A Week In Lisbon, Portugal, On A $70,000 Salary

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Today: a self-described digital nomad who makes $70,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on fruit.
Occupation: Sales (Location Independent Worker)
Industry: Construction
Age: 32
Location: Lisbon (currently)
Salary: $70,000
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,550
Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: I try to keep it around $800 per month. Usually, I rent monthly Airbnbs (private rooms, not whole houses) but sometimes I get lucky. I just stayed with my BFF in NYC for a month for free.
Loan Payments: $0. I got my associate's degree from a local community college, paid cash, and did not pursue a bachelor's.
All Other Monthly Expenses
T-Mobile International Plan: $117
401(k): 16% pre-tax into my 401(k), plus a company match of 2%
Savings: $600. ($200 of this is diverted into my Vanguard account. Because my lifestyle is kind of odd, I like to have a lot of cash on hand. I may also purchase a rental condo within the next year, so I am stockpiling for a down payment.)
Netflix: $10

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I arrived in Lisbon last night around midnight and then couldn't fall asleep until about 2 a.m. (New place, noisy street, etc.) I ambitiously set my alarm for 8:30, but immediately turn it off and fall back asleep.
11:30 a.m. — I finally wake up! Part of me wants to get out and explore the city ASAP, but I've had a busy, stressful few months, and I tell myself to chill out, wake up slowly, and have a relaxing morning. The room I have here in Lisbon seemed fine last night, and it looks even nicer in the light of day — high ceilings and big windows. I'm excited for the next few weeks! I work remotely, so for the past year, I have changed location every two months or so, and I love it! Although I prefer the term "location independent worker," I think "digital nomad" is the trendier term for my lifestyle.
12:30 p.m. — I'm finally dressed, organized, and ready to explore! The girl I'm staying with came home LATE last night and is still asleep. I write her a quick note saying hi and then head out. I pay to hop on the subway to the Baixa district, which I believe is quite touristy. That's fine for me on day one of a new city! I plan to do a free walking tour at 3 p.m., but I want to explore a bit on my own first. The city is gorgeous — warm and sunny, full of colorful weather-worn buildings, cobblestones, and street art. $1.70
1:30 p.m. — I discover the Time Out Market and pop in. It's super overwhelming, with electronic music pumping and people everywhere. I grab a pastel de nata and an espresso ($4.11) and eat standing at the counter. The pastry is AMAZING! I've never had one before and expected them to be average, but wow, I can see why everyone loves them. Afterwards, I wander down a super touristy promenade and stop to try on clothes. I am newly single after six years (ugh), so I buy a low-cut white top for future dates (eek!). $19.36
2 p.m. — T., an old friend who is on vacation in Lisbon, message me on WhatsApp to ask if I want to go to brunch at 4:30 instead of going on my walking tour. I agree, and then discover that "Brunch" is the name of a weekly outdoor rave. It's not my usual scene, but whatever. I need to go back home to change clothes, so I stop in the mini-market to grab food for a quick lunch. I get eggs, butter, a tomato, an onion, a crusty roll, a croissant, and a pack of gum. I'm happy with how affordable the store is, since it is the one closest to my house. I dash home, make a quick omelet with toast, and freshen up for the party. $3.99
4:30 p.m. — I meet T. at his hostel and give him €20. The ticket was only €15, so he covers a couple of beers, a shot of whiskey, and my bus fare to the rave. It turns out we are tagging along with some of the hostel employees, and it's kind of cool to hang out with native Lisboans on my first day here. It takes FOREVER to get to Brunch, but when we do, it is pretty cool: a clearing in the woods ringed with beer stands, a huge dance floor, and a DJ on a stage. People of all ages are in attendance; there is even a bounce house filled with kids. We dance for hours, and the vibe is chill. We stay until the party is over and walk out, feet aching and super hungry. $23.48
12 a.m. — In a city with so much good food, this is a super embarrassing purchase: We stop at a fast-food joint and I get a fucking cheeseburger for dinner. Boooooo. I trade a bite of my burger for some of T.'s french fries. I'm exhausted! My plan for Lisbon was lots of sleep, waking up early to do cultural activities, and a big push for sales at my day job. So far, things are not going according to plan... $4.10
12:30 a.m. — Google tells me that the bus will take over 40 minutes to bring me home, so I opt for an Uber. My driver is pretty friendly (although he also seems stoned), and he tells me a bunch of places I need to visit. I'm all ears! Usually, I enjoy researching locales before I arrive, but I have been so busy that I haven't time to look into Lisbon at all. I get home, and my flatmate is there! We finally get to meet in person. We chat for a little bit; she is cool and easygoing, and it seems that we will have opposite schedules, which is good and bad. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and fall into bed. $8.22
Daily Total: $60.85

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Alarm rings. I shut it off without a second thought and go back to sleep. This pattern has to stop, but today is not the day.
12 p.m. — I'm finally up and out of bed! I think my long day yesterday plus lingering jet lag knocked me out. I'm starving and have to be on a work call at 2 p.m., so I Google nearby coffeeshops with food. I get dressed and walk about a mile to a gorgeous lookout point. After admiring the view, I walk into a very traditional looking café with dark wood paneling, dusty liquor bottles, and elderly people sipping espressos. The barista is blasting Metallica, though, as I order a spinach and couscous salad, and a café Americano, answer emails, and hop on the call. After I'm done, I have a moment of panic — the café doesn't take foreign cards and I've left my cash at home! The proprietor isn't fazed and tells me to come back with the money when I can. I offer to leave collateral, but he won't take anything. "We trust you," he says. I thank goodness for kindness and rush home.
3:30 p.m. — I walk the mile back home, grab cash, walk another mile back to the café and pay for my meal. The total comes out to about $8, but I leave $11.74 as a thank you. (Tipping in cafés is customarily 0%-5% here.) As I walk back to my house, I realize I have already walked over four miles today. In light of that fact, I stop and purchase a box of pastries to eat when I get home. For $4.07, I get two pastels de nata, four long crunchy butter cookies, and two large square butter cookies dipped in chocolate. Yum! Once I get home, it's right to work. $15.81
8 p.m. — I snack on an apple and a few of the cookies as I continue to work. I am meeting T. for dinner at 9:30, but I'm starving now. Having a friend who is on vacation here has definitely increased my spending and disrupted my schedule this week, but the tradeoff is worth it. Working from this house is nice — there is a pretty balcony and the Wi-Fi is fast — but it sure is loud; screaming babies, conversations in all sorts of languages, motorcycles speeding by. I love it!
12:30 a.m. — I end up being very busy at work today, but it pays off with a sale that is 25% of my annual goal! Because of that, I'm late to leave for dinner and opt for an Uber instead of the 35-minute walk. I meet T. at a tiny seafood place in Chiado. It is adorable, and we share a cheese plate, garlic shrimp, fantastic octopus, and a bottle of amazing, dry white wine. I pay $29.35 for my half. T. and I both coached MMA at the same gym and we go back about 10 years. We talk shit about our exes and exchange gym gossip as we eat. After, we meet up with folks from his hostel and drink €1 beers at a lovely mirador overlooking the city. At midnight, I decide I need to get home, and I Uber once more. I'm conscientious of how much money I'm spending, but I think it's worth it to spend time with an old friend. The song "Wonderful World" comes on as I ride home, and I feel lucky and grateful. $44.80
Daily Total: $60.61

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — Alarm sounds at 8:30 a.m. I shut it off but still manage to be up and about by 10 a.m. I'm not hungry, but I make an egg with toast and tomatoes and eat it anyway so that I don't buy breakfast out. I'm visiting the National Tile Museum today (I love tile!) and then plan to wander a bit and grab lunch somewhere pretty.
12 p.m. — The museum isn't too far, so I decide to walk so I can see more of the city. At the museum, I pay admission; there are lots of beautiful azulejos on display, as well as cool temporary exhibits by Japanese ceramic artists celebrating the relationship between the two countries. I have worked in the tile industry for most of my career, and I love seeing how old materials like these continue to influence contemporary tile trends and aesthetics. $5.90
1 p.m. — I hop on a bus ($2.30) to one of the high streets and disembark about 15 minutes later. In between taking photos of street art, yellow trams, and beautiful tile, I pop into a clothing shop called Bershka. I liked a skirt I saw there the other day, but they didn't have my size. Luck is on my side, because they do have the skirt, and it fits perfectly! I try to only buy clothes if they fill a big hole in my wardrobe, and this knee-length, pleated skirt definitely does ($29.49). $31.79
2 p.m. — I stop by a cute café for lunch. The man behind the counter is stern, and I panic order a pastry and a coffee because I feel rushed. Once I have collected myself, I return to the counter and ask for a vegetable soup. After I'm done, I get a second coffee and sip it as I spend time editing a few photos to post on Instagram, answering work emails, and WhatsApping with different groups of friends. $4.80
3 p.m. — I catch the subway back to my neighborhood and set myself up on the balcony with my laptop and a big glass of water. Lisbon has some of the steepest hills I've ever seen, and all the walking has made me thirsty. My company's offices are closed today for a meeting, so I get a lot of stuff coming my way from clients who can't reach their usual salesperson. I'm happy to help out my colleagues since being busy makes the time fly. I continue to message friends from home. It feels nice to stay in the loop even though I am far away. $2.30
7:30 p.m. — My cash is running low and the ATMs are being a little temperamental with my card, so I want to conserve what I have. I buy garlic naan from the chicken restaurant next door and make scrambled eggs with tomato and onions. My flatmate gets home, and we chat about the economy in Portugal, the high cost of education in the States, and our recent breakups. After, I log back on to finish my last three hours of work. I'll try to be in bed by midnight tonight. $1.77
Daily Total: $46.56

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I gave up hitting snooze and turned off my alarm before bed last night; this morning, I wake up at 8:30 on the dot without it! T. and I text about going to the beach, but I decide not to since the trip would make my day too hectic. I sit in bed for a while longer, browsing on my Kindle for a new book and enjoying the fresh air and the sounds coming from the street below.
11 a.m. — First order of business is to get cash. Thank goodness the ATM closest to my house decides to accept my card! I decide to go to Carmo Convent (the remnants of a Gothic cathedral that was partially ruined in an earthquake), and purchase a round trip subway ticket ($3.35). The entrance fee is $6, and the convent is beautiful! There are a bunch of South American artifacts and two Peruvian mummies inside, and I wonder about the ethics of these cultural objects being in Portugal. I have a friend who specializes in antiquities trafficking (working against it, not for it!), and I tell myself to ask her for her opinion later. $9.35
12 p.m. — The back of the convent opens up into a patio with a gorgeous view of the city. There is a café there that looks so tempting. I assume it is a tourist trap, but I look it up online and the reviews aren't bad. They are playing Buddha Bar on the radio, there is a seat in the shade, and the view is amazing, so I decide to stay. I order an Americano and tomato bruschetta. I mostly admire the view, but I also email my mom some of my photos from the trip and send them to a WhatsApp group chat with friends. It is so relaxing. $10.65
1:30 p.m. — It's such a pretty day that I don't want to work, but I must. I use the subway card I bought earlier to get home. I have a sweet tooth, so I stop and pick up fruit from a street vendor: three clementines, two pears, and a mango. I set myself up on the patio with water and the clementines, and by 2 p.m., I'm making phone calls and answering emails. $1.75
5 p.m. — I'm starving and pop down the street to pick up a rotisserie chicken. The chicken place is closed, and the next three cafés I visit have all finished with food service for the day. I'm getting desperately hungry and I need to make work calls. I grab my laptop and walk 20 minutes to the café where I had the couscous salad the other day and order the same thing. I sit down and try to settle in, but one minute later, a huge, noisy tour group is led in by a guide. Le sigh. I guess today won't be as productive as I hoped. I kick myself for not planning better. $8.89
6:45 p.m. — The café wasn't so bad in the end. The group only stayed about 15 minutes, and I had a nice chat with the guide. On my way home, I stop by a lookout point and watch the sun set. There is a girl with a guitar singing songs in Portuguese, and lots of people hang around drinking beers; it is really nice. I buy a savory chicken pastry and a pastel de nata to eat as I head home to finish work. $2.43
9:30 p.m. — I cut out of work at 9:30 to go to a Couchsurfing party at a little outdoor bar near Time Out. I've never used Couchsurfing as a travel resource before, but I've heard their events are fun, and this one totally is. It's a few, casual hours of meeting new and friendly people from all over the world and a lot of locals. Being from D.C., I was worried that everyone would want to talk politics with me but no one did, thank god. T. ended up stopping by as well, and we both had a great time. I took the metro there ($1.40), but had to Uber back home ($6.27). I bought two small beers for myself (€1 each!) and a large one for T. in exchange for some of his cigarettes ($4.60). I make it back home around 1:30 a.m., happy, relaxed, and ready for bed. I chat with some of the girls online and then pass out. $12.27
Daily Total: $45.34

Day Five

9 a.m. — I wake up fairly early considering how late I stayed out last night. I eat a pear from my fruit stash and drink water. I planned to spend the day relaxing at home and reading my book, but my mind keeps drifting toward my ex. If I stay here alone, it will just turn into a pity party, so I get dressed and get ready to go out.
12 p.m. — There is a café I keep hearing about called Tease. It is a little inconvenient to get to, but I decide it is a perfect destination for today since I didn't plan on accomplishing anything else anyway. I take the subway ($1.40) and walk about 20 minutes to get there. When I arrive, it is adorable! Shabby-chic decor, nice music, hip people working on laptops. I order an Americano and a veggie burger ($11.86), then sit for awhile and read. The food is great, and I am stuffed. I walk to a lookout point nearby and enjoy the view, then head back home to read my book for a bit before work. Pity party successfully avoided. $13.26
4 p.m. — I have therapy today, and I have really been looking forward to it. We missed last week because of an issue with my insurance, and I have a lot I want to talk about. Since I travel so much, I use an app to meet with my therapist online via video chat. Talking to a professional really helps me sort out my thoughts and emotions, and I wish it was accessible to everyone. This visit costs $95, but is entirely paid for my by health insurance. Afterwards, I eat the last pear and get back to work.
6 p.m. — I enjoy eating out a lot my first few days in a city, and I consider it part of exploring a new place. But now that I've been here almost a week, I need to get serious. I do my first big grocery trip and get coffee, chicken breast, dried pasta, couscous, a can of tuna, a small carton of béchamel sauce, a tomato, goat cheese, rice cakes, mushrooms, broccoli, a can of Coke, a bottle of wine, eggs, a crusty roll, a pastel de nata, garlic, raspberries, muesli, Greek yogurt, soap, and dental floss. Once I get home, I snack on the goat cheese, tomato, and a rice cake. I throw together pasta with chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, onions, and garlic, and make a white wine and béchamel sauce. The neighbors are blasting Eminem; so much nostalgia for me! I finish my last few hours of work and snack on the pastel de nata. I don't consider myself a very good cook, but I like the food that I make, and it feels good to eat some of MY food again. $31.97
9 p.m. — My roommate comes home, and we sit on the patio for a few hours drinking wine and chatting. We get a craving for something sweet and put goat cheese and honey on top of rice crackers. At 2 a.m. the neighbors yell at us for playing music too loudly, so we head to bed.
Daily Total: $45.23

Day Six

10 a.m. — Ugh. I sleep late and wake up feeling sick from all the heavy food yesterday (a fried veggie burger and huge plate of pasta). Instead of eating breakfast, I drink two cups of coffee at home. I'm getting dinner with T. tonight, so I start work a few hours earlier than usual in order to finish up in time.
1:30 p.m. — After a few hours of work, I shower, get dressed, and finally have an appetite. I eat a bowl of Greek yogurt with raspberries and muesli. I thought the yogurt was plain, but it turns out to be vanilla flavored, which is a fantastic surprise!
4:30 p.m. — After snacking on rice cakes with goat cheese and tomato, I decide to make actual lunch — diced mushrooms, potato, and onion with two eggs and bread. I also contact my realtor about a condo I see for sale online in my hometown. I've been looking to buy a rental property to bring in extra income, and this place seems perfect! She agrees, and I get the ball rolling with my lender! Afterwards, I get a craving for something sweet; I drink the can of Coke I bought yesterday.
9 p.m. — I log out of work, change clothes, and head to T.'s neighborhood on the subway ($1.40). We go to a little place around the corner from his hostel that is famous for their octopus rice! We get the rice, squid, fresh cheese, bread, and a bottle of wine; everything is amazing. ($25.55) As we are finishing up, a group of people from his hostel show up with beers. We all sit around talking for awhile, then head to a pastry shop to buy dessert. ($1.20) Meanwhile, I sign off on an offer letter for the condo! Woohoo! I've been interested in creating multiple income streams for awhile, and this unit seems like a great opportunity. We end up on a street full of young people, drinking beers and socializing. I manage to make it home on the last subway train of the night. ($1.40) I call my mom and dad to tell them about the condo, then fall asleep around 2 a.m.! $29.55
Daily Total: $29.55

Day Seven

11 a.m. — I wake up late after my late night out. I normally only have three or four drinks a month, so this week has done a number on my body, and I resolve to calm down a little with the wine. I make coffee and eat yogurt, muesli, and raspberries on the patio, and read a bit of my book. I message with T. since we are going to the beach later today, but there is no rush to get going.
1:30 p.m. — I pick up T. up at his hostel. The guy who works there tries to play a "hilarious" joke on me by pretending that T. checked out a few days ago. I might have fallen for it if I hadn't been messaging with T. all morning. We hop on the train to the beach. It's a really cloudy day but still feels warm enough to lay out. $3.24
2 p.m. — We arrive, and the beach is so pretty! It's sandy and big, with small waves and a few sailboats in the distance. We stop and grab ham and cheese croissants, and I get an espresso before heading over to lay out our towels. We people-watch and chitchat for a few hours, and I message back and forth with my realtor about the property. The selling agent is being super slow getting us the documents we need, which gives me time to second-guess, freak out, and overanalyze my decision. Luckily, my realtor is also a friend who doesn't mind having to do a bit of handholding. $2.19
5 p.m. — We really didn't plan this beach day very well as far as snacks are concerned. I need to use the restroom, so I buy a tuna sandwich at a nearby café for us to split. As the sun sets, T. listens to music and I take a call to catch up with a girlfriend living in Cairo. It is absolutely gorgeous, but we plan to come back again tomorrow when it is supposed to be sunnier. $4.49
8 p.m. — We walk to meet some folks at the Time Out food hall for dinner. It is pricy and tourist-trappy, but some of T.'s friends want to go. I debate getting a snack here and then eating dinner when I get home, but I get hangry and just go for it. I get seafood rice and a glass of white wine, and the food is delicious, but very rich ($15.12). Afterwards, they head to a bar to watch soccer, and I go home to review and sign my offer letter on the condo! ($1.40 metro) $16.52
Daily Total: $26.44
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