A Week In Alaskan Bush On A $60,000 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.

Today: an elementary school teacher who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Breyer's Vanilla Ice Cream.
Occupation: Elementary School Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 28
Location: Alaskan Bush
Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: -$18,000 ($5,000 in an emergency fund, $15,000 between IRA, Roth IRA & other investment accounts + $2,000 in my 401(k) at a job I recently started - debt)
Debt: $40,000 in student loans left from Master's (my Bachelor's is paid off)
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,506
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $471, but this is taken out pre-tax because I live in a village of ~300 people and there isn't enough housing, so my school district supplies teacher housing; utilities are included and I share a two-bedroom house with one roommate.
Loans ~ $1,300 (it varies a bit month by month, but the minimum is only around $300-$400)
Savings: ~$1,400 (I max out my Roth IRA, put a couple hundred in my emergency and rainy day funds, and have several sinking funds (travel, gifts, major clothing purchases, and future schooling))
Phone: $75
Disney+: $4.99 (it's the only streaming service that works at school so it's what I use with my students. I share Netflix and Spotify with friends and they are paying at the moment.)
Hum: ~$25 for vitamins (Hair Sweet Hair and Here Comes the Sun)
Full Circle Produce: $150 (I use the prepay option for a produce delivery service where I pay $300 and they give me $315 in credits and we usually go through it in a month since there are not many ways to get a variety of fresh produce out here; I split this with my housemate, H.)
Medevac Insurance: $49/year
Health Insurance: paid 100% by my employer
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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?
Not from anyone except for myself. I grew up in an unstable home and was moved into foster care as a youth. Nobody in my family had attended college and I was made to have low expectations for myself. I felt the surest and quickest way out of that life was through a college degree that could take me anywhere. Most of my undergraduate was paid through scholarships, but I ended up needing to take out about $15,000 because I studied abroad every summer, and summers were not covered by my scholarship. I took out about $45,000 in loans from my Master's.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I had no financial education growing up. My family was low-income and I knew this, but nobody ever spoke of money. I have held a job my entire life and paid my way for most things.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I "worked" babysitting and other small gigs until I was of legal working age (14 in my state). The day I turned 14, I went and applied for a job at a local coffee shop. I paid for anything I wanted.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, constantly. I worked every holiday and bonus day possible all through high school.
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Do you worry about money now?
I try not to! I have worried, but I try to adopt an "abundance" mindset, reminding myself that there is (almost) always enough to get by and I have made it through every challenging financial situation before. This keeps my stress levels about money pretty low. Sinking funds help as well!
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Officially when I turned 18, but I had been paying my way for most things prior to that. I do not have an official financial safety net, but I have friends who I know would take me in without questions if necessary.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
From the ages of 18-21, I received ~$500 a month in a stipend from the foster care system that went toward my rent during college. This is available to anyone in my state who was in foster care and opts in when they turn 18.

Day One

8:15 a.m. — I wake up and find D. (the puppy we recently adopted from the village streets) and pull her into bed to cuddle while I watch half of an episode of the new season of Virgin River. I roll out of bed and put on my workout clothes so I have no excuse later and help my roommate set up our mini fake Christmas tree. I then saute apples in butter with cinnamon and powdered sugar for both of us for breakfast.
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9:15 a.m — My principal, Q., texts us that our local store finally received some eggs on a plane yesterday (after about three weeks of waiting) so I call the store and place an order for four dozen (we have a lot of holiday baking to do!). Q. will pick it up later when she goes to get the mail. I then make a homemade chai latte and head to school to work while listening to the Michael Bublé soundtrack. $14.36
1:15 p.m. — I send off an application for a potential summer job before heading home for lunch. I make lunch of leftover vegetarian roast, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce for myself and my housemate H. I also drink some grape juice and water (I don't usually have grape juice at home — it's $12 for a bottle! — but I bought it to make "mocktails" for Thanksgiving last week since I live in a dry village). We check-in while eating lunch and I play a little with D.
3:45 p.m. — I grab my iPad, yoga mat, a Diet Coke, and a handful of honey roasted peanuts and head to school. Q. texts us that she picked up mail and that we have some packages. This is always exciting, as we live in a fly-in village and get most things through the mail. I grab mine and H.'s packages and bring them to her. I see the school district sent us both a healthy snack box (they do this occasionally) and grab the crackers to eat with my Diet Coke. I get back to working on some projects and tidying up my classroom while watching Taylor Swift's folklore concert on Disney+ in the background.
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5:30 p.m. — As I'm doing my weekly finance check-in, I see an offer for my Chase Freedom card to get 10% off Groupon purchases and there's a (seemingly) too-good-to-be-true deal for a chiropractor as I'm registering, so I buy it ($21). I also receive a stock notification from the service I'm trying this year (Motley Fool) about a stock that fits in my monthly budget and I buy it through my Roth IRA ($69). $90
6:15 p.m. — I remember to log in and choose which fruits and vegetables I want for next week (it has to be done by tomorrow at 11). I get an acorn squash, parsley, four lemons, a head of cauliflower, six apples, and a bunch of kale. I add 12 yellow corn tortillas to the order as well. It comes to $60.39, but that comes out of the $315 of credits I have already prepaid. I then put a short (21 minute) Yoga with Adriene ab video on the SmartBoard and do that before heading home for the evening.
6:45 p.m. — Once home, I say hi to D. then make pepper and onion quesadillas served with lettuce, sour cream, and salsa for myself and H. for dinner while drinking water. I do the dishes and organize a little, shower, and watch a couple more episodes of Virgin River. I finish my evening routine (brush, floss, mouthwash, eyebrow growth serum), read Conversations with Friends for a bit in bed, and fall asleep around 10:30.
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Daily Total: $104.36

Day Two

5 a.m. — The sound of a puppy whining outside my bedroom wakes me up. D. was sleeping in H.'s bed tonight, but she apparently wasn't feeling well and jumped out, so I pull her into my bed and we fall back asleep.
8:30 a.m. — I am not ready to get up yet, so I finish the episode of Virgin River that I started last night. Finally, I get up and put on workout clothes again, letting D. out to go to the bathroom. I start making a Thanksgiving leftover brunch of eggs (finally!), vegetarian roast, biscuits, potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce while H. squeezes fresh orange juice. I drink water and do some dishes while it's cooking.
10:30 a.m. — There's a fresh coating of snow this morning, so I put on all my snow gear and take D. out for a walk/to play with Q.'s puppy.
2 p.m. — I eat a yellow pepper that I sliced up before grabbing a Diet Coke and a box of books that were donated to my students and head to school. I take a bag of bean chips from the snack box the school district sent while drinking the Diet Coke and getting some things ready for school tomorrow.
4:15 p.m. — I head home for a snack and to move the laundry to the drying rack, then head back to school to work on the main project I wanted to get done today: putting a bulletin board up in the hallway and posting a picture to the school's Facebook so that my students know I am still proud of their work. We are not allowed to be anywhere except in our classrooms when others are in the school (COVID is spreading rapidly in our region), so it has to be done when nobody else is there.
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5 p.m. — I put on another Yoga with Adriene video, tidy up my classroom, prepare something for my TA to work on tomorrow, and head home. Once home, I eat leftover kale soup from last week. I then tidy up a little and head to the bathroom to do a quick clean before setting up my bubble bath. I light a candle, put the bubbles in, and set my speaker up with one of my Spotify daily mixes before getting in the tub with a piece of pumpkin pie.
8 p.m. — After the bath, I dry off and tidy up a little bit more. I speak with L. (a guy I'm talking to who lives elsewhere in Alaska) on the phone for a while. Then I pick out an outfit for tomorrow, pack my bag, and watch the rest of the episode of Virgin River before heading to bed and falling asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:25 a.m. — I wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off and give D. a few minutes to wake up as well (she is not a morning pup). When she looks ready, I take her off the bed so that she can go out to greet H. I get dressed and make my bed as H. lets D. out, then I put the tea, milk, and cinnamon in a pot and let my chai latte simmer. As it's simmering, I do my morning routine, unplug my speaker and phone, and put them in my bag. I grab the latte, take out the trash, and head to school.
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7:50 a.m. — I get to school a bit early to make sure everything is set up for my TA and the school secretary. We aren't allowed to be in the same room as anyone else, so I have to make sure it's ready before they arrive. I see Q. e-mailed us saying there were small gifts and treats from the District, so I go see if there is anything good for breakfast there. There isn't (it's just candy), so I grab a few pieces for later and take a blueberry oatmeal bar from the snack box they sent me last week and eat that while checking my e-mail.
9 a.m. — H. texts me that she's done WFH so I can go (we film all of our videos for students at home because we have to wear masks at all times at school). I head home, fry up an egg super quickly while putting the dishes away, and then film three videos for my students. I finish the dishes, let D. out, and then go back to school for a bit.
12:15 p.m. — I head home for lunch and let D. out. I make a lunch of various Thanksgiving leftovers (roast, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce) and drink a lot of water. One of our support staff members has shown up and his dogs are outside, so D. is following them around. I call them over for treats and bring her inside. I wash the dishes from lunch, film a video for my lesson, and head back to school by 1. I call the local store to order a few pieces of local apparel for Christmas gifts and ask whether they have received any ice cream this week (they have!). I order two shirts, sweatpants, and some Breyer's vanilla. $83.25
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3:30 p.m. — I drop out for a few minutes to change into workout clothes. I have a meeting right at 4 and I know I won't work out after if I'm not ready. D. is waiting patiently at the door, so I play a little bit of indoor fetch with her before getting dressed, grabbing a snack for the meeting (honey roasted peanuts and apples), and letting D. outside. I head back to school and realize my meeting actually starts at 4:30, so I go to use the school's rowing machine for a quick 15-minute workout. I get to my meeting right at 4:30.
6:15 p.m. — My meeting ends at 6 and I finish up my last lesson quickly. I head home and make magic broccoli (Google it if you don't know!) with brown rice and parmesan. I tidy up, watch an episode of The Crown, do my nighttime routine, and am asleep by 9:30.
Daily Total: $83.25

Day Four

6:40 a.m. — I wake up early since I wasn't completely finished yesterday. It's December 1(!), so I take the first tea out of my advent calendar and bring it to school with me. I drink that while getting started and eat an apple and a KIND protein bar from the snack box from the school district.
10 a.m. — Right as Q. starts putting classwork in the truck, I finish putting out my students' work for the week. I run home to change my shirt (preparing and delivering the work is a physical endeavor) and check on D. There's also a village dog nearby, so I call him over and give him some food from our stash for visiting dogs. I take a bowl of popcorn I made a few days ago with me as well as the leftover lemon from last night for my water bottle and head back to school to start preparing for next week. I also realize I forgot to buy a t-shirt for one person yesterday, so I call the store and order another one. $19.29
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1 p.m. — I head home to eat. I play with D. and then let her out to play with the dog who is still waiting dutifully for our maintenance man to be done and make leftover kale soup (reconstituted with more broth that I made fresh last week) and eat it with croutons I made from stale bread last night. I head back to school to get working on my lessons for next week.
4 p.m. — D. has been feeling quite abandoned lately, so I make it a point to leave right on time. I take her for a jog, but it's so cold I feel like my muscles are going to freeze up, so I head home after about twenty minutes. I put potatoes in the oven to bake and prepare a salad to eat with them. I shred some cheddar cheese, take out the butter and sour cream, and set everything on the table. I start an episode of The Crown while it's cooking, eat, finish the dishes, and take a slice of pumpkin pie and scoop of ice cream with me to school for a (virtual) union meeting at 7.
7:35 p.m. — It's a quick meeting and I head right home. I finish cleaning the dishes from earlier, finish the episode of The Crown, read Conversations with Friends, pick out my outfit for tomorrow, do my nighttime routine, and fall asleep around 9:30.
Daily Total: $19.29

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I get up with my alarm and boil two eggs in one pot and pour my chai latte ingredients in another. While those are simmering, I make my bed, get dressed, and go through my morning routine. I unplug my phone and speaker, take the eggs and latte out, and head to school to create more lessons. Remote learning is not nearly as fun as in-person learning, but I am trying to see it as an opportunity to hone my practice and learn new skills.
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12:25 p.m. — After greeting my TA (who comes in at 12) and preparing her with a job for the day (from the other room!), I head home for lunch. I make a lunch of leftovers from Thanksgiving again and work on the dishes. I grab an apple and my advent calendar tea for today and head back to school for a meeting at 1 and continue making lessons through the afternoon.
4 p.m. — I have a meeting with some colleagues in the district who teach the same grade level (collaborating within the school doesn't work as well when nobody teaches the same grade ranges). I enjoy talking to them, sharing ideas, and seeing how things are going. The meeting ends around 5:30. H. comes in to tell me she needs help figuring out what size travel kennel to get for D. for when it's time to take her to get fixed, so I log off and go home to help her. H. makes some balsamic roasted brussels sprouts with pasta for dinner and then we each have a slice of pumpkin pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My vitamins arrived today with a free sample of melatonin, so I try that since I have a dehydration headache. I'm asleep around 9.
11:30 p.m. — Drinking all of that water so late has failed me and I wake up having to go the bathroom. The melatonin has failed me as well (it's the first time I've taken it because running around with five-year-olds all day is tiring so I usually fall asleep easily) and I am up for a few hours. I watch a few episodes of Grace and Frankie since I can't sleep.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:40 a.m. — I wake up a little late after the not-great night of sleep and get up and ready to go so that I'm at school by 8. I bring a chai latte and my advent calendar tea for later and get started right away. My actual TA has been in quarantine for over two weeks and returns today, so I greet her (from the other room) and let her know what we're working on at the moment. I'm pretty sure I still have a packet of maple and brown sugar oatmeal around here from a few weeks ago, so I find that in my cabinet and make some breakfast while I get working.
10 a.m. — Motley Fool e-mails me about another up-and-coming stock and I decide to buy it. I transfer $82 to my Roth IRA for it. I feel like my deodorant isn't working (this has been happening a lot since I moved back to the U.S. from abroad and I'm not sure why) so I run home to put more on and change my shirt. I let D. out to play with the other dogs outside and keep checking on her after I return to school. $82
12:20 p.m. — The TAs switch out at 12, so I stay to ensure the second one has a plan for what she is working on. Then, I head home and let D. out before heating up leftover pasta from last week. While it's cooking, I finish the dishes from earlier and clean up the kitchen. Then I eat, play with D. a little, and am back at school working by 1.
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4 p.m. — I am exhausted from not sleeping well last night and am also quite hungry so I head home right at 4. I change into workout clothes and let D. out to go for a walk with Q. and her dog while H. makes macaroni and cheese. We eat an early dinner and I head back to school to clean my classroom, prepare for tomorrow, and put on a Yoga with Adriene video.
7:30 p.m. — After finishing the practice, I make sure everything is off and I head home. I play with D. a bit before eating a slice of pumpkin pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I then take a shower before finishing my nighttime routine, reading Conversations with Friends, and heading to bed (I fall asleep around 9).
Daily Total: $82

Day Seven

7:35 a.m. — Getting up is hard today (it has been below 0 at night), but I get up in time to fry two eggs and get ready. I take the eggs and some juice and head to school. We have trainings all day, so I do some multitasking and try to get work done for my students for next week.
11:40 a.m. — They let us out for lunch and I check in with my TA before running home. We have an hour for lunch today, but I am hoping to get a few videos recorded for my students. I make leftover kale soup with new broth and croutons and eat while talking to H. I head back to school and check-in with the afternoon TA before recording one video and trying to record another that fails. Our trainings start again at 12:40.
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3:30 p.m. — We were supposed to go until 4:30, but they let us out early! I head home to unpack the packages that came today and change into workout clothes. Back at school, I do a Yoga with Adriene video while D. sleeps next to me. We hear that one family is selling pizza, so I buy a slice for H. and a slice for myself. At 5, I have the last meeting for the Multicultural Studies course that I need to take to move my teaching certification to Alaska, and we build drums in the traditional local style! $10
6:45 p.m. — We finish later than planned and H. and I head home. The pizza shows up and we eat our slices while preparing a delicata squash for dinner. We roast it with red onions, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, and cumin for about 25 minutes. When it's done, I eat dinner, finish the dishes, and have a small bowl of chocolate almond fudge ice cream before doing my nighttime routine, watching half an episode of The Crown, and going to bed at 9:30!
Daily Total: $10
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