afternoon. When I get back to my desk, my supervisor from my side gig and I coordinate a few things for our end-of-the-year party (we work with students) later this week, including making some paper plate awards and a snack shopping list. I’ll need to stop at a store for chips and seltzer soon.
4 p.m. — I drive home from work to finish out the day and beat traffic, and decide to do my grocery store stop for the student party today since I don’t think I want to leave the house tomorrow. I stop at WalMart and get a few cases of seltzer, a few bags of chips, and two energy drinks for myself since I feel absolutely exhausted this week (I think I’m getting my period soon). I have to talk myself out of the urge to do a larger grocery shop, since I’m supposed to be using up the fresh food that I have, and then start chipping away at my freezer meals. I go home and immediately put on pajamas and lounge in bed for a couple of hours watching TikTok, which is atypical for me. $29.94
7 p.m. — Dinner is a freezer lentil soup I already thawed so I have to eat it. I add some fake chicken, and have a side salad that I doctor with almonds and cranberries. I am really starting to feel even more tired and emotional, but I bribe myself into cleaning the kitchen by singing along to Taylor Swift (while maybe crying a little) and lighting a new candle. I’m in bed by 10 p.m., even though tomorrow isn’t an early day, because I am just that wiped.
Daily Total: $35.94

Day Four

6 a.m. — I wake up well before my alarm after a couple of periods awake overnight, including around 2 a.m. when I had a dream about being terminated from my job (work in is a budget cycle, including budget cuts). I spend a good part of my awake time going through my mental list of things I need to cancel when I do “inevitably” lose my job unexpectedly. Once awake, I make an omelet, a giant mug of coffee, and think about what planned purchases I have which I can maybe hold off on a bit longer (such as a new Kindle, since the old Fire I have will no longer be able to update sufficiently to support Libby, where I read free library books). I intend to spend part of my day recalculating my monthly “keep the lights on” expenses (I am more than fine, I wish my amygdala would shut up).
8:30 a.m. — I get an email from my physical therapist’s office, which I haven’t been to in a couple of months, with another bill for the treatment I received after an injury. I brace myself for a pretty substantial amount, even though I think I might be approaching my out-of-pocket max for the year (I do not understand how insurance works but that’s what I gathered, reading through my last EOB), and thankfully when I pull up the billing portal, I only owe $29. I see from the note it’s not from my final visit with the office, and there are three more visits I should be billed for (unless I have met my maximum? I need to make a friend who does health insurance so they can explain this to me). I’ve paid a few other bills from this office which were all in the several hundred dollars range, so the relief of this smaller amount means I pay it immediately. I make a mental note to also factor unexpected medical costs into my emergency fund. Today is going to be an anxious day. $29
12 p.m. — I eat lunch (salad with some fake meat added) with my camera off during a noon meeting, and I’m a little more alert today since I just finished an energy drink. Today consists of hours and hours of meetings back to back and I’m sick of talking.
3 p.m. — I’m finally done with all my meetings, and since I didn’t take any real breaks today, I slowly wind down from work and start transitioning to the paper plate awards to make for my students. I also get another bill notification from physical therapy for my final visit, leaving two visits between the ones I got bills for today for which I haven’t paid, I think. It’s the same amount, so I just take care of it, too, or else I’ll likely forget. $29
6 p.m. — It’s a rainy, stormy day, so dinner is sheet-pan roasted veggies, baked marinated tofu, and mashed potatoes. I finish up some odds and ends around the house, including taking my cat’s food away overnight in anticipation of the dental cleaning tomorrow, and while I try to distract them from their lack of dry food with a few treats before the cutoff time, I eat some candy (which I don’t normally do; it is pretty gross) while scrolling TikTok. I’m asleep around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $58

Day Five

5 a.m. — I’m up even earlier than my alarm today, which was already kind of early, and I’m so annoyed. This is just a horrible week of sleep. I have coffee, an omelet with mashed potatoes, and quickly shower before dragging a very unhappy and hungry cat across town for their dental cleaning. I had to arrange with my mom for how we’ll do pickup today because I might not be able to do it and the student event tonight, depending on when the vet gets done, but she and I trade pet care so she’s willing to do me a favor today if I need one as I’ll be watching her house and pet in about a month when she goes out of town. I log into work early because everything is early today, and I’m basically dead on my feet.
10:30 a.m. — I have a meeting with my boss, who confirmed that I have no reason to worry about my employment during this budget planning cycle, so I feel confident enough to proceed with getting a new Kindle (I read well over 100 books a year but buy zero, so I’m still going to come out a winner, girl math-wise), but am stuck between getting exactly what I want, and getting the most affordable option (which would be ad-supported on the lock-screen). As I go through the payment screen with the ad-supported Amazon Warehouse option, it looks like I have a good deal of credit card rewards ($35.10) to apply toward the purchase, so I contemplate paying full price for the same thing without lock screen ads, but the difference in price is over $60. The grand total for everything is $84.28 before I apply my rewards. $49.18
11:30 a.m. — My period arrives, so I decide to eat some pasta (from my freezer stash). I’m also hyped up on caffeine from an energy drink, and without the meeting workload like yesterday, I’m overall feeling pretty good, and getting some tidying done in between tasks I’m wrapping up. I have a few Oreos, too, since I’m bleeding and everything.
3 p.m. — The vet calls and I can go get my cat. We’re looking at a future visit where some teeth get pulled, but not today, thankfully. He comes out of anesthesia well, if a little disoriented and loud. Since he was under, at drop off earlier I agreed to a pedicure so they can get the claws on his hind feet, which are super sharp, and he won’t let me cut them. I normally do his front paws just fine, but this is out of the ordinary. All the other costs are covered by my monthly wellness plan. I pay when I pick him up. $19.83
7 p.m. — On the way home from the student celebration (where I had some snacks), I unclench a little further from this week’s financial anxiety and stop by Trader Joe’s for some things to have over the weekend, and to make some less pungent lunches for my two days on site next week. I get a bottle of wine, stuff to make pasta and some salads, and a few other random groceries ($50.34) , and then some of their candles and candle sets, since I always like to have a new one around the house, and a few on hand for last-minute gifts ($17.97). I get home and I’m not super hungry, so I heat up a vegan kimbap from the TJ’s freezer section (it’s good!) and have a couple glasses of red wine. I’m reevaluating my relationship to alcohol (e.g. just drinking less entirely), but the wine is nice to savor and I can feel myself unwind a little bit after how hectic (and painful) the day has been. I’m asleep by 11 p.m. $68.31
Daily Total: $137.32

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I sleep in, which feels amazing, but I’m in a lot of menstrual pain, and historically, the second day of my period is my worst, so I throw out any structure and rules, and make a pot of spaghetti, of which I consume a giant portion while drinking coffee and watching 3 Body Problem, which I started last night.
12 p.m. — More pasta, then I take a quick shower before getting on Zoom to work on a creative project with an old colleague. We collaborate roughly monthly now on a passion project, but the hope is to eventually get some sort of sponsorship or a Patreon going. We are online for a couple of hours, then I get ready to leave the house to go see my niece’s soccer game.
4 p.m. — I have a bowl of protein oatmeal before leaving the house, since I’m ravenous today, and I check Facebook, which is when I see that my younger cousin has just been diagnosed with leukemia. After I drive and park, I text my parents to make sure they saw, and then my dad calls me to discuss the GoFundMe, as well as our plans for Mother’s Day. While my niece is on the field, I donate $100 to the campaign my cousin’s mother put together. I’m pretty distracted, since cancer has become something hitting my family with increasing frequency over the last year. $100
8 p.m. — After getting home, I’m not especially hungry, so I putter, watch more 3 Body Problem, and then eventually heat up some leftovers from the tofu and veggie meal I had on Thursday, along with a couple more glasses of wine that I nurse over the evening. I wanted to get some housework done, which I normally do on Fridays, but with the errands and the student event, I didn’t make it this time. However, I am so drained from my period that I can’t compel myself to do much other than get ready for bed properly, which I do, and I’m asleep a little after 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $100

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I wake up too early, but I do feel more energetic than yesterday, so after breakfast (more pasta, plus a mug of black tea since I don’t feel like dealing with my coffee maker), I get the kitchen cleaned up and plot what I need to do to get ready for the week. Since I don’t need to leave the house today, I also want to enjoy some of my normal weekend activities, and while the dishwasher is running I start a new book in a fantasy series I’m working through on Kindle Unlimited.
1 p.m. — After a lunch of Trader Joe’s scallion pancakes filled with mock meat and spicy mayo (the period cravings really are something else this weekend), I strip the bed, take a shower, and run a load of laundry. I also run my RoboVac (I got a new one off TikTok shop a few weeks ago, and I like it, but it keeps getting stuck under furniture so I duct taped cut-up pool noodles on top of it to act as bumpers), plan my outfit for tomorrow, and other miscellaneous chores.
4 p.m. — I finish my book (cannot recommend C.N. Crawford enough if you’re interested in pretty boilerplate yet enjoyable fantasy/romantasy fiction that reads very, very quickly), and eat some of a dark chocolate bar while I plot out the rest of my day. I have a lot of candy and cookies on hand from a grocery trip a couple weeks ago, because I thought my sweet tooth was coming back, but even the chocolate isn’t hitting like it used to. I decide to throw on The Traitors NZ on Peacock and take a much-needed nap.
7 p.m. — My nap was satisfying, and I finish getting things ready for the week. I prep some quick breakfast options for the week since I’m determined to at least try taking the bus, so I make some hard boiled eggs and overnight oats to have over the next few days, and prepare a salad for tomorrow (a bag of butter lettuce, a large container with fake chicken, almond slices, and cranberries, and I’ll take a bottle of sesame ginger dressing to work to just have on hand there). I have another book I’m working through slowly, but I don’t feel like reading anything else today, so I start Kim’s Convenience on Netflix since I heard good things. Dinner is more of the leftover tofu and veg from the other night, with the rest going into the freezer. I’m in bed by 9 p.m., and I justify scrolling on TikTok both with my nap from earlier, and because it’s one of the ways my bestie and I stay in touch via sending videos to each other. I’m asleep a little after 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

The Breakdown

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