A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $60,000 Salary

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Today: a Project Coordinator who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of their money this week on a dog-shaped ornament.
Occupation: Project Coordinator
Industry: Public Health
Age: 28
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $60,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,800
Gender Identity: non-binary (they/them please!)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $800
Utilities: $85.55 (split three ways)
Student Loans: $10.33 (Will be around $325 after re-certification. I have $69,000 in student loans.)
Imperfect Produce Box: ~$16.60 (my share)
Bus Pass: $25
Health Insurance: $69 (retirement contributions don't start until next month)
Spotify Unlimited: $0 (girlfriend pays, I use constantly)
Netflix/Hulu: $0 (wife pays, I don't use a lot)
Pet Insurance: $32
Car Insurance: $50
Savings: I contribute 20% of my income to my savings, 10% to my wife and my joint saving, and will be contributing 5% to my retirement account to max out on my employer match.

Day One

5 a.m. — My wife's first alarm goes off and she returns to bed for our daily snuggle sesh. I've been out of the country for the last ten months and just got home two weeks ago, and so it feels extra special to have her next to me. After we get up, my wife and I visit my girlfriend's bedroom and hang out for a minute while the cats beg us for attention like they were just rescued from a deserted island. Missed this, too. I catch the bus for work and smoothly make my transfer. I've only been at work for about a week, so this is a big deal, y'all.
3:30 p.m. — My work hired me for two projects that are currently still in approvals, so things are slow. I meet with a project lead, negotiate a complicated family Thanksgiving detente, and read the protocol for a study I'm working on. I feel really grateful to have a supervisor who let me set my own schedule. I love leaving when it's still light out even in the dreariest PNW weather.
4:30 p.m. — I stop by PCC to pick up the chocolate chips that my girlfriend asked me to get for dinner tonight. Fancy grocery stores kind of bum me out at this point in my life. I love bougie food treats, but I know I don't need them. And our budget right now is tight enough that if I treated myself like I'd like to, it would have a big impact on our bottom line. It makes me feel angry and sad in some ways that I can't afford to buy myself whatever food I want right now, but at the same time, I know it's not forever. I buy bulk chocolate chips and wince when they're rung up at the register ($7.61). Plus a cookie ($1.19) for the grumpy food feelings. I head home and spend the evening with my wife and girlfriend. $8.80
Daily Total: $8.80

Day Two

7 a.m. — I'm working on my budget on the bus. I had a big stipend from my university for ten months of world travel that I just came home from, but I spent all of it. Plus $700 on a line of credit. Plus my wife had to float expenses for me sometimes. Plus my girlfriend bought my last flight. Seeing it all written out like that feels awful, but it's the facts of the matter and I'm trying to face them. We've all sat down and talked budget, but until I see my first paycheck this coming Monday, it's tough to nail down a budget. I've spent the last six years lurching from job to grad school to temp job to fellowship, and so I didn't have much of a financial cushion when I left. My wife is a pro with money, and I'm working to change my habits so I can be the partner that she deserves. The numbers look hopeful.
1:45 p.m. — Lordy, work is slow today. I'm at the point where I stuff envelopes that aren't needed for another two weeks. I decide to buy myself a (really good, chocolate chip and cream cheese topping) muffin to try and bribe myself into working on the business plan for an idea I have. I really love this idea, but I'm scared I'll lose steam, or just generally suck. Maybe there's something there with the money/food/feelings anxiety. But, the muffin works. $1.90
5 p.m.— I get home at 5 and our Imperfect Produce box is here! As I'm unpacking the box, my girlfriend texts my wife and I to tell us that she's given notice at her job. This is....not my favorite. She's a tech world drop out and comes from a family that has a lot of money, so she has a pretty significant safety cushion. At the same time, she didn't work and was on disability for year, and has spent two years bouncing through a long series of jobs she thought would be a better fit. She's entered a new field that has a lot of job opportunities, but I feel like after years of instability I'm ready to have both of my relationships exist with financial stability. My wife and I hang with the cats until bed.
Daily Total: $1.90

Day Three

5:45 a.m. — Getting dressed for the day with this Money Diary in mind makes me look at my clothes with a different perspective. My boots are a pair my mom bought me five years ago that have holes in the soles. my shirt and socks belong to my wife. I bought my pants at Buffalo Exchange a couple years ago and I busted out the fake pockets so they have weird flaps of fabric that I try to hide. It's depressing. My tax returns tell me that the most I've ever made in a calendar year is right around $32,000, which is not an income at which you can afford to spend a lot on anything, especially clothes. At the same time, the Buddhists say that desire is the root of all evil, and I think there's some truth to that. I don't want to buy stuff just to buy stuff, but I want to have nice things that are a pleasure to wear. I take the bus to work.
11 a.m. — I decide to begin finding specific items for the capsule wardrobe list that I put together a while back. I browse Pendleton and find a waterproof jacket I'm excited about. I share my capsule wardrobe spreadsheet with my wife and we spend the rest of the day discussing the pros and cons of different pieces. I'm tired of eating homemade food, so I got to the cafeteria for lunch. The meal deal is a sandwich, piece of fruit, and chips for $6.50, and it's fresh. No regrets. $6.50
4:30 p.m. — Date niiiiight with the wife! We go to Xi'an Noodle, and she gets fantastic thick noodles with lots of cumin and lamb, but mine isn't as exciting. She picks up the tab ($21.37). Our places of work have a deal with a gym that offers archery classes on Fridays. My wife is a member of the gym so she gets in for free and I pay $7.35 for a day pass. We sort of thought it would be a novelty, but turns out to be really satisfying and fun. I go from missing the hay bale altogether to popping the small target balloon at the end of the class. My wife checks into joining the archery club and finds out it would only be 30 bucks for year-round practices. We take the bus home together and make sure to tell the cats they're naughty before we fall into bed. $7.35
Daily Total: $13.85

Day Four

11 a.m.— We wake up gloriously late. My wife makes me excellent pancakes for breakfast, and we chill for a bit. My girlfriend took the car we all own together last night to see her girlfriend and isn't home way past when we agreed she'd be home so I could use the car. This is not my favorite, so I talk it out with my wife. She makes the very good point that my wanting her to be more reliable is probably related to my wanting myself to be more reliable, especially with money. After waiting for a bit, we wind up taking the bus to a bathhouse. My mother-in-law gave me a gift certificate to my favorite bathhouse, Ladywells, as a welcome home present. It was definitely a mistake to come at this time of the day. It's packed full and I get overwhelmed. I wind up taking a two-hour nap in a hanging nest. We pay with the gift card.
4 p.m. — We've got the after-soak starvation, and so we head to Gordito's for their famous baby-sized burritos. I pay ($18.10). My girlfriend picks us up and we head home. It's my girlfriend's and my date night while my wife goes off to see her girlfriend. I'm in a weird, pissy mood. We watch calming British TV and I work out our Thanksgiving plans. I go to sleep really early, hoping to wake up in a better mood. $18.10
Daily Total: $18.10

Day Five

9 a.m. — My girlfriend heads out to yoga and I continue working on the plan for thanksgiving. It's our first Thanksgiving together, and it's been a saga to get here. My parents offered to come to Seattle because I've been traveling so much lately, and negotiating plans between my wife, girlfriend, and family gets really complicated. My parents know about my girlfriend and they've all met very briefly on a handful of occasions, but they aren't comfortable having a meal with her. It sucks. I work out a menu, schedule, and shopping list for nine people that meets everyone's dietary needs, social anxieties, and the restrictions of our small kitchen. My wife comes home from her date with her girlfriend and mentions something about her girlfriend and my family's beloved pie recipe, and I can tell this is going to be A Thing. I head out on the bus to do some errands, seething just a little.
2 p.m.— I check the price of turkey at PCC to see if we can afford to get a good quality one. Their turkeys start at FIFTY-EIGHT DOLLARS, so I guess not. I get a slice of pizza ($3.50) to console myself. I've arranged to pick up some sumac from a neighbor through the Buy Nothing Project so I don't have to buy an expensive spice I'm not sure I'll use more than once. I come home and launch into a fight with my wife. Of course, it's not really about the pie. Polyamory means being upfront with your deep fears and insecurities, and it can be pretty tough to have to hash that out with people you love. I cry, a lot. We work it out. I order Taco Bell on Grubhub for the feelings. I thought I had 11 dollars in credit, but apparently not. It comes out to be more than I thought it would be, but whatever ($22.30 for dinner for two). $25.80
6 p.m. — I do our normal house grocery shopping for M-W. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for three people for three days comes out to $63.67. This comes out of our joint house account that we all deposit about $200-$250 in twice a month to cover shared expenses like groceries, gas for the car, household sundries. I head back to our immaculately clean, freshly vacuumed house and make chicken teriyaki lunches for the three of us for the week. My girlfriend does the dishes when I'm done and my wife makes the rice because I can't cook rice. One of the things I love best about polyamory is the cooperation. Life is more pleasurable when it's shared, and it's a lot easier to cope with the slings and arrows of life with three people facing the problem. $63.67
Daily Total: $89.47

Day Six

5 a.m. — I get paid today!!! I love knowing I have money in the bank. I have 10% of my paycheck set up to go to the house account for household food and supplies, 10% goes to my wife and my joint checking for our mutual stuff, and 20% goes to my savings. That leaves me about $1,000 in my checking. I immediately transfer rent to the house saving account. Eight hundred gone. I buy time-sensitive Christmas presents — a custom ornament for my brother in the shape of his new puppy, a 3-D topo relief of a mountain I climbed this year with my dad, and a tablecloth from the region of Italy my mom traveled this year ($115.21). I transfer $100 from the automatic savings transfer back to my checking, so I have about $200 in totally unrestricted fun money for the next two weeks. It feels awesome to know how much I have to spend on fun shit, and not have to worry that I'm spending money that I don't have and lead me to having to ask for help later. I take the bus to work. $115.21
11:30 a.m. — I use money I found in my pants this morning to buy myself a blueberry muffin and London fog treat ($5.25). I meet with the previous manager of one of the projects I've been assigned and she says that it's totally normal to have a slow period. I feel better about all the downtime I have had. $5.25
3:30 p.m. — Further painful Thanksgiving negotiations. My brother and his wife made a Thanksgiving reservation at a restaurant my wife and I can't afford, at a time that would mean we couldn't cook for the Thanksgiving we are hosting for our friends. My parents offer to pay for us, but given that my mother-in-law will be with us and the meal is $65 a plate pre-tax and tip, that seems like too much. My parents also have decided they're staying at my brother's (very expensive) house, and spending most of the day after with him and his wife. I strongly suspect that at least part of this decision is to avoid encountering my girlfriend. I try to clear my head on the bus ride home so I don't bring the hurt home with me.
6 p.m. — I spend the evening eating dinner and hanging with my wife and the cats. I fall asleep ready for the Thanksgiving drama to be over.
Daily Total: $120.46

Day Seven

5 a.m. — I wake up and quickly get ready post wife snuggles. I head to work and do some bus googling on deer hunting, which is a hobby I'd like to get in to. I think it's really important to be honest with yourself about where your meat comes from if you choose to eat it, and I'd much rather eat meat I shot and cleaned myself than from a factory farm. Washington has an online hunter's education class that's only $19.99, and my aunt has some deer rifles she has offered to let me use any time. What I'd really like to hunt is feral hogs. Those don't exist in Washington, so I go down the rabbit hole of looking at guided hunting vacations. The most expensive I find is $1,300 for two days in California and the cheapest is $400 for two days in Oklahoma (including an OPEN BAR). Weekend getaway to Oklahoma in 2020? I think yes.
9 a.m. — I have a meeting with the lead on the project I'm on and it's exciting to hear that there will be more on my plate soon. He gets my pronouns wrong despite me having them in my signature line, introducing myself to his team with them, and being introduced to the entire department (twice with them). I chat briefly with my supervisor and we come up with a good plan to address this. I'm super hungry after the meeting. I go for the meal deal, despite the genuine tragedy of having to settle for a turkey sandwich over tuna (lunchmeat is what the devil uses to wipe his ass, fight me). I pick out the turkey and survive. That plus a dirty chai and I am filled with a zest for public health. $12.73
2 p.m. — I catch myself in the bathroom mirror and realize that my nipples are 100% erect and 100% visible through my shirt. I had a breast reduction a year back for gender reasons and am still learning about when my new chest is and is not visible. I immediately buy a pack of bralettes from Fruit of the Loom and resolve that work = bra from now on. Traveling around the world was not a bra-required occasion, but what you can get away with in Hanoi doesn't fly in Seattle. $26.39
4:45 p.m. — I arrive home and The Great Thanksgiving Shop commences. We buy all the basics (flour, cranberry sauce, a 12lb turkey (for NINE DOLLARS with a coupon), stuffing, potatoes, onions, stock, milk, pie crust, three pounds of fancy cheese, pumpkin seeds, three tubs of non-dairy butter, a pomegranate, macaroni, bourbon, honey) for $96 at Grocery Outlet. Then we head to TJ's for harissa, Aperol, vegan ranch dip, Brussels sprouts, mums for the entryway, and red wine vinegar for about $48. The final stop is Freddy's for compostable plates and a whole bunch of club soda for about $10. Thanksgiving for nine people is expensive! I suppose we could have cut back on the recipes, picked cheaper ingredients, or invited fewer people, but that seems sort of grim. All the food money came from our joint account, so I'm responsible for about ⅓ of the total cost. $51.33
6 p.m. — I spend the evening with my girlfriend and wife and the cats planning out Thanksgiving and hoping that everything works out with my family visit.
Daily Total: $90.45
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