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A Week In Switzerland On A $106,000 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: a scientist who makes $106,000 per year and spends some of their money this week on an iPhone.
Editor's note: All currency has been converted to USD.
Occupation: Scientist
Industry: Academia
Age: 29
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Salary: $106,000
Net Worth: $69,734 ($12,586 in a US savings account, $1,112 in a US checking account, $15,376 in a US investment account, $16,421 in a Swiss retirement account, $22,714 in a Swiss savings account, $1,525 in a Swiss checking account).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $7,918
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent $2,375 (I am subletting a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment. This is more than I wanted to pay but housing is extremely limited in Zurich (especially for foreigners moving from abroad) and I found this through a colleague).
Netflix: $21.30
Apple Music: $16.19
Gym: $30
Max: $0 (I mooch from my parents).
Nord VPN: $5 (so I can watch American TV).
Health Insurance: $475 (expensed to my fellowship).
Cell Phone: $11.48
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?
My parents encouraged me to work hard in school but made it clear to me from a young age that they had saved zero dollars to fund college for me. I played a sport from the time I was a kid and was able to secure a full scholarship to play for the university I attended. After college I did a PhD in science, which was fully funded (tuition and a stipend — this is standard for STEM PhDs).
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I had a savings account for kids when I was young and was always encouraged to save my money. I have one parent who is extremely frugal and another who is more lax with money. I've always leaned more frugal but have gotten a bit more relaxed now that I finally have a real salary after a decade as a student.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working at a camp the summer before I went to college so I could have spending money. I worked there for the next three summers until I won funding to work in a lab at my university for the summer.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, my parents were not financially stable when I was young. My earliest memories are of an apartment that had cockroaches and mice. Things got better after my mom started working and my dad got a better job. In hindsight, things weren't that bad — I just always felt like the poor kid around my peers and my extended family.
Do you worry about money now?
No, but this is very recent. I finished my PhD last year and while I was able to save some money during that period, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do now.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was on my parents' health insurance until I was 26 and they paid for my cell phone until I finished my PhD. I've been financially independent since I finished college, except for the cell phone.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I was very grateful to inherit $7,000 upon my grandma's passing when I was 21.

Day One

7 a.m. — Wake up, wash my face with water and apply my morning skin products (Josie Maran Argan Milk, Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer Mineral SPF 47, Josie Maran Argan Oil and Shiseido Benefiance Eye Cream). I eat quark (basically a German version of Greek yogurt) and muesli for breakfast followed by green tea. I do my Duolingo for the day while stretching (English is the main language at work but I'm learning German because Zurich is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland).
8:30 a.m. — I bike to work and attend an admin meeting where people bring cakes to celebrate fun events. I get a bit of work done before a meeting.
12:30 p.m. — I'm not really hungry because of the cake but I eat the salad I brought for lunch.
3 p.m. — I procrastinate work and book a room in a youth hostel for a trail running weekend in a really pretty part of Switzerland that I haven't visited yet. I joined a trail running club recently and it's been really fun. I'm excited to try a weekend trip with the group. $61.53
4 p.m. — There are crêpes in the break room so my office mate and I go eat a few and chat.
5:30 p.m. — I cycle to the weight lifting class I've registered for at the university gym. It's at a location I haven't been to before and I get lost in the building. A woman who is also lost asks me for directions in Swiss German; when I reply in my American English-accented high German, she immediately switches to English. Turns out we are going to the same class and we find it together. (German is an official language in Switzerland but native German speakers in Switzerland speak Swiss German, which is a set of dialects. It's so different from standard German that native German speakers from Germany have trouble understanding them.)
7 p.m. — I bike home in the rain but it feels kinda nice after the sweaty class. I shower, do my nighttime skin routine (CeraVe face wash, Josie Maran Argan Milk, Josie Maran Divine Drip Argan Oil and Honey Sleeping Nectar, Josie Maran Argan Oil and Shiseido Benefiance Eye Cream) and put on Josie Maran Whipped Argan Body Butter. I eat a weird protein bowl for dinner from a German company (a targeted Instagram ad got me).
10 p.m. — Get into bed and read on my Kindle until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $61.53

Day Two

7 a.m. — Wake up, do my morning skin routine, eat quark and muesli again for breakfast followed by green tea. Bike to work.
12 p.m. — I eat the salad I brought from home for lunch with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, cashews and balsamic vinegar. I also have a protein bar.
4:15 p.m. — I leave work early to catch the train into the mountains to meet my trail running group. Trains are expensive here but suuuuper nice so it's less painful. This is the half-fare cost because I get a discount through work. $16.20
9:30 p.m. — The run is absolutely beautiful. We only see one other person. At some point on the downhill run, I lose my phone. I don't have my physical train card with me (only on the train app) so I have to buy a full-price ticket ($32.40). We all buy food at a kebab stand at the station ($17.48). It looks mediocre but I'm starving so it tastes amazing. $49.88
11 p.m. — I bike home from the station and look on my laptop to figure out where my phone is on the trail. It has about 70% battery and looks like it's in a cow pasture. I'm exhausted so I shower and continue to go back and forth on whether I should return tomorrow and try to find my phone. I read on my Kindle while stretching in bed and fall asleep around 1.
Daily Total: $66.08

Day Three

6 a.m. — I don't have an alarm without my phone so I wake up, nervous that I've overslept, realize the time and try to sleep some more. I get up a little after 7 and eat muesli and quark with green tea. I decide to buy a new phone so I go to my provider's brick-and-mortar store. A very nice salesperson tells me they can't sell me a new phone because I switched my contract less than two months ago. He takes pity on me and gives me a free SIM card. A small win for the day is that I only needed clarification about the contract in English, otherwise we spoke German. I next go to a discount electronics store and see that the black iPhone 13 is on sale. I would have preferred a fun color and briefly consider the value of aesthetics versus capital in my life. I buy the cheaper phone. I bike to work and set the phone up. $837.94
9:30 a.m. — I turned off iCloud backups and haven't backed my phone up to my computer in over two years so I go home and put on my hiking boots. I rarely post to social media and the thought of losing all my photos makes me sad. I bike to the main train station to avoid paying for the tram. This time I have my physical train card so the train to the mountains is half-price. $16.20
12:30 p.m. — I arrive at my destination and hike up the mountain (again), stopping halfway to eat a melted protein bar. I get to the area around where the iPhone tracking says it should be and wander about hopelessly for around a half hour (it's less accurate now that its data plan has been transferred to my new phone). I end up finding the phone perched peacefully on a tuft of grass. I'm shocked I actually found it. I hike back down with a spring in my step and buy a ticket back to Zurich. I eat a weird, chalky, vegan protein bar on the train. $16.20
5:30 p.m. — I bike home from the train station with every intention of showering quickly and heading back out to a going away party but I'm very hungry and tired from two days of a borderline irresponsible amount of exercise. I shower and order takeout from a restaurant across the street from my apartment (panang curry with tofu and an order of veggie dumplings). I assume I'll have enough food for lunch tomorrow but end up eating everything while watching Alone on Netflix. I get hooked on the show so I stretch in bed and fall asleep while watching. $43.70
Daily Total: $914.04

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm. I do my morning skin routine, eat muesli and quark with green tea, stretch and practice German on Duolingo. I head to the grocery store where I buy food to stock my nearly empty fridge: bread, muesli, quark, almonds, sunflower seeds, crackers, peanut butter, jars to make overnight oats, oat milk, buffalo mozzarella, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, carrots, bananas, nectarines, blueberries and a whole watermelon. $82.02
12 p.m. — For lunch I have the bread I just bought along with soup I had in my pantry and some of the watermelon. I continue watching Alone. I decide that despite having successfully retrieved a cell phone from the wilderness, I will never be this level of outdoorsy. I watch a man on the show hunt, shoot, slaughter and eat a beaver. He gets evacuated after contracting giardia.
3 p.m. — I leave my apartment to go on a date with a woman I met on Bumble. It's 95 degrees outside so we meet at the river and go swimming together. We then walk around a bit and get gelato (she pays).
6:15 p.m. — I shower and do my nighttime skin routine but skip the body lotion because it's too hot. I eat cheese, crackers and more blueberries for dinner while watching Netflix. We finally get a thunderstorm that cools everything down enough that I can open my windows again (A/C is nearly impossible to get in Swiss apartments).
Daily Total: $82.02

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — I sleep in a bit and bike to a climbing gym to meet a couple of friends (I bought a 10-swipe pass so this was paid for a few months ago). We climb until everyone's arms are too sore to continue. We head out and meet another friend at an adorable café. I order a bagel sandwich and a cappuccino. $19.10
5:30 p.m. — After biking home, showering and calling my mom, I have more bread, soup and watermelon for an early dinner. I meal prep for the week ahead (broccoli and carrot salad with sunflower seeds, almonds, hard-boiled eggs and a tahini, dijon and honey dressing) while catching up with two friends from my PhD program. We talk until 11 and I go to bed.
Daily Total: $19.10

Day Six

7 a.m. — It's Monday so I am up early. I do my morning skincare routine and eat overnight oats with peanut butter for breakfast. I stretch, do my daily Duolingo and bike to work.
12 p.m. — I eat broccoli salad for lunch at my desk because I feel like I need to catch up on work after playing hooky Friday to go find my iPhone.
6:30 p.m. — I bike home, shower, do my nighttime skincare and eat cheese, crackers and watermelon for dinner while watching Quarterback on Netflix. I go to bed around 10 and read on my Kindle until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Another weekday so I'm up early. I wash my face, do my morning skincare and eat overnight oats again for breakfast. I get to work early because I have set up some experiments.
12 p.m. — I meet up with a couple of friends for a fitness class at our gym. The class is difficult to describe but essentially we run and jump around in sync to music and then do some strength work at the end.
1:15 p.m. — I should shower because that class was very sweaty but it looks like it's going to rain and I want to get back to the lab before it starts. I eat broccoli salad again for lunch at my desk.
6:30 p.m. — I bike home, shower and do my nighttime skincare. For dinner I have mozzarella, nectarines and cashews topped with balsamic vinegar. I continue watching Quarterback on Netflix.
9 p.m. — I have my German lesson online with my teacher who is based in another country. We mostly talk about her love life because I keep asking questions to avoid practicing grammar. These lessons are $15 each but get reimbursed from the fellowship I won from the US government.
Daily Total: $0
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