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A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $115,000 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.
Do you ever feel...humiliated by the "work persona" you put on? Whether it's being ingratiating to higher ups, agonizing over trivial word choices on your résumé, or something else, tell us your experiences here.

Today: a pharmacist who makes $115,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a hot dog costume.
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Occupation: Pharmacist
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 35
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $115,000
Net Worth: $389,542.68 ($243.458.79 in 401(k), $24,458.79 in a Roth IRA fund, $29,645.64 in a brokerage fund, $15,734.23 in my emergency fund, and ~$100,000 in equity in my half of our condo minus debt. My husband and I have separate finances, so his savings are separate from mine. We met in school, so everything we've built is together, but I'm more frugal than he is and recognize that he would be very unhappy living at my level of frugality. This works for us quite well.)
Debt: $264,398.04 left on our mortgage (so ~$132,200 for my half) +  $23,754.77 car note
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,338.58 (this is before my HSA contribution kicks in. I expect ~$2,100 from October-December when my contributions begin)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,500 every other month (we pay $1,500 and take turns.)
Car Payment: $760 (we each make a payment each month to pay it off faster)
Car Insurance: $297 every six months
Internet: My husband pays
Cell Phone: Reimbursed by work (and my husband pays the rest)
Electric: $71(water/sewer is included in our HOA)
Climbing Gym Membership: $82.69 (including tax)
Hulu/Disney+: $15.42 in exchange for access to my bestie's Netflix account
Pet Insurance: $35.32
Health Insurance: $16.61 (pretax, taken from paycheck)
HSA: $151 (pretax, taken from paycheck)
401(k): $707.69 (pretax, taken from paycheck)
After Tax 401(k): $442.31 (taken from paycheck)
IRA Savings: $500
Climbing Gym: $82.69
YNAB: $84 annually
Amazon Prime: $131.02 every other year (my husband and I take turns paying this)
Professional Licenses: $857 2x/year 
Professional Insurance: $147 annually
Long Term Care Insurance: $1344.44 annually (high cost due to my age and likelihood of me dropping the insurance after opting out of WA's new LTCi tax. LTCi was SWAMPED with WA residents applying to opt-out of this new plan, and the prices reflect the demand.)
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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?
It was never a question of if I would go to college. I had free tuition for undergrad due to my mother working for the college (my parents covered room/board and a meal plan for me), but when I went to pharmacy school, I took out loans. Over the course of four years of grad school, I accumulated over $180,000 in loans. I met my husband there and he graduated with $150,000 in loans. We paid these off about nine years after I graduated, with almost my entire paycheck going towards the loans while we lived off one salary for six years.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My family was not one that talked about money. I remember hearing my parents fight about money a lot and I definitely grew up with the understanding that things were always tight. For example, when my grandfather passed away in China when I was in middle school, my mother went to the funeral but I wasn't able to go due to us not having enough money for my plane ticket. My parents always were able to provide for me and there was always food on the table. When I was very young (and an immigrant, age five or six), we stayed with friends/family for a few weeks while we found a new apartment. I just thought we were visiting people, but looking back we were definitely "homeless" in that our rent was raised and we couldn't afford the increase and so we had to move out.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
My mother was approached by a new neighbor when I was 16, who had seen me helping to unload the groceries. This neighbor was a pharmacy manager of a newly opened store and asked if I wanted a job. I was hired for $6 an hour in 2001 as a 16 year old and it kind of just fell into my lap. I've never really tried any other career path because I was introduced to this world so early on. I've held basically every job there is in pharmacy now from assistant (cashier) to mid-level management.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I was always kind of aware of things, but never really worried about it. Like most immigrant kids of the '90s, I knew that money was tight but I was always provided for. It wasn't until middle school or high school that I really realized just how tight money was. I remember hearing my parents fight when I was in seventh grade, sitting on the stairs where they couldn't see me, and thinking that I wouldn't ask for anything anymore to ease their burden. I also remember my freshman year of college my parents had a (short-lived) financial crisis and I realized they were eating borderline expired food to not have any financial waste.
Do you worry about money now?
I don't. I'm lucky in that my husband and I both made and have made substantial salaries since graduating pharmacy school. It wasn't until we paid off our student loans (two years ago) that we became serious about saving for retirement, but we've maxed out our 401(k)s and IRAs since. In my last job, I also had a pension (7.9% mandatory contribution) and a 457(b) (deferred compensation) that I maxed out ($19,500), which was extra tax savings space for us. These accounts have since been rolled into my current 401(k). I also now have an HSA, which I will begin maxing out next year. I'm contributing the max of what I can contribute this year, since I recently changed jobs.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
20! I got into pharmacy school after completing two years of prerequisites, and I told my parents before I went that I wanted to get my own credit card (I was only an authorized spender on their accounts previously) and pay for everything myself. They told me that yes, they'd support me if I ever needed help paying off my credit card since I had always been an overspender up until that point. I'm lucky in that I'm VERY STUBBORN and refused to ask for help, requiring me to live within my means from then on.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, when I was 8 I received $2,000 from a great-uncle that I'd never met. My mother invested this in a CD for me, which I demanded access to (because I was a biiiiiiig brat) at age 16. She relented (again, see the biiiiiiig brat comment) because I was a terrible and irreverent child.

Day One

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off. My cat complains by smushing her face into my legs even harder. I hit snooze.
5:10 a.m. — FINE. I'M UP. I scroll through Reddit for 15 minutes before getting out of bed. The coffee pot brewed coffee at 5 a.m., so I pour myself a cup and migrate to the couch. The cat sleepily comes to join me and cuddles me with loud purrs until I hear B., my husband, get out of bed at 5:30. We get up this early to have time together (albeit very quiet time) since he works Monday through Friday and I work Thursday through Sunday each week. I shower, do my skincare routine (Paula's Choice 2% BHA, Inkey Collagen Booster, Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream with SPF, and SuperGoop Unseen Sunscreen), grab my lunch, throw my smoothie together, and run out the door to meet my carpool buddy (who lives across the street).
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7 a.m. — We get to work. I work for one whole hour, then head to my CPR class. My last job didn't require that I be BLS-certified but my current job does. Four hours of very boring videos and a hand bruise from "chest compressions" later, I'm a proud CPR-certified pharmacist. I take a quick lunch (inside-out stuffed cabbage rolls from Taste of Home that I made last week and am trying to finish), grab some snacks from our snack bar at work ($2.51), and go into the checking room by myself. I turn on Spotify to Disney music so I can mindlessly sing along while I verify prescriptions for the next five hours. $2.51
5:30 p.m. — MY DAY IS OVER!!! I get home around 6, kiss B. hello, and heat up some chicken and dumplings (also from Taste of Home, made yesterday). He's already fed the cat, so I play with her a little bit, then we sit on the couch, watch our respective shows, and chat briefly about our days. B. sets the coffee for tomorrow, I do my nightly skin routine (Inkey Retinol Serum, Inkey Collagen Booster, Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream), and we head to bed around 8:30 because we're old. I read until 9 and then fall asleep.
Daily Total: $2.51

Day Two

5 a.m. — Alarm. Nope. Snooooooze.
5:10 a.m. — Not only does my alarm go off again, but a train decides it's the perfect time to toot its horn. Luckily we've gotten used to the sound of trains (we've been in our condo for eight years now) and a building has gone up that muffles the sound. The cat moves with me to the couch and B. comes too since the train woke him up. I pour us both coffees so we can have a leisurely morning. I do the same routine at 5:45 and am out to door for carpooling at 6:25.
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7 a.m. — Work time! I'm at a different station today, so I get to do different things. I problem-solve issues that come up in our facility. This includes everything from blurry images where we can't see the pill image to incorrect day supplies on prescriptions. I work in a mail order facility, where before I'd been in retail pharmacy (think CVS or Walgreens) all my life. I've been here only about two months but I absolutely LOVE it so far. I break for lunch at 11:30 and eat lentils that I made last week. I buy snacks at lunch ($2.51) then back to work filling controls for our mail order patients. $2.51
5:30 p.m. — My day is over, but my carpool buddy is in charge of closing the facility tonight, so I hang out. For some reason the security guards are slow conducting their closing duties, so we're not out until almost 6. On the ride back home, I tell my buddy that I'll drive tomorrow. We have a work dinner tonight (our boss is treating us to all-you-can-eat hot pot) so we head to that. B. and I text about our days and he tells me he filled up the gas tank so I don't have to.
8:30 p.m. — Our dinner is over and I'm STUFFED. I ate a lot of meat and veggies and ended with froyo, so I'm very very happy. I get home around 9 to find B. already in bed. I quickly complete my night routine and head to bed.
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Daily Total: $2.51

Day Three

5 a.m. — Why do I do this to myself...
5:10 a.m. — The cat puts her cute little face in my ear and meows right as my alarm goes off again. She then proceeds to step all over B.'s sleeping body. We both get out of bed and I grab us both coffee. My usual morning routine kicks off at 5:30 today. I'm out the door by 6:20 to pick up my carpool buddy.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime! My boss Slacks everyone that works tomorrow asking for volunteers to cover the opening shift. Since Sunday is my Friday, I volunteer to open (aka arrive at work by 6:15) on the off-chance I might be able to head out a little earlier than the usual 5:30 clock-out time. I'm in the verification room this morning, so I grab a coffee and breakfast ($4.53) from the snack store to eat in the room. That's the one benefit of being in the room, you can have food and coffee! Otherwise there's no food or drink (besides water) on the facility floors. $4.53
5:20 p.m. — Naturally, there's an urgent shipment that has to go out today that has an issue. We can't figure out how to mail the package since there's a glitch in the system, so we put a ticket in to have the IT team take a look at it. Hopefully it gets taken care of tonight so we can take care of it first thing tomorrow. I'm closing the facility tonight, so I hand my car keys to my carpool buddy so he doesn't have to wait around in the facility for me. The security guards are on their game today, so we're heading home by 5:40.
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6.15 p.m. — I get home and then run to the corner store to buy a bag of chips, a Hot Pocket, and some ice cream ($11.97) because I don't feel like cooking today. B. gets the ice cream and I get the bag of chips. I tell him I have to be at work at 6:15 tomorrow, so we head to bed early (at 8, lol) so I can still have coffee in the morning. I set the coffee to be made at 4:30 instead of the usual 5. $11.97
Daily Total: $16.50

Day Four

4:30 a.m. — OMG. It's extra extra early. I don't allow myself to snooze and immediate go to scrolling through Reddit to help wake me up. Move to the couch at 4:40 and pour myself some coffee. The cat is NOT on board and stays in bed with B. I start getting ready around 5:15. B. is dead asleep, so no quiet time together this morning. I arrive at work EXTRA early, at 6. Luckily the security guards are already there, so no time is wasted and I get to start working immediately.
11:30 a.m. — Lunchtime! I eat chicken and dumplings that I brought. I buy my usual snacks of chips and a Butterfinger ($2.51). Not much is happening today (Sundays are our slowest days), but at least I'm bouncing between two stations so I'm staying kind of busy. I head back to work after lunch and ponder how early is *TOO* early to ask to leave, if nothing is happening? I decide not to ask earlier than 5 since we're already short staffed. I ask at 5 and my coworkers are okay with it, so I ready my stuff to leave. As I walk out, one of my coworkers ask that I slack him when I do his station's duties if I'm bored. I reply that I'm being asked to communicate better, and I will make an effort to do so. I text B. about dinner as I'm leaving, since we have no food at home. We decide on take-out Chinese food. $2.51
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5:30 p.m. — I swing by Uwajimaya (an Asian grocery) for takeout. B. and I eat on the couch, play with the cat, and head to bed at our usual 8:30 bedtime. He did the laundry today, and I promise him that I'll fold it tomorrow (spoiler alert, I don't). We take advantage of the cat not being IMMEDIATELY in the bed with us and have sex. I fall asleep around 9:30. $20.84
Daily Total: $23.35

Day Five

5 a.m. — Yes, I still try to get up at 5 on my days off. As usual, I don't succeed.
5:30 a.m. — The cat bats me in the face. B. wakes up to a face bat too. We migrate to the couch for our morning routine of sitting in silent companionship. We've been together for 15 years, so we don't have much to say. I just enjoy his company these days, even when we're silent. He gets ready for work at 6:45. I drive him to work and return home to sit on the couch and do...nothing, though I do remember to text my climbing buddy that I won't make our standing 3:30 climbing time today because I'm taking my coworkers climbing. I watch Schitt's Creek until 11 because I'm a lazy butthead, then I begrudgingly get off the couch, do the dishes, and go get groceries for the week.
11 a.m. — B. Venmos me $150 for this month's groceries (we average $60-$75/week in groceries) and I immediately transfer it to my bank account. This is my first month of a lower wage (at my last job I was making $150,000, with ~$50,000 going into tax sheltered savings accounts vs my current $115,000 with ~$32,000 going into tax sheltered accounts) and I'm still adjusting to the lower take-home pay, so I'm very thankful for this extra $150. We usually take turns paying for groceries, but now that I work weekends and have no days off with B., it gets a little more complicated. Venmo-ing is easiest for us both. At the grocery store, I grab three tomatoes on the vine, a small head of lettuce, fresh dill, bacon, havarti cheese slices, boneless skinless chicken thighs, ground turkey, brioche buns, ranch seasoning, frozen okra, eggs, a bag of salt and vinegar chips, and dry roasted peanuts ($67.43). I swing by McDonald's for lunch for a Big Mac meal with extra Mac Sauce ($13.16). $80.59
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1 p.m. — I'm home and the cat's happy to sit on me while I finish reading The Bear and the Nightingale. I learn that it's the first book of a series, so I happily jump onto Seattle Public Library and place holds on the other two books in the series. I begin my next book, Grace and Glory, and read until B. gets off work at 3:45. He tells me he's hungry on the ride home, so I make us both ranch turkey burgers at a hilariously early 4:30.
6 p.m. — I leave for my climbing gym and circle for FOREVER looking for a parking spot. Luckily, so do the coworkers meeting me for climbing, so I'm not TECHNICALLY late. They get in for free because I can bring two newbies every month for free with free shoe rental! They climb with me for an hour and a half, and I stay for an extra 45 minutes after they leave before heading home. Home by 8:45 and in bed by 9.
Daily Total: $80.59

Day Six

5 a.m. — I'm starting to notice that we never really get up until 5:30...
5:30 a.m. — Coffee and couch time. A train holds down its horn for an impressively annoying 30 seconds, but thankfully I'm already awake. I feel bad for the people paying top dollar for the new apartments right next to the tracks. B. grumbles awake when the trains comes by and joins me on the couch. He gets up for work at 6:45 and we head out by 7:15 to take him to work. I return home, call Fidelity about my pension rollover (from my last job), and then binge-watch season three of Sex Education. I love this show!!!
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11 a.m. — I rouse myself off the couch with the promise of Japanese popcorn chicken. I walk to Kaarage Setsuna for their kaarage plate and leave a $10 cash tip because I know it's hard owning a small restaurant during COVID ($22.90). I gleefully return home and inhale my food. The cat comes with me to (finally) fold the clothes from Sunday, then curiously watches me do the dishes. Ah, to be a cat. $22.90
2.30 p.m. — I log onto Target to buy the hot dog Halloween costume I've been eyeing ($38.59) for work. B. texts me that he's off work early at 2:30 today, so I head out to pick him up. I'm still full from my lunch, but B. tells me he didn't have a chance to eat all day, so I make him the last turkey burger. He eats the burgers with a side of peas and I have Halo keto ice cream that B. tells me isn't *real* ice cream (cuz he thinks it's gross) for dinner. $38.59
4.30 p.m. — I text with a few friends. My climbing husband (ex-coworker turned climbing fanatic) is cheating on me with new climbing friends (and his fiancé) tonight, so we text back and forth about the new projects he finds at the gym. At 5, I call my mother, who I don't have the *best* relationship with. She answers with "Hello, who's this?" :| Turns out my aunt and uncle are over, so she tells me she'll call me back.
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6 p.m. — My mom calls me back. Our relationship isn't the best because growing up, I always thought I never lived up to her expectations. I was in my 20s before I realized how much they sacrificed for me working as immigrants who barely spoke English. I've had multiple conversations with B. about how hurtful it is that they don't put any effort into my relationship with them, but that it's likely a result of me pushing them away for so many years. They didn't have time to build a relationship with me till high school, so there's not much foundation. I call them every week on Tuesday around the same time even though they never call me. I've waited six months before and nothing. No outreach.
9 p.m. — B. works on certifications for his job all evening while I text with friends. Late bedtime for us at 9!
Daily Total: $61.49

Day Seven

5:30 a.m. — It's my last day off so I sleep in an extra 30 minutes. Then we get up for coffee and quiet time on the couch. I take B. to work at 7, then return home to deep clean the kitchen, do some more laundry, and meal prep for my workdays. I make skillet lemon and dill chicken thighs and pack them up with frozen okra to take to work for lunches next week. I then retire to the couch to read more of my book.
10:30 a.m. — I putz around online looking for a floor lamp. B. recently broke mine, so I'm looking for a replacement, though I ponder whether I should really get one since he'll have a desk soon and I'll get his side table with lamp once his desk comes in. I check out all the usual places: Article, West Elm, Pottery Barn, before I devolve to Ikea and Craigslist because THOSE PRICES... FOR A LAMP?! I decide to wait for his side table since my Kindle is backlit anyway and I don't really *NEED* a lamp, I just want one.
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1 p.m. — I log in to check my next paycheck balance, which will hit my account on Friday. I take the time to move money around, all scheduled for Friday. On my last paycheck of the month, I like to budget for the next month and schedule amounts for my sinking funds to be moved around. I have sinking funds for everything from holiday presents to vacation funds to a new phone so I never have to scramble to fund something that comes up. I schedule everything to be out of my account be the Monday after payday so I don't even have a chance to spend the money or miss it.
2.30 p.m. — It's climbing gym time! I recently climbed my first V5 route, so I've been trying to climb harder things than usual. I work on a few V4s and touch a few V5s (but no actual hard work on them). I broke my ankle four years ago at this gym and it took me a good two years to get back to where I was before the break. The mental game portion of climbing is real, folks. I'm finally starting to progress beyond where I was, so I'm attempting to push myself harder. I climb with my climbing husband since my actual husband hasn't been climbing recently as he's focusing on his certifications for work. I don't begrudge him not climbing since he's working towards something he wants.
5 p.m. — I get home and eat dinner with B. (who bussed home), which is some of the chicken I made this morning. I have it with okra and B. has it with corn. We have a leisurely evening. The cat tells us it's bedtime at 8:30 and we oblige. We cuddle in bed before the cat demands a lap to sleep on and I mentally gear myself up for work in the morning. Reading in bed until 9, then I'm asleep.
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Daily Total: $0
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