A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $64,000 Salary

Refinery29
·22 min read

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 research technician who makes $64,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Mexican Coke.

Occupation: Research Technician
Industry: STEM
Age: 37
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $64,000
Net Worth: $500,000 (This includes my partner, M.’s, and my retirement accounts, personal, and joint savings account, M.’s stocks through his company, and estimated property value minus mortgage. M. makes roughly $117,000 give or take depending on overtime. We have separate accounts as well as a joint account.)
Debt: $490,400 for our mortgage, $30,000 for our truck
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,760
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,540 ($1,940 for the principal/interest, $600 to escrow for property taxes/insurance. I pay $1,000 and M. pays the rest. This is an agreement based on the difference in our incomes and student loan pay off, see below.)
Car Payment: $100 (M. pays $470 on top of this)
Utilities: $225 (This includes internet, phone, and security system and is split equally between us; this is my half.)
Car Insurance (2x/year): $870
Health Insurance: $136 pre-tax for medical and dental through my employer. M. pays for his through his employer.
Retirement: $375 to 403(b) (pre-tax, matched by employer) and $200 to Roth IRA
Savings: $250 to shared savings for household emergencies/renovations. $1,000 (or whatever is leftover at the end of the month) to individual savings.
Streaming: $90 (this includes monthly subscriptions like Netflix and a break down of those paid annually like Disney+)
NYT Crossword & Cooking: $13.23
Dog Daycare: $200 (M. pays the remaining $450.)

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?
It wasn’t expected of me but I knew my parents would prefer it. They also would’ve supported me if I chose not to, as long as I could financially support myself. I went to an in-state school and got my bachelor’s. I was very lucky I did not have to take out student loans. My tuition was mostly covered by FAFSA and grants for low-income people, and I did work-study for the remainder. My partner, M., had to take out student loans. We were able to pay these off with the profit from the sale of our previous house, which was owned by me. He now pays extra in mortgage to offset this.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I was raised by my mom and we never had any conversations about money. We were very low-income and I think she didn’t want to stress me out with money problems.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was 12 or 13. I got a job filling paper bags with peanuts for tourists to buy and feed to the chipmunks. I was paid cash under the table.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I don’t specifically remember worrying about it, but I know my mom struggled a lot. I always knew not to ask for anything I absolutely didn’t need. I really appreciate my mom for working hard to give me what she could, and I believe I valued that used GameBoy or ice cream cone or new Barbie so much more.

Do you worry about money now?
I don’t worry about money in the present but I worry about my retirement. I know Social Security isn’t fully solvent so I almost feel like I shouldn’t count on it at all (despite a lifetime spent contributing to it). I worry that M. isn’t thinking about retirement living as seriously as I am.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was mostly responsible for myself at 15, paying for my own car insurance, school activity fees, clothes, etc. I became fully responsible (i.e. rent, bills, groceries) when I started college. I do have a safety net and I just got my emergency fund up to three months salary.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Not really. My maternal grandmother gave me $5,000 to help with the down payment of my first home. My dad gives me $1,000 twice a year at Christmas and my birthday but that only started in my mid-20s.

Day One

5:15 a.m. — My partner’s (M.) alarm goes off. He got an Apple Watch about six months ago and uses the vibrate alarm option so he doesn’t wake me up. Thanks, sweetie!

7:30 a.m. — The boundless ball of energy in the form of a dog has decided it’s time to get up. Our older dog sighs heavily. I no longer set an alarm because I know the dogs will wake me up by 8 for their breakfast. I let them out back to do their business and make a half pot of coffee for myself.

8 a.m. — I get ready for work while my elderly cat sits next to the heating vent and yells at me to turn the heat on. I check the thermostat and realize it’s 63° in the house. Okay, kitty, I get it. The heat clicks on shortly after. I throw chicken, broth, and herbs in the crockpot for dinner. I eat breakfast (Evol breakfast bowl) and pour the rest of the coffee into a travel mug to drink during my commute.

8:50 a.m. — I leave the house for work. The younger dog usually goes to doggy daycare on days M. and I both go into work but he’s currently being treated for giardia. We’ve crate trained him but don’t like leaving him in there for more than a couple of hours. M. thinks he’ll be home by 11, but if things go sideways, he’s close enough that he can come home on his lunch break. I listen to The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu from the library through an app on my phone on my way to work.

9:20 a.m. — I arrive at work. Parking is free right now (normally $135/month). Pre-pandemic I commuted by bus ($15/month for unlimited rides through work) and I would spend three hours a day commuting (traffic was so bad that I would’ve spent close to the same amount of time in a single-occupancy vehicle). Now I can get to work in 30 minutes with everyone being WFH.

10:15 a.m. — I’ve got my experiments running and have a couple of hours to kill. Normally I’d start in on administrative work for the lab as I’m also the Lab Manager but I forgot to pick up my prescription yesterday. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36 (check your boobies!!) and now that I’ve completed treatment, I need to take hormone therapy for five years to decrease the chance of it coming back. I walk to pick up my prescription. It’s $114 for a 30-day supply but my insurance covers the entire cost.

11:35 a.m. — My boss calls me into his office and tells me I will be getting a raise in April. I’m currently underpaid and academia tends to pay less than industry. A raise will bring me up to the (academic) mid-range of what I should be making.

1:30 p.m. — Lunchtime. Our campus has scaled food service way back since during the pandemic. I go with a pre-made BLT, chips, and coke. It’s disappointing. $13.87

4:30 p.m. — Done with work. My boss only expects us to stay as long as we need to to get our work done. Some days that’s six hours, some days it’s 10 hours, and sometimes I’m staying up until 5 a.m. to collect data.

5:20 p.m. — Arrive home. Traffic was bad. M. needs help unloading wood from the truck. He started a new hobby during the pandemic: wood turning. He joined the local guild two weeks ago and has already made the membership fee back with free wood. I text my best friend, L. about doing a Zoom workout. We both struggle with motivation and agreed to meet three times a week for a 30- to 60-minute workout following YouTube videos. I’m sweaty by the end and the shower feels extra nice.

7 p.m. — M. and I were supposed to use the crockpot chicken in a chicken and wild rice soup but he has last-minute work training and I’m too hungry to wait for soup to simmer. TJ’s gorgonzola gnocchi it is. We’ll use the chicken another day. I eyeball the bottle of red I opened last night. The rest of the evening is spent watching TV and finishing off the wine.

10:30 p.m. — Bedtime for me.

Daily Total: $13.87

Day Two

3 a.m. — I wake up and I’m pretty sure I need to vomit or shit or both. Yup, it’s both. Stupid wine. Sometimes I can drink an entire bottle myself and be completely fine, other times (like now) 1.5 glasses will do me in. I can’t fall back asleep.

7:45 a.m. — The puppers get us up. I’m dragging ass and I still feel off. I should’ve washed my hair last night. Dry shampoo to the rescue. I manage to eat an English muffin with butter and drink some coffee.

8:45 a.m. — Leave for work. M. is WFH today but we decide the older dog could do with some playtime so I drop her off at daycare on the way to work. Young dog still can’t go so he’ll stay home and torment M. with his excessive energy.

9:30 a.m. — Arrive at work. I’m definitely feeling better but still riding the struggle bus. There’s a present on my desk! I had forgotten my peer mentoring group is doing a Galentine’s Secret Cupid this afternoon. I sent my present out earlier this week.

10:30 a.m. — I’m hungry. Coffee and donut time! This is probably a mistake. $5.24

1:15 p.m. — Lunchtime. I didn’t even think about grabbing leftovers so I’m buying lunch again. I opt for a Mediterranean salad. $9.08

1:15 p.m. — I see the Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival has been scheduled for next month, virtually, of course. I used to go every year but have missed some in recent years. I pay extra for the sustainer level because I like the work that SIFF does. $30

4 p.m. — Time to meet (over Zoom) with my peer group and open gifts! This is a really excellent group of women in science who are on a similar career path as I am. I get some excellent tea, an octopus towel, and a lovely poem by Julia Bird.

6:10 p.m. — Arrive home. I picked up the dog from daycare on the way home. We still have days left on our package so I don’t owe anything.

7 p.m. — M. isn’t hungry for dinner and has a big boss fight scheduled with his video game posse. I’m on my own for dinner so I grab a TJ’s Mac & Cheese from the freezer. I’m not really in the mood for it but I’m starting to get hangry.

10 p.m. — M. has to be up early for work tomorrow so we head to bed.

Daily Total: $44.32

Day Three

5:15 a.m. — M.’s alarm goes off. It’s his birthday today but he has to go into work.

7:45 a.m. — I have a busy day ahead. I stop for an almond milk hazelnut latte and scone ($9.24+tip) at a local coffee drive-thru. I run to the grocery store for dinner ingredients including beef tenderloin, potatoes, green beans, shallots, horseradish, crème fraîche, sausage, and vanilla ice cream. I have to go to two different stores to get everything I need ($80.84 and $7.88). I knew I should’ve made crème fraîche myself because a little tub costs $5.99. I just didn’t plan ahead. I have been saving a nice bottle of wine for the occasion and I have all the ingredients for cherry pie so I can skip buying those. $98.96

9:30 a.m. — I signed up for a seminar through the local gardening association a couple of weeks ago and it’s today. There was a suggested donation of $5 when signing up.

10:45 a.m. — Time to workout with L. We find that our favorite YouTube MixxedFit instructor is offering classes online and makes plans to attend one next Saturday. It’s hard to find an instructor who is good at giving cues to what comes next and we really enjoy her energy.

12:30 p.m. — M. just got home and he wants Wendy’s for lunch. He gave up fast food back in December so this is a birthday treat for him. I run out to get a 4 for $4 meal and a combo. I check the mail on the way back and I’m relieved that the last of M.’s presents have finally arrived. The rest of the afternoon will be spent making his birthday dinner and dessert. $18.82

7 p.m. — Dinner time. I follow several recipes on the NYT cooking app. The beef tenderloin turns out really nice. I was worried because it’s an expensive cut of meat. We have candlesticks but no holders. I raid M.’s scrap wood for some small blocks and have him drill holes most of the way through. Boom! Now we’re fancy bitches.

8:45 p.m. — M. opens his presents (woodturning blades and unisex bath bombs). We slice up the cherry pie and watch the newest episode of WandaVision on Disney+.

10:30 p.m. — M. is sleepy from having to get up early (and also the booze, I suspect) so we head to bed.

Daily Total: $117.78

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — Up early to start on M.’s birthday breakfast: biscuits and gravy with mimosas.

10:10 a.m. — M. got another free wood alert and I’m going with him to help load. He’s gotten three truckloads in less than two weeks! He has three days off work and plenty of wood to practice on. Everyone is getting bowls for Christmas this year.

12:15 p.m. — Home and M. makes a second pot of coffee because he’s still a bit hungover from last night. I don’t really know what to do with myself. I have several projects in the works but don’t feel like doing them. This is probably why they’re still works-in-progress… I opt instead for the NYT Sunday Crossword. I’m struggling with it this week and can only get about a third done without help. I switch over to my cross stitch project that M. gave me for Christmas: Rosalind Franklin’s Photo 51. I put on Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds (HBO Max) followed by Blade Runner 2049 (owned). My elderly cat wants some lap time so I have to juggle the embroidery hoop, cross stitch pattern, and a cat who wants to play with the string.

5:03 p.m. — It’s after 5 so I can have a glass of wine. I pair it with some manchego cheese. Perfect pre-dinner snack except the dogs keep trying to eat my cheese and the cat has stuck her entire head in my wine glass twice.

6:30 p.m. — M. makes burgers for dinner. They are so good and good food is my joy so I’m pretty happy right now. Although it doesn’t seem like it based on the last few days, M. does most of the cooking.

8 p.m. — I got my StitchFix box yesterday and need to make a decision about the clothes. I absolutely hate clothes shopping, especially if I have to do it online. I get easily overwhelmed by it. I signed up for StitchFix and it works for me. I scored a Style Pass so I don’t pay a styling fee, even if I send everything back. I need some more jeans but don’t like either of the pairs they sent to me. I keep the shirts though ($141.32). M. and I grab a shower, then some pie and settle in to watch Tenet (which we got the other week on sale). $141.32

11 p.m. — Bedtime but my brain is still trying to work through Tenet so it’s a while before I fall asleep.

Daily Total: $141.32

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Good morning Mr. Puppy. Yes, I hear you. Good morning elderly kitty. Yes, I hear you as well. Anyone else want to chime in?

8:40 a.m. — Headed off to work. I finished the Three-Body Problem (would recommend!), so it’s time to pick a new book. I see Heartberries by Terese Marie Mailhot is available to borrow. My book club is discussing it at the end of the month. It’s a quick read so I decide to wait until the meeting is closer. I opt instead for The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern which just became available. I stop for a 16-oz mocha and a cheese danish. $9.08

9:15 a.m. — I arrive at work and realize I forgot to take the COVID-19 screening survey. I have to pull over and take it before scanning my key card or else my boss and I get a very sternly worded email from the administration (followed by disciplinary action if it happens repeatedly). I was in the middle of chemotherapy when the pandemic hit so I very much appreciate all the precautions that were taken. Happy to report we’ve had zero on-campus transmission.

12:50 p.m. — Lunchtime. I get the Mediterranean salad ($9.36) again. The cost has gone up $0.28? No, the base price is still the same so sales tax must have changed. Sales tax is ridiculously high at 10.1% but there’s no state income tax so it balances out (haha, just kidding, we have one of the most regressive tax structures in the country with a higher share of the tax burden placed on low-income workers). $9.36

5 p.m. — I’m home from work. My afternoon did not go well and I’m a little grumpy. I pour myself half glass of wine and finish off the manchego. I remind M. we should use the crockpot chicken from last week for soup. He says he doesn’t feel like soup and wants frozen pizza (which I hate) and we get into a little tiff. It ends with us both apologizing. M. promises to make the soup tomorrow. I watch Pitch Perfect (HBO Max) while eating TJ’s Vegetable Fried Rice with two eggs scrambled into it. I’ve never seen the movie and I enjoy it more than I thought I would (and it puts me in a better mood).

7:30 p.m. — I amuse myself by taking slow-mo videos of the dogs catching treats and working on the Monday NYT Crossword. We watch the newest episodes of Last Week Tonight, Family Guy, and The Simpsons and do laundry. I’m completely out of clean pants and I probably wore the dirty ones for longer than I should have.

11 p.m. — Bedtime.

Daily Total: $18.44

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — My boob wakes me up. It’s been more than a year since surgery but I still get occasional nerve pain. I’m lucky I didn’t lose my entire breast, just a chunk, and it’s not particularly noticeable unless you look hard.

8 a.m. — Our last load of laundry last night was pants and they’re still slightly damp. I put them on speed dry. Once they’re done, I get to put on fresh-from-the-dryer jeans. It’s like heaven. There’s no way today is going to be a bad day. Breakfast of English muffin with butter, an orange, and coffee. I pour some more coffee into a travel mug for the commute.

11:55 a.m. — Lunchtime and I’m craving tacos. I order from a new place and get three different types plus a Mexican Coke ($11.23). It’s a 10-minute walk and I regret not grabbing my hand sanitizer so I can dig in ASAP. I arrive back at campus, wash my hands, and dive in. They are so good. $11.23

3 p.m. — My co-worker brought in chocolate chip sea salt cookies to celebrate my boss’s birthday. It’s exactly what I need for the 3 p.m. slump.

5:45 p.m. — Arrive home and jump right into a workout with L. She says in California she’s now eligible, as a university employee, for the COVID-19 vaccine. I’m jealous! I take a shower.

7:30 p.m. — I know you all have been on the edge of your seat wondering if M. used the crockpot chicken today. Happy to report we are having chicken soup for dinner. We also heat up some TJ’s Naan. M. makes us French 75’s with the leftover bubbly from his birthday brunch. We finish off the last of the pie. I spend the rest of the evening working on the Tuesday crossword and looking at magazines I checked out from the library (on my iPad).

10 p.m. — M. has to be at work at 6 tomorrow so it’s bedtime. I’m not super tired so I stay up and watch an episode of Bones (Amazon Prime).

Daily Total: $11.23

Day Seven

5:15 a.m. — M. must’ve slept through his vibrate alarm because his phone alarm wakes me up.

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I’m attending a virtual workshop on cryo-electron microscopy today and tomorrow, and it starts at 8 a.m. I take care of the dogs and cat, make half a pot of coffee, and sit down in front of my computer while still in my PJ’s. I’m not going to be on camera so I’m going to be uber comfortable.

9:30 a.m. — We have a brief break so I eat some breakfast. It’s an English muffin with butter, an orange, and another cup of coffee.

12:30 p.m. — We end 90 minutes earlier than I expected. I can’t say I’m disappointed because, while there’s useful information, a lot of it feels like a very long sales pitch. I’m hoping tomorrow is more informative. My lunch is leftover soup. My mom texts me that my aunt broke her leg and asks if I can drive out to the peninsula next weekend to help her out.

1:15 p.m. — M. arrives home for lunch (leftover soup). He was only supposed to work a half-day today but one of his co-workers called in sick so he’ll work a full twelve hours. The weather is sunny so he takes the dogs out back for a quick game of fetch.

3:15 p.m. — The older dog’s nails are entering Jersey Shore territory so it’s time for a trim. We’ve tried doing this ourselves, with a variety of tools, but it ends up being traumatic for all involved. No amount of treats, peanut butter, or cheese will convince the dog she’s not about to be murdered. I take her to our favorite local grooming place and they’re done in about five minutes ($15 + $3 tip). I stop by Starbucks on the way home, mostly to get a Puppachino as an apology, but I also get a chocolate almond milk shaken espresso and a slice of lemon loaf ($9.36). $27.36

6:30 p.m. — Dinner is leftover hamburger patties, except we don’t have any buns or ketchup. M. chops up the patties, adds some spices, and puts them in hard taco shells with melted cheese, lettuce, onion, and salsa. We have some spiced tater tots on the side and vanilla Coke Zero. I give my aunt a call to check in on her.

8 p.m. — I watch The Lost Boys and drive M. crazy by serenading him (poorly) until bedtime. Playing video games with a live mic? Surprise serenade! Peeing? Serenade through the door! Putting on PJ’s? Serenade with dance moves!

10:30 p.m. — Bedtime. Thanks for hanging out with me, folks!

Daily Total: $27.36

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