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A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $120,000 Salary

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Today: a strategy manager who makes $120,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Bioré Watery Essence sunscreen.
Occupation: Strategy Manager
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 33
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $120,000
Net Worth: $328,000 ($193,000 in retirement accounts, $35,000 in cash savings and $100,000 in stocks and ETFs. My partner and I do not combine finances but we have a shared credit card we use for household expenses. I pay a larger portion of our rent and shared bills since I make more).
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,677 (after taxes, before retirement/health insurance).
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,700 for my portion of the two-bedroom apartment I rent with my partner.
401(k): $1,700
Health/Vision/Dental Insurance: $200 
Medical Flexible Savings Account: $250 
Roth IRA: $500 
Utilities/Wi-Fi: $150 for my portion.
Garmin InReach: $15
Climbing Gym: $90
Donations: $100-$200
Cell Phone: $60
Spotify/Hulu: $10 (I use my parents' and in-laws' accounts for other streaming services).
Car Insurance: $75
iCloud: $2.99

Annual Expenses
Costco: $60
Amazon Prime: $140
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 expected me to go to college and they expected that college to be a public school in-state. They paid my tuition and some of my living expenses for all four years of my bachelor's degree. I spent most of my summers in college working food service jobs to save up for living expenses. I had to turn down better ranked schools but as a result I had no undergrad loans and I feel very thankful. I later got a master's degree from a private school that I paid for myself through a combination of loans, scholarships and my own savings. I paid off my entire grad school loan about four years ago.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents started the money conversation at an early age. From the time I was 8, every time I was gifted money (allowance, birthdays etc.) I had to put half of it away in a savings account. My parents are big savers and that definitely rubbed off on me.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at a bookstore. My parents didn't give me much money in high school so my part-time jobs were how I could afford to do normal teen things. They expected me to put half of every paycheck in savings and I did.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. My parents are frugal and talked openly about what we could and could not afford but I never worried about our financial security.
Do you worry about money now?
I worry about what would happen if my partner or I lost our jobs but for the most part, I feel financially secure.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I started paying my own rent and living expenses around age 22. My first financial safety net is the savings I've built up but if something terrible were to happen, my partner and I have families we could likely move in with if we needed to.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

5 a.m. — I wake up in the back seat of our car, which we folded down into a makeshift bed. My partner, T., and I parked at a trailhead last night so we could be ready to go for a 6 a.m. hike and alpine rock climb. We've got a long day ahead and I spend the next hour putting away my sleeping bag, changing into climbing clothes, getting my gear ready and hydrating for the day. I hate eating so early in the morning but I manage to eat a granola bar and half a peanut butter sandwich.
6 a.m. — We meet our climbing partners, D. and R., at the trailhead. We're relatively new to multi-pitch rock climbing but we met this couple at our climbing gym and they offered to take us up a beginner-friendly peak. Since they'll be leading the climb and setting protection and the route, it's good etiquette for T. and me to offer to carry the two ropes. Each rope is about 10 pounds, which adds quite a bit of weight to my backpack. I also like to carry a lot of water on me so my pack is pretty heavy.
9 a.m. — After about five miles of hiking and gaining over 3,000 feet of elevation, we're finally at the base of our climb. The last mile of the hike is rough but it's a gorgeous day and the temperature is pretty pleasant. There is one group of climbers ahead of us so we take a break while we wait for them to finish the first pitch.
9:30 a.m. — Time to climb! My climbing partner, D., has a ton of experience and I'm belaying her from the ground while she places protective equipment in the rock. Once she's at the top and safely anchored in, she radios down to me and gives me the okay to start climbing. She's belaying me from her position at the top of the pitch. T. and his climbing partner, R., make their way up after we clear the first pitch.
12 p.m. — All four of us are at the summit! I was a bit nervous about how I'd do today since alpine climbing is completely different from climbing in a gym. But I think I did pretty great and I've kept the nerves at bay. We take in the views — it's a fantastically clear day and we can see four prominent volcanoes from the top. I snack on some granola bars while our climbing partners set up the rappel.
12:30 p.m. — The real fun begins. To get off the mountain, we have to rappel down, which can be a little scary but so, so fun. D. goes first and once she's off the rope she lets us know via radio. My turn! I practiced setting up my rappel system before coming on this climb so I feel pretty good about it but R. checks it over to make sure everything looks safe. I swing over the ledge and begin my descent, taking in some views.
2:30 p.m. — All four of us are safely off rappel. We take a break to eat before hiking down.
6 p.m. — Finally back at the cars! I'm feeling a big sense of accomplishment. I can see the peak from the parking lot and I'm just like, Wow, I stood on top of that. It feels amazing.
8 p.m. — Back home in Seattle. T. and I thought about stopping for food on the way home but we're both tired and eager to get back. My dinner is Trader Joe's frozen butter chicken and some gyoza I quickly pan-fry. I shower and am asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:45 a.m. — It's Monday morning and I can feel the soreness setting in. I'm not even out of bed yet. My shoulders, back and calves are feeling especially sore from yesterday's outing but it's not too unbearable. Thankfully, remote work means I can quickly run through my morning routine and start working around 8. I make a pot of coffee for me and T., who also works from home.
10 a.m. — Lots of calls scheduled today. The first few are very in the weeds on specific types of health billing procedures (riveting!). The majority of the discussion doesn't really pertain to my work so it's very hard to stay focused.
11 a.m. — I make a turkey sandwich for breakfast/lunch and watch last week's episode of And Just Like That... as I eat. I keep watching this show even though it's objectively terrible. I think I'm mostly in it for Kim Cattrall's cameo at this point.
12 p.m. — Back on Zoom for the next few hours, talking through a series of projects with other teams. I'm an introvert and Zoom-heavy days are always draining.
2:30 p.m. — Finally done with calls! I have a spare moment so I fill up a small tub with warm water and Epsom salt and soak my sore feet.
4:30 p.m. — Done with work for the day. I notice my rubber tree plant is outgrowing its pot so I plan an outing to my favorite plant store. I also grab some bras I bought at Costco that I need to return.
5 p.m. — Return done, and I manage to get in and out of Costco in less than five minutes.
5:45 p.m. — I make my way to the plant store. I buy more than I need, including a few different herbs, a Chinese money plant, some small succulents and a handful of different-sized pots in both ceramic and plastic. I spend more than I meant to, oops. $87.02
6 p.m. — While I'm in this neighborhood I might as well hit up the Asian supermarket. I buy some bok choy and other vegetables, ginger, ponzu, sesame oil, tofu, rice noodles, kimchi and black garlic ramen. I spot some sriracha on the shelf but it's not Huy Fong's so I'm hesitant to get it. Another couple stops in the same aisle and we lament the nationwide sriracha shortage. I put the charge on a credit card I share with T. We haven't combined finances since we don't own a home and our shared expenses are minimal but we use the card for groceries, car repairs, gas and anything else for our household (total is $43.99, or $21.49 for my portion). $21.49
6:45 p.m. — This shopping complex also has an Asian beauty store. On my way out, I spot my favorite Japanese sunscreen (Bioré Watery Essence). I buy two bottles. $39.69
7:30 p.m. — I call my parents to chat while I make dinner. They're coming up to visit next month and I'm trying to plan a nice weekend for us on the coast. I make some sushi rice and pan fry some salmon that I marinated in soy sauce, gochujang, sesame oil, oyster sauce, ginger and mirin. I stir-fry some onions and some of the bok choy I just bought and add everything to a bowl, drizzling some ponzu sauce on top. I save a plate for T., who went out on a long walk.
9 p.m. — I call an old friend from grad school who I haven't spoken to in a while. She's been texting me, wanting to catch up, and we end up on the phone for an hour.
10:30 p.m. — I eat a bowl of ice cream and watch an episode of Better Call Saul with T., then it's bedtime. I shower and do my skincare routine (gua sha, moisturizer, azelaic acid and retinol) and I'm in bed around 11.
Daily Total: $148.20

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — I'm up before my alarm. Do I make the most of my extra time this morning and do anything useful with it before I start my day? Absolutely not. I lie in bed until almost 8, scrolling through the same three apps. I finally get up to start the coffee and check my work email.
9 a.m. — It's a slow morning so I tackle some work tasks I've been putting off. I'm still a little sore from Sunday's trip so I put some CBD cream on my calves and lightly foam roll.
10:45 a.m. — It's time for late breakfast/early lunch. I have a lot of cherry tomatoes I need to use up before they go bad so I make a caprese salad with burrata and fresh basil from my indoor herb garden.
12 p.m. — My only meeting of the day gets canceled so I spend the rest of my afternoon catching up on emails and making slides for external partnership meetings. No one ever told me how many hours of my life would be spent adjusting different colored boxes in PowerPoint.
2 p.m. — I make another stir fry bowl with leftover salmon and rice, and it's just as delicious as it was yesterday. I add some kimchi and eat it while watching Architectural Digest's YouTube channel.
4:30 p.m. — Done for the day. I repot some of my houseplants into the bigger pots I bought at the garden store yesterday, then have a phone chat with a woman who reached out to me on LinkedIn. She wants to know more about my company, the work I'm doing and how I like it. Truthfully, I've started to look for new jobs because I don't feel like I'm growing in my role anymore but I keep our conversation breezy and light. I've done my fair share of cold outreach to strangers on LinkedIn so I figure I better pay it forward. I don't get any major red flags from our conversation and I tell her I'll send her any positions at my company that might look like a good fit.
6 p.m. — Time for a walk, I've been in the house all day. It's a warm, bright, sunny day and I walk 20 minutes from my house to Trader Joe's. I bring a small backpack with me and put on sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. I get a few cans of San Marzano tomatoes, Beecher's cheese, fig and olive crackers, bread and a jar of salted caramel sauce. The cashier compliments me on my hat ($21.30, split with T. $11.50 for my share). $11.50
7 p.m. — Back home and I'm not super hungry after my filling salmon bowl a few hours ago. I assemble a plate filled with the crackers and cheese I just bought and some smoked salmon from Costco.
8 p.m. — T. is back from the gym and it's still light outside so I make us bourbon cocktails to take out on our patio. We've got another big outdoor trip set for Friday so we talk through some of our plans. He makes us two bowls of ice cream and drizzles some of the Trader Joe's caramel sauce on top. I spend the rest of my evening watching Better Call Saul.
11 p.m. — Shower and off to bed.
Daily Total: $11.50

Day Four

7:50 a.m. — I do my speedy morning routine (skincare, brush teeth, tame eyebrows) and log on right at 8.
9:30 a.m. — I have my weekly meeting with my favorite coworker. She's more senior than I am but both of us are struggling a bit with the leadership at our organization. We tend to vent to each other, which I don't think is the healthiest approach to solving my work troubles but she usually has pretty good advice for how I should approach our shared boss about some frustrations I'm having over a project.
11 a.m. — I have another Zoom call with a coworker who is leaving the company. I'll miss her; she was so outspoken about things our leadership should be doing differently. Since it's her last day, I share that I've started my own job search but I'm not having much luck. She gives me some good advice and promises to send me any job listings that look interesting.
12 p.m. — Lunch today is a turkey sandwich and another caprese salad. I eat while scrolling TikTok.
4:30 p.m. — Done for the day. I grab my headphones and go on a 45-minute walk, avoiding Trader Joe's this time. One of my favorite podcast hosts (Sarah Marshall from You're Wrong About) is a guest on another podcast in my regular rotation (Behind The Bastards). It's like a weird crossover episode of my online interests.
6 p.m. — I've got another hiking trip this week so that means prioritizing carbs and hydration. I use the San Marzanos I bought yesterday to make a homemade tomato sauce. I brown some garlic cloves and onion in olive oil, then blend them up with the canned tomatoes before adding salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, fennel and a little bit of chicken bouillon. I slice up some mushrooms and chicken to add to the pasta and top it with some fresh parmesan and my herb garden basil. T. cleans the kitchen since I cooked.
8:30 p.m. — I have a job interview tomorrow and need to prep. T. helps me run through some standard interview questions and I write out a series of my own work stories I can reference in case they ask any questions that throw me off.
11:30 p.m. — My home internet has been iffy lately so ultimately I decide to go to the office in the morning so I can have reliable wi-fi for my interview. I pack my bag for tomorrow and lay out an outfit so I can get out of the house quickly. Shower, skincare and off to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:50 a.m. — I'm up and awake. Since I'm going into the office and I have an interview, I take some extra time to do my hair and put on makeup. I'm out the door and on the bus by 7:30 and put the $2.75 charge on my prepaid bus card.
8 a.m. — I get to the office nice and early. We have a huge, beautiful office space downtown but no one ever really uses it. Every now and then, some folks will organize a lunch to motivate us to come in. Today there will be about four of us. It's risky taking an interview from the office but we have plenty of empty conference rooms and I don't think anyone will notice or care.
11 a.m. — Interview over! It was only a phone screen with the hiring manager but I think it went well. It's certainly not my dream job but it would be a $30,000 pay increase, which is hard to turn down. We place a DoorDash order for salad and grain bowls for lunch and my coworker puts the charge on her company card.
3:30 p.m. — I get way less accomplished in the office than I do when I work from home. I get so easily distracted by my coworkers but it's fun to catch up with people. I leave at 4 to catch the bus home and use my bus pass to pay.
4:30 p.m. — Back home and time to pack for our trip and get out of town. The alpine hiking and climbing season is so short in our region so we can really only do these trips for a few months in the summer. I usually don't plan two intensive trips in the same week but the snow is melting fast and our group of longtime hiking friends invited us on a snowy alpine climb. It'll be a beast of a hike: almost 6,000 feet of elevation gained and 13 miles total, all in one day. I pack my 10 essentials (sun protection, first aid, navigation, knife, extra clothes, water filter, headlamp, fire starters, food, emergency shelter) and my snow climbing gear. It'll be important to keep the weight of my pack as low as possible but I drink a ton of water on these hikes and I don't always like to make frequent stops to refill at streams. I'm planning to carry three liters of water. I reheat a bowl of pasta once I'm done packing.
6 p.m. — T. is ready and it's time to go. It's a three-hour drive and we stop for gas on the way. Gas is expensive in Washington; we pay $5.15 per gallon. T. fills up and puts the charge on our shared card ($57.13, $28.57 for my half). $28.57
7:30 p.m. — T. wants to stop for food but we're off the highway and on some back roads. There are not many options in these small towns we're passing through but we eventually find a Wendy's. T. gets a burger meal and I get an order of 10-piece spicy chicken nuggets. I'm not really hungry but figure it won't hurt to eat more ($12.96, $6.48 for my half). $6.48
9:30 p.m. — We get to the trailhead just as the sun is setting and spot our friend's car. We park next to him and fold the seats of our car down to sleep. T. bought this car 10 years ago and we share it but if I get this new job, I'm probably going to buy my own car. We go to sleep.
Daily Total: $35.05

Day Six

3:45 a.m. — Ugh, it's so early. I wake up in the car for the second time this week. We're meeting our friends in the parking lot at 4:45 and aiming to start hiking by 5 a.m. sharp. I put in my contacts, change into my hiking clothes, pack the day's food and water, and we're ready to begin.
7:30 a.m. — We've been hiking for two and a half hours already and I'm sweating a lot. I'm grateful for my diligent hydration. We stop every hour for a water, electrolyte and snack break, and to trade off the ropes we're carrying. I eat an energy gel and put a caffeinated electrolyte tablet in my water.
10:30 a.m. — We finally hit the snowpack. We take a break to put on our crampons and get our ice axes out. It's also our last water stop for a while so we filter some water at a nearby trickling stream. I'm so sick of granola bars but I eat one anyway as well as half of my sandwich.
1 p.m. — Hiking uphill in the snow is long, tiring work. The last bit of the climb is up a rocky pyramid, a single pitch about 80 feet high. We put up a rope and head up to the summit. There's room for all of us to sit at the top and we clip our harnesses into an anchor to take in the views and eat lunch. We're surrounded entirely by massive peaks on all sides and it's absolutely incredible.
1:30 p.m. — This climb involves another rappel down, which I'm feeling good about since I have Sunday's experience as some practice. There are five of us on this climb and one friend is handling all of our rope work. He sets up our rappel and we all check it over before we tie onto it. We rappel down the opposite side of the peak we just climbed.
4 p.m. — We're off the part of the mountain that requires ropes and technical know-how and we can now see some day hikers and backpackers in the area. We also spot quite a few mountain goats, about 15 total, including some babies! We leave them alone and they leave us alone.
5 p.m. — It's that time of day when I'm sore, tired, hungry and ready to be done. I downloaded our route yesterday and saw that the last two hours are nothing but endless downhill switchbacks. After Sunday, I packed some headphones to combat these mindless next few hours. I put in one AirPod and play one of my favorite workout playlists called “Grinding in a Sweaty High School Cafeteria.” It's nothing but millennial middle school throwbacks like Nelly, Akon and Ciara and it gives me the nostalgia motivation I need to power back down to the parking lot.
7 p.m. — We're done! It was the perfect day of Type 2 fun, meaning you struggle in the moment but look back later and think to yourself, Wow, that was incredible. Both T. and I feel surprisingly good for hiking and climbing for most of the day. We change into fresh clothes and take turns driving home.
9:30 p.m. — We're starving and spot a Red Robin on our route home. We both get burgers, onion rings and sodas and we eat so incredibly fast, it's like we've never seen food before. We're in and out in almost 30 minutes and the charge goes on our shared credit card ($56.24, $28.12 for my share). $28.12
11 p.m. — Finally, finally back home. I have enough energy to move our gear from the car to our front entryway, shower and immediately fall asleep.
Daily Total: $28.12

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — Sleep in, drink coffee, scroll phone.
10:30 a.m. — I drag myself out of bed and make a breakfast of cheese, eggs and avocado on toast. I top it with my herb garden chives and what little sriracha I have left. I think it's finally time to admit I'm out of Huy Fong's.
3:30 p.m. — I can't end the week without one last endurance challenge: standing on my feet for the entirety of Taylor Swift's Eras tour concert. I'm so excited! I start to get ready and throw on the Reputation Stadium Tour on Netflix while I do my hair, makeup and nails. I never wear colorful eye looks but I go all out with pink glittery eyeshadow.
5:30 p.m. — I meet my good friend, F., at a sushi spot near the stadium. We've both been Taylor fans since the original Fearless came out. We get an order of spicy tuna crispy rice to share and I get a spicy yellowtail roll topped with albacore tuna and salmon. The concert tickets were my gift to F. because she is a student. She knows All Too Well that I survived The Great War (Ticketmaster queue) to get our seats and she offers to pick up the tab for dinner ($75, F. pays, $0 for my share).
7:30 p.m. — We're in the stadium and it's unreal. The energy is buzzing and everyone is wearing an outfit inspired by Taylor in some way. It's seriously like SwiftieCon up in here. We make friends with the people sitting next to us and in front of us and take lots of photos. Someone hands me a bracelet that says “Blank Space.” F. gets up to use the bathroom before the show and asks if I want anything. I ask just for some water. She brings back two bottles of Dasani and apparently they were like $7 each. I offer to venmo her but she refuses.
11:45 p.m. — Damn this woman can put on a show. It was incredible. We follow the mass of people out of the stadium and make our way to the train. The crowd is huge and it's a walk-on platform and no one is swiping their transit card to pay so we don't either. There are cops all around but they don't seem to care. We get off at F.'s apartment and she drives me home. What a night!
Daily Total: $0
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