A Week In Homer, Alaska On An $89,489 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
This week: an institutional strategist who makes $89,489 per year and spends it on...books.
Occupation: Institutional Strategist
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 31
Location: Homer, Alaska
Salary: $89,489
Paycheck Amount (Bi-weekly): $2,509 is my income. Our household biweekly income is $3,409, as my husband averages $900 per pay period.
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $1,400 rent for a three-bedroom house and two acres. I live with my husband.
Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses
IRA Contributions (2): $916 — mine and husband's. This supplements my defined contribution plan through my employer, in which 8% of my gross goes towards retirement, and my employer matches with 5%.
Other Savings: $2,170
Cell Phones (2): $136
Health Insurance: $0 (Covered by employer)
Internet: $0 (Covered by employer)
Electricity: $130
Heating Oil: $46/month, average. We fill this up about once a year, at about $550 for a full tank.
Propane: $31/month, average. We fill this up about once a year; it heats our well water.
Renter's, Car, & Term Life Insurance: $155.25/month, average. (I pay annually for each in one lump sum.)
Hulu and Netflix: $21.98
Charitable Giving: $354 divided among women's health, arts, and environmental nonprofits

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake up first and take our dog for a morning walk. It's a daily habit, no matter the weather. There's a two-mile trail right behind our house, so we walk that and watch out for moose. There's still about two feet of snow on the ground, but it's melting, so it can be a bit of a slog during this spring break-up phase.
8:15 a.m. — Make a latte at home, bid adieu to my husband, who heads off to work, and settle into my office to start the work day. I work from home as a remote employee. I handle development, strategic planning, and some project management for my employer. Sometimes I take on editing and assessment work for my same employer, and am paid on a separate contract for that, anywhere from an extra $7,000-$20,000 a year.
11 a.m. — I take a break and work out at home. Right now I'm doing Jillian Michaels Killer Buns and Thighs. I half-love and half-loathe it, which is my standard reaction to all exercise. It's about 40 minutes long.
11:45 a.m. — I shower, eat some leftover mujaddara I made the previous day, and type out a grocery list on my phone.
12:20 p.m. — I head to the grocery store after responding to a few emails. I buy groceries for the week and come in at what I consider under budget. We tend to spend a lot on food, something I'm always wrestling to reduce. Groceries in Alaska are expensive, but there are always ways to cut back. About four years ago, my husband and I lived in the arctic region of Alaska. In the two villages we lived in, a gallon of milk was $11.50 in one and $16.50 in the other, more remote location. These are villages that are only accessible via plane (small planes), with no roads in or out, so freight costs are astronomical. All this is to say that I can't complain too much now that I'm on the Kenai Peninsula, where it's much cheaper. $122.77
1:15 p.m. — Back at home, I put away the groceries and then pop back into my office to continue working. I sit in on a conference call, finish up a project, and then drift away at about 4 p.m. One of the perks of working from home is the freedom to make my own schedule. I have annual goals I need to meet in my position, but otherwise the work is up to me.
5 p.m. — My husband gets home. He walks our dog again, and I shovel the deck. Snowmelt has been falling off the roof and is creating an enormous, sloppy pile.
6:15 p.m. — I put on some music and make dinner. Tonight it's bibimbap with some ground moose meat that some friends sent us for hosting them for a week. Before Alaska, I lived in Denver, NYC, and Boston, and had never heard of subsistence hunting or fishing. Now it's a big part of our lives, and helps keep our freezer stocked. I don't like to hunt, but I like processing the meat and I enjoy fishing. We usually have moose, caribou, geese, halibut, rockfish, and salmon in our freezer at all times. Half of the meat/fish is from friends who share with us.
8 p.m. — We catch up on Big Little Lies on HBO (using my parents' account, like classy millennials), and then I read for an hour or two before bed.
Daily Total: $122.77

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I walk the dog and then work out right after. (Jillian Michaels again.)
9:30 a.m. — I'm settled at my desk with a latte and yogurt. I have lots to accomplish on my to-do list, so I burn through about three hours of work before taking a break.
12:45 p.m. — The siren call of Amazon pulls me near, and I end up ordering a face mask, Le Puy green lentils, and two books. $29.31
4:30 p.m. — I stop working for the day. My husband gets home, and we pack up the dog and take her down for a long beach walk. We live at the top of a hill, but it's only a 10-minute drive to the beach. It's low tide, and we meander for about two miles before heading back to the car.
8 p.m. — For dinner, we eat leftovers (mujaddara and bibimbap) and watch old episodes of Parks and Recreation on Hulu.
Daily Total: $29.31

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — Once again, I walk the dog and work out again. (Yes, Jillian Michaels — but this time I switch it up with Killer Arms and Back.)
9 a.m. — I browse the Personal Finance Reddit, which is sort of a guilty and nerdy pleasure. I'm not really into FIRE or anything (MMM gives me hives), but I do like to read about personal finance topics and make sure I'm staying on track with my own goals.
11 a.m. — Meetings in different time zones for a couple hours. I graze on carrots, an apple, half a chocolate bar, three clementines, and two weird meatballs that I think have been in the fridge for over 10 days. They smell fine, so I take the risk of ingesting them. (Spoiler alert: It all works out.)
5 p.m. — I stop working and do some deadlifts in the garage, where my husband keeps his free weights and our squat rack. I listen to Tove Lo and do high-knees in between sets to stay warm, since the garage is unheated and my car thermostat says it's 44 degrees in here.
7 p.m. — My husband and I decide to go to dinner and meet some friends. We head to a local bar and I eat a spicy halibut sandwich and fries, and swill two margaritas. We tend to go out to eat once a week, and we'll spend anywhere from $25 to $150 on the meal. This one clocks in at $85.82 with tax and tip. $85.82
Daily Total: $85.82

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I walk the dog but skip an additional workout today. My hamstrings are killing me thanks to all the Jillian Michaels-induced leaping and heavy deadlifts.
8:30 a.m. — I sit at my desk with my latte and browse Into the Gloss, Cup of Jo, and some minimalist blogs I read (but in no way adhere to) and check out a local calendar of events. Someone is offering fencing lessons at the local high school, and I am intrigued by the sudden vision of myself as an Olympic-level fencer with graceful footwork and killer blonde hair that tumbles from the mask after I remove it. (I happen to be a brunette, so this reverie makes zero sense.) I call the number and sign up for a class next week. Might as well try it, right? I'll pay in cash next week.
9:15 a.m. — I start working in earnest and vow to get a huge project finished. When I have a big project to complete, I tend to work in marathon-like spurts where I'm laser-focused. This is one of those days. I barely look up until 3:30 p.m.
3:45 p.m. — I decide to quit for the day. I inhale a yogurt and some walnuts (starving!), and then head down the hill to pick up four library books I placed on hold. I read about 160 books each year, and this year I'm trying to procure at least 60% of those books at the library. Last year I spent almost $1,600 on books, and I told myself I am not allowed to do that this year. I actually like supporting the publishing industry, but $1,600 seems excessive... I'm limiting myself to $700 in books this year, which is still probably a lot to most people.
4:15 p.m. — I crack open one of the library books and am absorbed until my husband gets home around 5:30.
6:15 p.m. — I sit on the board for a local nonprofit organization, and we have a monthly board meeting. We're working on a big CIP project, and I'm spearheading the logistics, as I completed a similar project last year for my employer when I was our organization's interim COO for 10 months. My employer asked me to stay in the role permanently, but it would have required relocating and going to the office daily. I like the freedom that working from home provides me, so I declined the offer. I did walk away from a larger annual salary ($121,000 — good jobs for MFA graduates do exist!), but it was the right decision for me. Anyway, the experience in operations has been a big asset since I joined this board six months ago. The meeting goes for about two hours, and I drink four cups of hibiscus tea.
8:45 p.m. — I go home, and my husband has dinner ready — pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, kale, and homemade caribou sausage. I eat way too much (pasta is my weakness) and then roll around on the couch while watching HBO.
11 p.m. — I start reading again and stay up until 1 a.m., almost finishing one of my library books. My husband is also up late, working in his studio. He's off from his part-time job for the next few days, and he's entering his natural night-owl mode.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — It's Friday, and I start the day with my usual routine of walking the dog, working out, and making a big ol' latte.
8:45 a.m. — I get to work and stay focused until 1 p.m. I work with my employer's travel coordinator to line out some upcoming work trips. I have meetings with some of our usual funders, a new lead in Seattle, and a conference in Denver in the next couple of months. All expenses will be paid by my employer.
1:30 p.m. — My husband and I head to a local coffee shop and get an afternoon snack. I order chai and he has a latte. We discuss upcoming domestic trip plans, and argue about whether to go to Italy or Norway later this year — or neither. Two different sets of friends have invited us on two different international trips, and we don't agree about what to do. We also talk about whether we want to buy a house, something we go ‘round and ‘round about. In the last 10 years, we have moved every two to three years. Our families are spread across the lower 48. We love Alaska, but are never sure where we want to settle. So this conversation has all the familiar, well-worn verbal paths of a repetitive discussion that ends up nowhere. $13.50
3:30 p.m. — We run errands around town, and I answer emails on my phone. I debate whether I want to schedule a massage. My health insurance covers 80% of the cost of a massage, and I'm allotted 45 sessions a year. This is something I've been trying to take advantage of, but I'm terrible at actually going. We spend money at an auto parts store, buying odds and ends for my husband's 1998 SUV, which he's an ace at fixing. $43.67
5:30 p.m. — We walk the dog together, and then my husband vacuums while I do some pre-weekend laundry.
7:30 p.m. — I make dinner (spicy rockfish tacos), and we watch a movie — Arrival — that a friend gave us. I'm not usually an aliens person, but I like it!
11 p.m. — After a few glasses of wine, I drag my husband into an impromptu dance party. He rolls his eyes, but we hop around for about 45 minutes before pouring a glass of scotch each (Caol Ila; if you like super-smoky scotch, this will be your jam), and putting on a Ali Wong's comedy special on Netflix, which I've seen three times and adore.
Daily Total: $57.17

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up late and walk the dog. I do some compound weightlifting (deadlifts, squats, etc.) in the garage for about 45 minutes. Then I pounce on my husband to wake him up. He is the type that still views anything before 10 a.m. as “early.” I make us lattes, and we sit on the deck and stare out at the bay.
11 a.m. — The sad state of our produce drawer makes me realize I need to put together another grocery list soon, and that it's still winter here. We have a farmer's market in town for three months in the summer, and the produce is amazing. I'll be glad when June arrives and we can buy local kale, romanesco broccoli, and more.
12 p.m. — We have leftover tacos for lunch and then head into town to stroll around. We call it "running errands," but we don't buy anything; we just want to be out and about, and go for a drive. One thing I miss about living in a city is the ability to walk everywhere. I love our rural location for the beauty, the slower pace of life, and the hiking trails, but I do miss being able to pop in to a bodega or walk to the bar in the evening.
2 p.m. — I realize my car is low on gas and fill it up. It's a 2004 SUV with a V8 engine, so its main purpose in life is to eat gas, but I love it, as it's reliable, great in bad winter conditions, and really low mileage for a 2004. Since I don't commute for work, I don't have to fill up very often, which is a blessing, as the total always clocks in over $60. $66.40
4 p.m. — I update my budgeting spreadsheets (usually I do this every few days) and check my credit card activity online. The monthly charge for Hulu, $11.99, has posted.
4:45 p.m. — My husband and I take an afternoon nap, and then go on a hike with the dog. I need to get back in backpacking shape for the summer, as we have a few trips planned that will involve carrying a 40-pound pack for about 30 miles over a couple days. I tell myself I'll start training in mid-April, when there's less snow on the ground.
7 p.m. — We debate whether to go out to dinner and/or to join some friends at the bar, but we aren't really feeling it. Since we already went out to dinner once this week, I nix the idea and rummage around for recipes. We end up having baked lemon-garlic halibut with a side of roasted chickpeas and sweet potatoes. Fish is always my default when I have no idea what to make.
8 p.m. — We rent and watch a documentary called The Eagle Huntress and head to bed around midnight. $4.99
Daily Total: $71.39

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I walk the dog and then dash out the door to meet some friends for coffee.
9 a.m. — The coffee shop is busy, and I have a cappuccino and biscotti. I have a gift card, so I don't end up paying anything out of pocket.
11 a.m. — I drop off two library books I've finished, and then meet my husband at the beach for a walk with the dog. Since it's the weekend, the beach is replete with lots of adorable dogs running around. Our dog just turned 17 and is in great shape (we adopted her when she was 12), but she sticks close when she starts to get overwhelmed by all the young whippersnappers.
1:30 p.m. — We head home and eat lunch, scrounging around for leftovers and quick eats. I make a mental note to go to the grocery again tomorrow. Otherwise, it's a lazy afternoon — we sit and read magazines and books, and catch up with family through a series of FaceTime calls.
6 p.m. — My husband heads to his studio to work on a project. He just got a big art commission that will pay him $18,500. Since his commissions are sporadic, I don't count that as reliable income when I'm budgeting. Instead, a portion is set aside for taxes, and the rest is divided into different savings accounts. While he's working, I check my calendar to see what's coming up for the next week. I pour a glass of wine and start fiddling with some of my own creative writing.
8 p.m. — I make grilled cheese sandwiches and defrost some homemade tomato soup for a simple dinner. We eat together, and then my husband goes back to work, and I do a series of face masks while watching some shows he doesn't like.
10:30 p.m. — I head to bed earlier than usual since I have a busy week ahead, and read for half an hour.
Daily Total: $0
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