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A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $105,000 Income

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a Communications Director & Consultant who makes $105,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on chicharrones.

Occupation: Communications Director & Consultant
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 30
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $80,000 for my day job and I’m projecting $25,000 from consulting work (I bill $110/hour)
My Partner’s Salary: $130,000
My Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,383 (after taxes and deductions)
My Partner’s Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,600
Gender Identity: Cisgender Woman







Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $3,994 (I live with my partner, B., our dog, and our two cats in the 3-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom house we purchased last year for $750,000 last year. The payment includes property taxes).
Student Loans: $0 (Scholarships and parents paid for undergrad. A teaching assistantship waived my grad school tuition).
Joint Expenses:
Car and Home Insurance: $131.50 every other month (for two cars)
Earthquake Insurance: $53.84
Utilities: ~$225 every other month
Internet: $69.30
Hulu/HBO Now: $20 (We use B. parents’ Netflix)
Individual Expenses:
Health/Dental/Vision Insurance: $170.64 (deducted pre-tax)
Unlimited Transit Pass: $99 (deducted pre-tax)
Cell Phone: $56 (work reimburses $50/month)
Taxes: $500 (Set aside for my quarterly estimated tax payment of $1,485)
ACLU Donation: $25
Real Rent Duwamish: $54 (a donation to the Duwamish tribe, the first people of Seattle)
Retirement: I’ll be eligible for my work’s 401(k) plan in March. I currently have $42,500 from previous 401(k)s and $43,300 in Roth plans.
Investments: I have $5,000 in ETFs.
Savings: My goal is to save $500/paycheck and all post-tax consulting income. I have $56,000 in savings.

















Day One

9 a.m. — It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I enjoy sleeping in after a few busy days. My cats join me in bed for 30 minutes of snuggles before I get up to feed them and the dog. My morning routine is pretty simple — put on my contacts, brush my teeth and apply sunscreen on my face. Since it’ll be a lazy day, I put on a chunky sweater and leggings. I wear my hair in a pineapple bun to sleep, so I let it down and shake it out. I don’t put any product in since I’m planning on washing my hair later today.

10 a.m. — My partner, B., and I head to our favorite neighborhood coffee shop, Preserve and Gather. It’s walking distance from our place, but B. drives since we’re going grocery shopping right after. I’m not a coffee drinker, so mostly I’m looking for a spicy chai when I go to coffee shops. I order the aforementioned chai and white bean spread with pickled carrots on toast, and B. orders a caramel latte and breakfast sandwich. We pay with our joint account. $26.22

11 a.m. — We go to Safeway for our weekly grocery shopping. We pick up ingredients to make spicy stir-fry noodles (peppers, yellow onion, snap peas, broccoli, chicken, two packs of lo-mein noodles, and sesame oil), ingredients for a roasted sweet potato salad (three sweet potatoes, red onion, black beans, and pumpkin seeds) and a few miscellaneous items (almond milk, chocolate milk, yogurt, muffins, cookies, and a bag of chicharrones/pork rinds). $72.58

12 p.m. — We unload the groceries at home and get ready to go to our friends’ house to play board games with football in the background. We pick out a couple of games and B. grabs beers from the fridge. I decide I’ve had enough to drink over the long weekend, so I bring sparkling water. At our friends’ house, we play a couple of games and snack on chicharrones.

3 p.m. — Back home I change into workout clothes and put on an hourlong twist and bind yoga video from Yoga Upload. I wash my hair after I’m done. I have curly hair (type 3c for any curious curl friends!) and I try to wash my hair no more than twice a week. I wash with Eden BodyWorks peppermint tea tree oil shampoo and conditioner, and I style it with their Coconut Shea Curl Defining Crème.

5 p.m. — Get on my laptop for a bit of work. I review some social media posts for my day job and finish up my November invoice for my consulting work. For my previous job, I worked at a consulting agency and when I left my employer asked if I’d be willing to continue working on one of my projects as a sub-consultant. It’s leading community engagement for a Spanish-language environmental education program. I answer a couple of emails and add 15 minutes to my timesheet.

7 p.m. — B. and I make the spicy stir fry noodles and eat dinner. They’re pretty tasty, and we have plenty of leftovers. After dinner, I ask B. to help me study for the citizenship test. I’m taking it tomorrow! I came to the United States 11 years ago on a student visa and a scholarship for Latin American and Caribbean students. After grad school, my college boyfriend and I moved from Florida to Washington state and we got married so we could stay together. I know many people have successful marriages with their college sweethearts, but after a few years, we realized we weren’t right for each other and divorced. By that time, I’d fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest and decided to call it my permanent home. I applied for citizenship last August, and I can’t believe I finally get to make it official tomorrow! I ace all 100 citizenship test questions.

9 p.m. — We watch an episode of The Boys on Amazon Prime (since it’s paid for once a year, I don’t consider it a monthly expense). The first couple episodes were too gruesome for my taste, but I’m giving it a third chance (spoiler alert: the third episode is still very gruesome). I play a video game for thirty minutes and then go through my nighttime routine: take off my contacts, brush my teeth, wash my face with Fresh Rose Cleansing Foam, apply Fresh Rose Hydrating Eye Gel Cream and put my hair up in a pineapple bun. I’m in bed around 11:30, and B. gives me a pep talk before my big day tomorrow as I drift off to sleep.

Daily Total: $98.80

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — The big day is here! I put on a navy-blue sheath dress with three-quarter bell sleeves, leggings, and black booties. I typically only wear makeup on days that feel special, and today feels really special. My quick makeup look is Tarte Foundcealer, Julep cream blush, Anastasia brow defining pencil, and Milk Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara. I eat as much as I can of a cinnamon muffin, but I’m too excited to eat all of it. B. and I are taking the whole day off for the occasion, and we hit the road together to the Department of Homeland Security office.

8:15 a.m. — Pull into the parking lot and pay $8 for parking. I check-in and wait about 30 minutes before they call my number. I can’t read or play on my phone because I’m a swirl of emotions. I think a lot about the asylum seekers at the border and how we came to this place for the same reason: opportunities. We share the same dream, and the only thing that separates me from them is privilege — specifically family resources and higher education. My privilege is the reason why this path is available to me and not to them. Supporting immigrants and refugees is one of my life’s callings, and my community engagement work means so much to me. $8

9:30 a.m. — I passed the test! The final step in the process is the naturalization ceremony, which will take place at 1:30 today. I had a hard time sleeping last night, so B. and I decide to go back home to take a nap and eat lunch.

11:30 a.m. — Nap for an hour, and then I send out a few emails before eating lunch. Even though I took the day off from my day job, tonight is the end-of-year meeting for my consulting work. It’s a celebration of everything the community group I manage has accomplished this year, and it’s a potluck. I’m making a roasted sweet potato salad, and I decide to peel and chop sweet potatoes before I go so there is less prep to do when I get back.

1:30 p.m. — I pay for parking again and check-in for the ceremony. It’s beautiful seeing a room full of immigrants from 43 different countries. They call out each of the countries, and I feel myself get teary-eyed as I stand up when they call my country, Panama. We read the oath of allegiance, and all of a sudden, I’m a citizen! The immigration process took six years and thousands of dollars in application fees, so today is a big deal. B. takes a picture of me holding my naturalization certificate, and I send it to basically everyone I know. I’m ready to vote a certain someone out of office next November! $8

3:30 p.m. — At home, we see our new bedframe has been delivered. Our second bedroom is an office, and our third bedroom has been empty since our roommate moved out earlier this year. My parents are visiting from Panama later this month, so it’s time to finally furnish our guest room. B. and I joke that we have the ideal family situation — my parents are Panamanian and Catholic, and B.’s parents are American and Jewish, so there is very little holiday overlap (neither of us practices any religion). We’re both far from family, his lives on the East Coast. I get to work on the roasted sweet potato salad. While the potatoes are in the oven, I also put together two jars of overnight oats for breakfasts.

5:30 p.m. — I’m at the library for my meeting. I help set up the room and the food and serve myself a plate with mole, a carnitas tostada, a pork slider, and roasted sweet potato salad before the meeting starts. The community group leaders facilitate most of the meeting, and I only need to chime in with clarification a couple of times. I’ve been working with them for three years, and it’s a great feeling to see them step up into leadership roles. After the meeting, I help clean up and stick around for chit chat and lengthy goodbyes.

9 p.m. — Back home! I budgeted for this project so that I can bill for all travel time, and I add five hours to my timesheet. B. went out for beers and more football while I was at the meeting. We have partially joint finances and beers are on his personal dime. Each month, I contribute $2,400 as well as 30% of my post-tax consulting income to a joint account, and he contributes $3,400 (there was math involved in getting to these proportions). We pay for our mortgage and other house-related bills with this account, as well as groceries, meals, and activities together. When we do something on our own or buy something for ourselves, it comes from our personal accounts. When he gets home, we watch House Hunters on Hulu and go to bed around 11.

Daily Total: $16

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm from a restless sleep (residual excitement, maybe?) and I stay in bed for another 40 minutes. Go through my morning routine and put on a green scoop neck top, a patterned A-line skirt, leggings, and black booties. I pack myself a lunch and a jar of overnight oats, and I’m out the door to walk five blocks to the bus stop. I like taking transit so I can read or check email on the bus, and to reduce my carbon footprint.

9:15 a.m. — I spend the first fifteen minutes or so of my day telling my co-workers about the citizenship test and ceremony. My boss reveals that she bought an apple pie to celebrate! She is the best. I settle down at my desk to eat my overnight oats while I check email and put the finishing touches on our newsletter that goes out today. The communications department is small, and I check in with my teammate to plan for our next newsletter and for our 2020 planning session with the executive director.

12 p.m. — I heat up my lunch (leftover smoked turkey and garlic mashed potatoes from Friendsgiving last week) and eat in the break area. I avoid eating at my desk at all costs. A co-worker joins me and we chat through lunch. I brace myself for my afternoon meeting marathon.

1 p.m. — First up is a meeting with my boss to review my department’s 2020 budget and our agenda for our monthly Equity Committee meeting. My nonprofit works on an issue that disproportionately affects people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, so equity is really important in our work. Then, I meet with the executive director about our upcoming social media campaign before running to another meeting with my team. I have a slice of pie when I have a few minutes between meetings.

5:15 p.m. — I catch up on email and then I’m out! I’d been planning on going to a networking event for communications professionals in my sector, but after two nights of poor sleep, I decide I’m too tired. In the late fall, it’s already dark by the time I get off work, which can be rough, but the city looks beautiful lit up in the distance. I take in the view from the bus stop, and a bus pulls up after less than two minutes of waiting. Woohoo!

6:30 p.m. — Get home, change into workout clothes, and go through a 30-minute yoga for strength video on Yoga Upload. B. and I talk about our days and the latest political news over a dinner of leftover noodles (Nunes implicates himself during the impeachment inquiry! Kamala Harris ends her campaign!). We met on a dating app, and I wrote on my profile that I was looking for someone that wanted to play board games, go hiking, and talk about politics. With B. I got all three!

8 p.m. — I shower and decide to treat myself to a face mask. I pick the Fresh Rose Hydrating Mask. I’m in the mood to watch something funny and put on an episode of A Black Lady Sketch Show on HBO.

10 p.m. — I get a call from my brother in Atlanta. Like a big sister, I scold him for being up so late on a work night, but I’m happy to hear from him. He just started his first job out of college, and he tells me that he’s planning on applying to jobs in different cities once his apartment lease is up. He mentions Seattle as a possibility, and I would love to live in the same city! Right now he has the one-year work permit that all international students get after college, but to stay long-term he would need a work visa sponsorship. As a new citizen, I could sponsor him for a green card, but the process would take several years. After our call, I get in bed at 11.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off, and I put on a gray sweater, bright blue pants (I gradually replaced all my jeans for Old Navy Pixie pants in a variety of colors and patterns, and I have no regrets), a coral and mint colored necklace, and nude booties. B. is working from home this morning to meet with an appraiser. We’re refinancing our mortgage to a lower interest rate that will reduce our monthly payment by a few hundred dollars each month. This house is my third real-estate purchase (I bought a condo with my ex, and then one on my own with the proceeds of that sale). I put down $120,000 from my condo sale and savings, and B. put down $30,000 from savings, bringing us to a 20% down payment.

9:45 a.m. — At the office. Our work culture encourages working to get things done, not to hit a number of hours at a desk, so my start time is flexible. I eat my overnight oats and prep for a meeting this afternoon. Then I go to our leadership team meeting where we talk about how we can make this standing meeting more effective. We agree that there is a comical element to having a meeting about meetings.

12:30 p.m. — I eat my spicy noodles in the break area and read an article about code-switching. I like it so much I send a link to our all-staff (all nine of us!) chat. After lunch, I start working on a blog post. I make good progress on it, even though I have to pause twice. A co-worker has a question about ordering branded t-shirts, and then another wants to run through ideas for facilitating a session at our staff retreat on Friday.

2:30 p.m. — Time to leave for a kick-off meeting with the consultant we hired for our paid social media campaign. I hop on the bus to their office downtown (I have a life rule to never drive downtown). We talk through the creative brief and set some milestones for the rest of the month.

3:45 p.m. — Done with the meeting and I head home. I send a few emails on the bus and read The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

5 p.m. — My dog greets me at the door and I reward her with pets for not jumping up on me. B. is typically the first one home in the evenings and takes care of the evening pet routine, but today I do it since I’m early. The day of my naturalization ceremony was so busy that we didn’t have time to celebrate, so today I’m meeting him for a date night in Ballard! I spend some time with the dog and then take the bus down.

6:30 p.m. — We meet at Percy’s, a nice cocktail bar. Their drinks are usually pricy, but the happy hour deals are pretty good so we get two each. B. shows me his latest email with one of our potential wedding venues. We got engaged in June, and after I told his parents we were planning on having a bar crawl as a wedding celebration, they were horrified and offered us $15,000 to pay for a more conventional wedding. Last month, we got around to making a list of places where we’d like to get married and split up reaching out to them. So far, our favorite is The Little Water Cantina, a Mexican restaurant with great water views. It sounds like it might be within our budget! $29.87

7:30 p.m. — Our next stop is The Sexton for dinner. We share braised pork belly as an appetizer, I get their house special mac and cheese, and B. gets a truffle burger. We each get one more cocktail ($95.48) We decide we have room for dessert and walk to Salt and Straw, an ice cream place with quirky flavors (you cannot thrive as an ice cream shop in Seattle if you only serve basic flavors). I get a scoop of the gingerbread cookie dough, a seasonal flavor. (I thought B. paid with our joint card, but after I looking at the statement I realized he treated!). $95.48

9 p.m. — We irresponsibly take an Uber back ($9.09, B. pays since he didn’t feel like taking the bus). I’m feeling pleasantly buzzed from the cocktails, the big life events, and my family visiting soon, so I put on some music and we dance around the living room. One of the things I miss the most about Panama is hearing Latin music when you’re just out and about. It’s the little things you don’t really notice until you’re gone that get you sometimes. I’m asleep around 10.

Daily Total: $125.35

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I’m up and in the shower. I put on a maroon top, houndstooth patterned pants, and a long necklace with a squirrel on it. The weather is mild and dry today, so I take a break from boots and wear suede royal blue flats. On the bus, I read an article I like about creating an inclusive culture for gender diverse folx and schedule a social media post about it on my organization’s channels next week.

9 a.m. — Since I chose a living room dance party over prepping overnight oats yesterday, I debate buying breakfast. Nothing in my work building coffee shop sounds good, so I just make myself a cup of tea from our office stash. I get to my desk ready to be productive until I’m reminded of the harsh reality that our expense reports are due today. I have a lot of receipts from going to a conference last month, so there goes the first hour of my day. I do manage to finish the blog post from yesterday and revise a one-pager before lunchtime.

12 p.m. — I’m also out of leftovers, so I order pho from Dong Thap Noodles. They make their own noodles and they’re the best! It’s a ten-minute walk each way to pick them up. The walk back is uphill, and I consider it my urban hike of the week. $13.74

1 p.m. — My boss and I get on a call with a potential consultant to conduct an organizational equity assessment. The consultant ends up being extremely rude to us after we ask to hear more about his recent work. How dare we want to hear him speak about it instead of only reading his website! We decide to end the call early and cross him off our list forever. I spend the rest of the afternoon reviewing a second one-pager and making a graphic to go with this morning’s blog post. I don’t consider myself a designer, but I know my way around Canva.

5 p.m. — Done for the day! I take the bus to meet with friends at Chuck’s Hop Shop to continue the naturalization celebration. Traffic is extra slow from an accident downtown, so I’ll be fashionably late. I stop by my house to feed the dog and bring her with me.

7 p.m. — About a dozen friends come out and I feel the love. There is a popular saying that immigrants don’t feel they are from here or from there. I’m going on my eighth year in Seattle, and in moments like this one, I feel that I am from here and from there. My dog gets pets from all her human friends and shares a hello sniff with one dog friend. Chuck’s always has about 50 beers on tap, and they rotate frequently, so I typically get eight-ounce pours to try a few different kinds. I have three different IPAs and one sour. B. has a tab going already when I arrive, and beers are on him tonight (around $15 for my beers).

10 p.m. — We aren’t fans of the food truck parked outside, so we haven’t eaten dinner. I’m a lightweight, especially on an empty stomach, so we pick up a pizza from Pagliacci’s on our walk home. I’m in bed around midnight. B. claims I talked in my sleep shortly after, and that’s a first! $22.83

Daily Total: $36.57

Day Six

7 a.m. — Up before my alarm because I’m thirsty. I shower and put on a fair isle sweater, a brown skirt, leggings, and nude booties. We have our staff retreat today, and there are no convenient buses to the location, so I drive. It’s at the Daybreak Center inside Discovery Park, only 15 minutes away.

8:45 a.m. — I help the Admin team set up before breakfast arrives. We ordered The Egg and Us for breakfast and Un Bien for lunch — both POC-owned businesses! I eat French toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon for breakfast and chat with my co-workers. When I switched from the private sector to non-profit, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of work perks like paid meals or salary growth. So far my organization has proven generous with expensed meals, and we’re all getting 6% salary increases in the new year. Our first retreat topic is white dominant culture and how it shows up at our organization. We have some much-needed conversations, and I know we’ll need to revisit the topic in the future.

11:45 a.m. — Lunch arrives and I grab my prawns in red sauce. I feel like we just had breakfast, so I eat all the prawns but save most of the rice for later. I make sure we take a staff photo for social media during lunch.

1 p.m. — We spend the whole afternoon talking about our organizational goals and each of our roles in achieving those goals. We hired a facilitator for this, and it really helps us zoom out from the day to day details. We’re all mentally exhausted at the end of the session, so we quickly clean up and head out.

5:30 p.m. — At home, I tell B. about what’s still on my mind after the retreat — mostly what still needs to be sorted out from the white dominant culture conversation. I want to clear my mind, so I change into workout clothes and pick a self-described “slow and mellow” hip opener yoga video from Yoga Upload.

7 p.m. — Since we ate out for the past two days, we cook our go-to simple meal tonight: roasted vegetables and Italian sausage. I chop up two peppers and an onion that we had on hand, and B. takes a package of Italian sausages out of the freezer. We serve the sausage and veggies over my leftover rice. B. takes a beer out of the fridge and I have a few sips since I’d been wanting to try it. It’s a Reuben’s Holiday Gose.

8:30 p.m. — I play a video game for an hour, and then B. and I watch another episode of A Black Lady Sketch Show while I eat a cookie. We lounge on the couch until about 10:30 and then go to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up naturally and decide there’s no better time to get my consulting work done. I spend a few hours working until B. wakes up.

10:30 a.m. — B. and I share a love for brunch, and we recently found out that one of our favorite happy hour spots, Flint Creek, serves brunch. I change into a brown sweater dress, red leggings, and tall brown boots and we start walking over. When we get to the corner, we see a bus coming and decide to hop on for a couple stops. I order a lamb sausage with eggs, potatoes, and pickled vegetables, and B. gets shakshuka. He treats. On the walk home, we stop at Preserve and Gather, where I get a chai, he gets a caramel latte, and we buy an interesting looking bar called a Leckerli to eat at home. This time I pay. $11.22

12 p.m. — Relax for an hour at home before starting on chores. I clean the upstairs and B. cleans the downstairs. We also fold laundry that had been in the dryer since last weekend and wash our sheets and towels. Then, we put together the bed in the guest room (the mattress also arrived over the course of the week). It fits nicely and now the room just needs a dresser.

3 p.m. — I check the mail and find two freelance checks! One for my long-term community engagement project ($2,007.50) and another for a writing and social media promotion project that just wrapped at the end of November ($1,080, which includes a $200 reimbursement to pay for the social media ad buy). I mobile deposit both checks and pay my credit card bill (I put all my purchases on my credit card and pay the bill in full each payday). I calculate that after the bill payment, setting aside tax money and transferring a portion to the joint account, I’ll be able to stash $2,000 into savings between these consulting checks and my day job paycheck. I like to keep my checking account balance at $1,000 and move any surplus to savings.

5 p.m. — A friend asks if B. and I would like to go out tonight, but the weather’s gloomy and we’re feeling like doing something more low-key. We’re having friends over tomorrow, so we walk to Chuck’s to have a beer and fill up a growler to share. I get two different eight-ounce pour IPAs (that are also different from the ones I had earlier in the week — I love the variety here!) and B. tries three beers ($40.46, about half is the growler fill). We’re feeling like ordering in tonight, so we order lamb kabobs with salad, hummus, and pita from Mediterranean Oasis ($46.26). $86.72

8 p.m. — We eat our dinner at home and put on another episode of The Boys. No surprise, it’s also very gruesome. I need to lighten my mood before bedtime, so I put on my endless mixtape from YouTube Music while I register to vote (my first time voting in the US will be a special election in February!) and look at dresser options online. I share a couple of good options with B., and I’m counting down the days until I see my parents!

Daily Total: $97.94

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