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A Week In Seattle On A $109,200 Salary

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Today: A product manager working in the nonprofit sector who makes $109,200 per year and spends some of her money this week on a lingerie set.
Occupation: Product manager
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 33
Location: Seattle
Salary: $109,200
Net Worth: $106,212 ($2,295 in checking, $4,654 in a money market account, $442 in a brokerage account, $70,715 in a Roth IRA, $107,252 in a 403(b), $548 in a FSA, minus debt)
Debt: $79,694 ($5,427 on credit cards and $74,267 in student loans)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,317
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,638 (My half for a two-bedroom apartment where I live with my boyfriend, N. We split household costs and have totally separate finances.)
Utilities: ~$72
Federal Student Loans: $486
Phone & Internet: $72 (for my portion)
Health & Dental Insurance: $70.80
Vision Insurance: $4.70
Accident Insurance: $7.72
FSA: $84.62
403(b): $1,730.78 (My employer contributes 10% of my salary in addition to this total.)
Spotify & Hulu: $12
MoviePass: $20
The New York Times: $7 (my half of the cost, split with N.)
iCloud: $3
Annual Expenses
Google Storage: $22.04

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?
One hundred percent. My parents both believed strongly in the value of a college education, and I never considered not going to college. They also encouraged me to go to grad school. They told us that they had been saving for my sibling and I to go to college for our whole lives, so we just needed to focus on getting into good schools. My parents paid for most of my college tuition and living expenses, with the exception of $10,000 that I won in a scholarship competition, plus the small amount I was able to earn through jobs and internships. I graduated early to help reduce the cost. For grad school, my dad gave me a loan of $50,000 at a low interest rate, and I took out $66,000 in federal loans. I covered the rest of my tuition and living expenses with my savings and by working two or three jobs at a time. I paid my dad back about $34,000, and he forgave the remainder of my loan on my 32nd birthday. I have three more years until my federal loan balance will be forgiven with PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness).

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We almost never discussed money. I didn’t know how much my parents made until I filled out federal student aid forms in high school. In terms of financial education, my parents helped me to open a checking account when I got my first job. My mom is very frugal and demonstrated the importance of only buying things you really like and using coupons and discounts as much as possible.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first real job was babysitting when I was 13. I did it for extra spending money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I understood that we weren’t wealthy, and our house was noticeably smaller and less nice than some of my friends’ houses, but we had all our necessities covered and were able to go on annual family vacations.

Do you worry about money now?
Somewhat. I left a lucrative career to go to grad school in a nonprofit industry, which set me back substantially in salary and net worth. Now I’m finally making a salary that allows me to indulge on occasion and not have to agonize over every purchase. It’s hard to not compare myself to some of my high-earning friends who are way ahead of me financially, but I have to remind myself why I made these choices. N. is also in the nonprofit sector (he makes less than me), so I worry that our combined salaries will never be enough to save for a child’s education or buy a home.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Around age 22 when I finally made enough to cover my own living expenses. My family is my safety net. I would never want to ask anyone for money, but I know I could live with my parents if I needed to, and they could probably give me a small loan if I was desperate.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received a small allowance in middle/high school and my parents supported me while I was in college. When I graduated, my parents gave me the remainder of my college savings (about $15,000), which I mostly kept in savings and used to support myself through grad school. My dad forgave about $23,000 in a personal loan.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — I start to slowly get out of bed. I scroll on my phone and say goodbye to N. before he leaves for work. I put on my usual WFH outfit: sweatpants and a comfortable top that I can wear without a bra. I pour myself cold brew with non-dairy creamer and get to my desk just in time for my first meeting at 7 a.m. I recently started working fully remotely, and I’m still keeping mostly East Coast hours.
9:55 a.m. — I end my third back-to-back meeting and rush to the kitchen to make peanut butter toast with blueberries and blackberries before my next meeting starts. I end up being a few minutes late, but I’m mostly just listening in anyway. I stay off camera until I’m done with my breakfast.
11:15 a.m. — I see that I’ve finally received a copy of the EOBs I requested from my vision insurance. I think that my eye doctor overcharged me by about $300 for my contacts last year, and I’m trying to get reimbursed. My boyfriend and I are planning to propose to each other soon, and I’m hoping to save around $10,000 for our wedding, so I’m looking for any way I can save a little money right now! I send an email to my eye doctor with the EOBs attached, hoping that they’ll admit they made a mistake. I feel like a jerk for implying that they overcharged me, but it’s frustrating to think I might have significantly overpaid for necessary medical care.
12:30 p.m. — I feed the cat her lunch, then I go back to my desk to finish up work tasks. It’s a slow week because I’m waiting for my main project to go through an external review, and I can’t do much work on it until that’s done. I heat up leftover white bean and sausage stew for lunch, then I put on real pants, brush my hair, and complete my one-line-a-day journal entry for yesterday. I fill out a questionnaire for my blood donation appointment. It’s raining on my walk to the clinic, and not one but TWO cars speed through puddles on the street, splashing nasty water all over me.
3:10 p.m. — My donation goes smoothly. I have a bag of Lay’s potato chips and bottled water afterwards, and I grab Doritos and a chocolate chip cookie to take home. I return a book to the library, then go to a cafe for an oat milk cortado and a chocolate-raspberry muffin ($10.37 with tip). I settle in with my latest book, Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin, my pick for book club this month. My sibling and I started a fully online book club to combat pandemic loneliness, and we’ve kept up with meetings pretty consistently for the past three years. It now includes my boyfriend and a few other friends from different parts of my life, and it’s a really wonderful group dynamic. $10.37
4:30 p.m. — I get home from the café and do a few chores, then rest on the couch because I’m feeling lightheaded. N. and I catch up once he gets home, reheat leftover lasagne pinwheels for dinner, and watch the latest episode of Big Brother, which I’ve watched since I was in high school and am obsessed with (we’re big Minutemen fans in this household). Then we have red wine and read some more.
11 p.m. — We switch from wine to Ben & Jerry’s before going to bed. We are both loving the book and have to restrain ourselves from talking about it too much before our book club discussion.
Daily Total: $10.37

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — The alarm goes off, and N. and I spend a few more minutes in bed before starting our days. When I don’t have early morning meetings, I start my work day later than my typical 6 a.m. start time. I put on my usual outfit, and N. pours me hot coffee with creamer. I jump on a quick 8 a.m. call and then hang out with N. as he packs his lunch and leaves. I go back to my desk to get some work done. Today, I’m following up on user interviews and preparing for a course I’m starting soon.
9:30 a.m. — I make myself breakfast: two air-fried Trader Joe’s hash browns topped with smashed avocado, everything seasoning, and peri-peri sauce. I refill my coffee and sit down to watch my silly medical drama, New Amsterdam. I feel very tired after eating, so I lay on the couch for a while. I can’t tell if this is fatigue from giving blood or the Seattle grey starting to affect me. It’s my first year living here, and a lot of people have warned me about the next six-plus months without much sun. After my break, I feed the cat her lunch and go back to my desk to continue working.
1:50 p.m. — I’ve barely gotten an email all day. I break for a late lunch, another lasagne pinwheel (good thing they’re delicious because this is day four of eating them). I’m still hungry, so I have cucumbers and potato chips dipped in dumpling sauce.
2:45 p.m. — I go down to the mailroom to pick up my annual contacts shipment and check the mail. My new debit card has arrived. I’m opening a few new checking accounts in order to get cash bonus offers. Assuming these all work out, I should get over $1,000 in bonuses in the next few months! Now that I have my contacts in hand, I submit the rebate paperwork, which should get me a $200 Visa gift card. While I’m in finance mode, I continue researching a new budgeting platform now that Mint is going away. I’ve been using it for over a decade and I don’t know what I’ll do without it! I start a free trial of PocketGuard Plus and pour the rest of my coffee over ice as I start connecting my accounts.
5 p.m. — I walk to the grocery store to pick up dinner supplies. I get seltzer, spinach, a shallot, a bell pepper, asparagus, non-dairy creamer, coconut milk, and hot dog buns ($14.96 for my half). I unpack everything at home, tidy up, and have a grapefruit seltzer. I’m supposed to have a phone date with my best friend who lives on the East Coast, but she’s apparently ghosting me. I start prepping dinner instead. $14.96
6:30 p.m. — N. and I cook a green curry with tofu and rice, then watch Jeopardy! and Big Brother. I do chores and spend time texting and scrolling on my phone. We go to bed around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $14.96

Day Three

6:15 a.m. — N. and I get up after snoozing a bit. I throw on my usual outfit, and N. makes us coffee. I make myself camera presentable for my 6:30 meeting.
8:45 a.m. — I have two pieces of avocado toast with chili crisp for breakfast while I log into a research webinar that sounds interesting. It’s actually pretty boring, so I read today’s Money Diary and then scroll Instagram a bit. I rarely shop on Instagram, but I see an ad for an adorable lingerie set, and I’m thinking it can be a little post-engagement surprise for N. when the time comes. I search online for a coupon and end up saving almost 50%. $22.03
10:15 a.m. — My productivity is lagging, and it’s a sunny day for the first time in a while, so I make a to-do list to help keep me moving. I change into workout clothes so I’ll feel obligated to do yoga. I write résumé feedback for my friend and send a few more work emails, then I do a 30-minute online yoga class. I complete a few technical work tasks, feed the cat, and shower. I pour more coffee over ice and heat up leftover curry and rice for lunch. I put on a sleeveless olive bodysuit, high-waisted jeans, and a vintage suede jacket for my journey outside.
2 p.m. — I walk to the library again to pick up a book on hold. This one is for a book club run by a bookstore in my neighborhood (I’m trying to come up with creative ways to meet new people). While I’m there, I browse the gift shop for something for my sibling’s birthday. They have a ton of cute cards, so I buy three of them, plus a bookmark for me and a book for my sibling. I go to Pike Place Market for a two-mile loop to the sculpture garden and back, stopping to watch men toss fish to each other at the market. $22.69
4 p.m. — I stop at a fast casual place for a snack of vegan Buffalo chicken tenders with ranch. I take the bus home using reward points on the Transit Go Ticket app. Once I’m home, I try on the Everlane clothes that just arrived. I decide to only keep a pair of wide-legged black pants because everything else doesn’t fit quite right. I’ve been curating a capsule wardrobe this year and I’m very picky about what I’ll add to my closet. I love having a limited number of options that I actually like wearing. I’ve been wanting to add more wide-leg pieces to my wardrobe lately so I’m pretty excited for these. $9.95
6:45 p.m. — N. and I have a quick dinner of boxed mac ‘n’ cheese and seltzers before we go out to trivia at a bar in our neighborhood. We made this plan partially to try to make friends, but we end up only hanging out with each other. We have a lot of fun with the questions about early-aughts memes, and I’m reminded of how much of a nerd N. is. We each have a Rainier and a well drink while we’re there. M. pays.
9:30 p.m. — When we get home, I make a vegan spicy chicken sandwich with arugula, and we catch up on Jeopardy!. We go to bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $54.67

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — I slept pretty anxiously and woke up several times before the alarm. I finally get up and quickly get ready for a webinar at 7 a.m. Thankfully, I can stay off camera this time. I pour myself cold brew.
8:45 a.m. — I have two slices of toast with peanut butter and blueberries as I get ready for the first class in my training course. I’m weirdly nervous! Class is shorter than expected, and my fellow students all seem nice.
12:45 p.m. — N. and I go to UPS to make returns and then have lunch at the vegan Jewish deli. We typically switch off paying for meals out, so I cover our lunch: a bacon, egg, cheese, and cream cheese bagel for me and a turkey club for N. Since we moved to Seattle, we’ve been having lunch out once a week when we’re both working from home. It’s a nice way to break up the week. When we get home, we do some cleaning to prepare for visitors over the next few days, and I finish up my workday. $32.70
3 p.m. — I snack on a chocolate sunflower butter cup and have a strawberry watermelon seltzer. I do more tidying around the apartment and organize my closet, then put on mascara and get myself ready for socializing this evening. I’m meeting some of N.’s family friends for the first time.
4:15 p.m. — Some of N.’s family and friends come over, and we make coffee for everyone. After we chat for a bit, we leave for N.’s family’s house. I use transit rewards for my train ticket, and we get a ride from the train to their house. On the way, we stop for Thai takeout. I’m not sure who paid for the food, or if we’re expected to contribute, since we had nothing to do with the ordering, but I assume N. will take care of it if we owe anything.
7 p.m. — The food is pretty good. I have a mix of tofu and chicken dishes, including an amazing crispy garlic tofu. We have tea and dark chocolate for dessert, and, after a couple hours, N. and I get a ride back to the train. It’s shockingly freezing on the platform and I’m regretting not wearing a sweater under my raincoat. I haven’t fully adjusted to the weather here and I often find myself wearing the wrong layers. I didn’t need to activate my train ticket on the way there, so I don’t have to pay for another ticket on the return trip.
10:30 p.m. — I have a fun-size Snickers before going to bed.
Daily Total: $32.70

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — I wake up from weird, intense dreams. I take the hot coffee N. made into our office for my first and only meeting of the day. I’m actually wearing a bra for once!
9:30 a.m. — N. and I have a breakfast of air-fried hash browns with avocado, everything seasoning, and peri-peri sauce. We start watching the Big Brother finale that we missed last night. N. is making fun of me for being so emotional, but I can tell he’s riveted, too. I’m still hungry, so I have leftover mac ‘n’ cheese with chili crisp. We take a break for a few hours while we both do more work. I see that my paycheck was directly deposited into my new checking account, and I transfer money back to my primary bank. I also book flights to visit a friend early next year. Between credit card points and airline miles, I only pay $5.60. $5.60
1 p.m. — Time for lunch (chicken ranch salads and tomatillo salsa with chips) and finishing the finale. We’re super excited for our favorite player to win, and he’s a Seattle native, too! We discuss trying to find out which neighborhoods he hangs out in so we can meet him. I go back to my desk to finish my work day and notice we got a letter telling us to license our cat with the city. It seems like a ridiculous scam, but I read online that the money goes towards the pet shelter system, which feels like a good enough cause. I pay the fee for one year ($13 for my half). I do research on restaurants and activities for the next two weekends. We have friends visiting each weekend, and I want to have lots of options for them. $13
4:30 p.m. — I shower, get dressed, and race out of the apartment to buy an envelope and mail my sibling’s gift before the post office closes. I’m one of the last people there, but I make it and buy postage at the kiosk! $12.49
5:45 p.m. — Back home, I have another seltzer and Roquefort cheese with tortilla chips as I wait for my friend, S., to arrive from the airport.
7 p.m. — S. arrives, and we spend about an hour chatting before we go for dinner at a sushi place nearby. I have miso soup, a mediocre tofu katsu curry, and a Sapporo, and N. has a sashimi bowl. We discuss the dating and renting scenes of New York City versus Seattle. I pay for dinner, and S. venmos me for her portion. $69.49
Daily Total: $100.58

Day Six

8 a.m. — N. and I spend some time in bed before we get up for the day. N. strains our new batch of cold brew and pours me a glass. I see that Victoria’s Secret is offering a higher cash-back rate on Rakuten today, so I order a nude strapless bra and a pair of sweatpants. I use a $10-off coupon as well ($93.60). I do need these items to replace old pieces in my closet, but I’m mostly making the purchase to keep my VS credit card open, since it’s one of my oldest accounts and helps my credit score. $93.60
11 a.m. — N., S., and I have brunch at a diner nearby. We all split the eggnog French toast, and I have the biscuits and gravy and a glass of Champagne served in a dramatic crystal goblet. N. pays for the French toast, and we each pay for our tabs. $34.12
12:30 p.m. — We stop by a bookstore where we get sucked into buying a few books. I have a lot of trouble with self-control in this store. I try to get most of my books from the library, but I pick up two books of poetry, one by Sylvia Plath and another by Pablo Neruda ($35.22). We walk back to our apartment to plan our next outing. $35.22
2 p.m. — We take the streetcar downtown to tour Smith Tower. I use reward points for the streetcar ticket, and I treat N. and S. to the tickets for Smith Tower. The tour is a cute, interactive exhibit where you follow a prohibition-era character through their life in the building. We have a good time messing around with a typewriter and hunting for silly clues. $50.40
3:15 p.m. — After the tour, we take the elevator to the observatory and share a shrimp dish and a salad while sipping cocktails. My dirty martini comes out sweet, and the server tells me that the bartender accidentally used agave syrup instead of olive juice. They make me a new one, and it’s perfect. I tell our server a “secret code” from the interactive exhibit and get us a small discount. Sometimes it pays to be cheesy. We split the tab three ways. $41.10
5 p.m. — I get us a Lyft back to our neighborhood, where S. and I go to a brewery, and N. goes home to work. S. and I have a good time catching up on our mutual friends and talking about our romantic lives. We each have a flight of beer, and we split a grilled cheese and salad. She treats. $15.59
7:30 p.m. — We meet up with N. at the apartment and then walk to a venue nearby to see a band called Mansions play. I haven’t heard of them before, but they put on a great show! We each cover our own ticket, and N. pays for a beer and a gin and tonic for me. $30
10 p.m. — S. and I say goodbye to N. and walk to a lesbian bar nearby. A stranger covers our entry fee, and I pay for a beer for myself and a cocktail for S. ($24.48 with tip). We have a great time dancing to early-aughts hip-hop and side-eyeing the creepy men who are watching women dance with each other. As a bisexual woman in a relationship with a cis, straight man, I love when I have the chance to spend time with my queer community. Queer spaces, and especially lesbian bars, have always made me feel safe and seen, and I’m so grateful they exist. We go home around 11:30 p.m. and go straight to bed. $24.48
Daily Total: $324.51

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — N. and I cuddle with our cat for a while before he makes us coffee. I have a headache, so I add a hydration tablet to my water, take a couple of Advils, and eat a fun-size Milky Way. We hang out with S. for a couple of hours, drinking coffee and talking about transit and housing in our respective cities.
12 p.m. — We walk to a bagel shop where I get an everything bagel with cherry-pepper cream cheese, and N. and I split a chocolate chip cookie. S. grumbles about the cost of a bacon, egg, and cheese compared to NYC bodegas. N. pays.
1:15 p.m. — I walk S. to the train station and say goodbye. I go to the grocery store and get mac ‘n’ cheese, peanut butter, mini cucumbers, oat milk, beans, tofu, cereal, vegan chicken patties, apples, an onion, carrots, fennel, garlic, blueberries, pretzels, flowers, and seltzer ($30.28 for my half). I upload my receipt to Fetch to earn rewards, an app that I learned about from another Money Diarist! $30.28
3 p.m. — N. and I relax at home for a bit, enjoying the temporary solitude. I shower and drink cold brew to perk up before more socializing tonight. N. makes us boxed mac ‘n’ cheese with arugula as a late lunch. I eventually get dressed in a long-sleeved floral top, high-heeled black boots, and my new Everlane pants, which I love! N. and I walk to a nearby Mexican restaurant to meet his family friends. We share guacamole, I have a jalapeño-pineapple margarita and chicken enchiladas, and N. has a shrimp burrito and a classic margarita ($87.69 with tip, including a reward discount). I cover me and N. $87.69
7:30 p.m. — We stop for ice cream before heading back up to our apartment (N. pays). We all hang out for a few hours, and I have a small glass of white wine. N.’s family has been so welcoming to me since moving here, and I really appreciate having a built-in support system in this new city. Our guests leave around 10 p.m. N. and I chat about engagement ring styles for a while before turning out the lights. I can’t wait to see what he designed for me!
Daily Total: $117.97
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