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A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $73,000 Salary

Refinery29
·20 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 Clinical Research Coordinator who makes $73,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a mint plant.

Occupation: Clinical Research Coordinator
Industry: Oncology
Age: 28
Location: Seattle, WA
Salary: $73,000
Net Worth: The only money I have saved is $15,000 in my retirement account, however, my net worth is still negative due to my student loans.
Debt: $180,000 (student loans)
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $4,700
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,700, of which my boyfriend pays $700 (rent includes utilities)
Student Loans: $0 (My student loans are normally about $1,800 but they are on hold right now while I get my MBA)
Streaming Services: $60
Internet: $50
Pet Insurance: $60 (It’s paid for itself! Highly recommended especially for people struggling with money!)
Purina Dog Food Subscription: $80
Health Insurance: Paid for by my work
Gym: $0 (due to COVID)
Samaritan Donation: $15
Extra Retirement Contribution: $100 (My work just gives us 7% of our salary in our account so I put in a little on top of that.)

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?
Growing up there were never really any discussions regarding school. My mother has her GED and my father didn’t graduate high school so while I think they knew I wanted to go to college, they had no idea how schooling was paid for or how loans worked. I paid for my schooling via private loans — my parents have declared bankruptcy twice, which according to them deemed us ineligible for federal loans. Looking back, I was offered federal loans to cover my schooling. I don’t know why they didn’t opt for those. My grandfather had to co-sign my student loans, which is still a point of stress and animosity between my family and I to this day. I’ve never missed a payment but they are concerned that I will mess up and that his house (it’s in a big city and now worth a few million) will be taken away. My aunts constantly get involved, I occasionally get angry calls, and it’s put a huge strain on our relationship. I feel guilty and tend to stay away from them.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never really talked to me about money growing up. I realize now that they didn’t know what they were doing and were struggling to get by. When it came to taking on my student loans I was told that the companies will work with you, the payments will be reasonable, etc. They had no clue what they were talking about! But they tried their best.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I applied for quite a few jobs in high school but was never able to get one. I grew up in a very white community and I think being the fat Black girl made it difficult. My best friend in high school and I would both go to the mall, fill out applications and turn them in together, and she always got the call back, never me. She was cute and white and I think it was a little easier for her even though she didn’t have a license or a car while I did, etc. Because of this, my first job ended up being after college working as a cellular therapy technician.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. My parents were very concerned about keeping up appearances but never had money. We would live in huge houses with more bedrooms than people, custom furniture, a Mercedes in the four-car garage, but if I asked for $20 they might not have it. Cards were often declined. We were always fed but never maintained groceries in the home which I now recognize as a symptom of living paycheck to paycheck.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I think that I inherited many of the poor habits that my parents had with money. I’m currently not making payments on my loans while I get my MBA and I know it’s a bad choice but the idea of getting to live like a normal person without thousands of dollars in monthly payments in loans for a bit of time is too appealing.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
After college, I moved out of my parents’ house pretty much right away and lived with a friend in their spare room so that I could apply for jobs and interview in the city. I was 22 and was financially responsible for myself from that point on (mostly). Although my parents don’t have much money, if I was in trouble I could fall back on them for a small amount — they’d never be able to pay my rent for me though.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes! I am soooo lucky to have received $300 a month from my parents throughout random stretches of my life. When I left an abusive relationship, they helped me by giving me a monthly allowance. They also helped me for a short time after school.

Day One

8:15 a.m. — Ah! I’m running late! I woke up today kind of frantic. I’m currently working from home full time due to COVID and am late for rounds. During rounds, we go over all of the patient cases and discuss trials, treatments, and plans. As a CRC, it’s really important to be there to keep track of my patients’ progress and any medical issues. I had planned on waking up early and putting in an order for pickup at Starbucks. When I was in the office I’d always go down to the espresso stand every day and get a large drip. But since I’m late, I decide to just heat up the coffee my boyfriend left in the pot and cook up some eggs. One benefit of working from home — breakfast!

10 a.m. — I put a few hours of PTO on the clock and head to Target (mask in tow, of course). Since I’m not spending money on anything really during quarantine I’ve been focusing on making my space enjoyable. I’ve finished my bedroom/office. It’s a boho plant-filled dream and I’m happy to sit there for 8+ hours a day. I pick up a new workout set and also grab a new non-stick pan. Right before I leave, I get kinda wild and buy six candles, a bunch of dog toys for my puppy, and some random groceries. I started on Zoloft a few months ago and honestly, I do feel like it’s making me a bit reckless. Note to self: set up an appointment with my psychiatrist. $361.09

1 p.m. — Lunchtime! I have a meeting but the awesome thing about WFH is I can make lunch during my meetings and still fully participate and take notes. Honestly, WFH has been so beneficial to my life and mental health. I love my job and my coworkers, but that commute is rough. I have a better work-life balance when I work from home.

4:30 p.m. — All done with work! My best friend has a newborn and has been texting me photos of him. He is just so cute! I love him so much already. We visited last weekend and she showed me the nursery — she did the most amazing job decorating, it’s absolutely perfect and peaceful but of course she spends months working on it and her husband puts a fleece blanket over the windows rather than buying curtains to block the light. We laughed about it and I told her I would buy her a pair of blackout curtains, so I go online and look for a good pair. $60.10

7 p.m. — My boyfriend gets home and we catch up for a bit before I start making dinner. Today, it is garbanzo beans simmered in diced tomatoes with cumin and garlic. So simple and so good! I add a dollop of Greek yogurt to mine and it’s seriously tasty. We are totally out of quarantine shows to watch but that’s okay. We spend the night chatting, playing with the dogs, and head to bed at 9. Secretly, scrolling through my phone in bed after we go to sleep is one of my favorite parts of the day. I love social media and online shopping (not actually buying anything but just browsing). I scroll for a bit and fall asleep around 11.

Daily Total: $421.19

Day Two

8 a.m. — My boyfriend is going camping today so after I wake up, I send him $100 that he needs. He’s older than me but just got his degree and finally landed his first good-paying job. I’m so proud of him! He’s in the in-between stage of jobs where he hasn’t had a check yet and needs some help getting by. I’ve been helping him a LOT recently but we have a plan for him to pay me back. I cook us up some eggs and turkey sausage and get to work. $100

10 a.m. — I always check my bank account multiple times a day — it’s a habit I developed when I was really broke. I look and notice that my payment to Samaritan went through (listed in monthly expenses). It’s an app that allows you to choose a person experiencing homelessness in your neighborhood to sponsor. You send them money, cheer them on, provide support. I really love it! I go through and occasionally send single payments to people but I have one guy that I send money to every month. It’s not a lot but I try to send more when I can. He’s lived in Seattle all of his life and has been pushed out of housing due to gentrification. He wants to finish his GED and his goal for the year is to get older and be happy. I’m really proud of him.

6 p.m. — I skipped lunch today and am super hungry for dinner so I order a pizza and chicken from Domino’s. I eat a few slices and the chicken and save the rest for my boyfriend. Sometimes I think we are a comical pair — him the super sporty, fit climber and me the fat Black girl who likes riding her bike, staying home, and eating pizza with her dog. But we really love each other! $37.75

Daily Total: $137.75

Day Three

10 a.m. — We have the day off today due to the 4th of July… whatever. I don’t care too much about the fourth (if at all) but am happy to have the day off. My dog is awake, patiently waiting for me to get up, snuggling with one of the toys I got her yesterday, and staring at me. I take Zoloft every morning as well as Adderall. I have ADD and really wish I had been diagnosed when I was younger. It wasn’t until I started dating my boyfriend while he was in school that I realized that staring at the first page of a textbook for two hours and rereading it is NOT normal! I heat up some protein waffles. They’re okay, but Eggos are better.

12:15 p.m. — I’m having a lazy morning and it’s great. This turns into a lazy afternoon. Originally I was supposed to go get brunch with my friend and her baby, but we decide against because she’s nervous about COVID and I get it. I go online and start looking for some new underwear. I have these ones from Target but they’re not actually plus size and the crotch is so small! I end up getting a three-pack online that looks cute and is on sale. Fingers crossed. $16.50

1:30 p.m. — My boyfriend calls and he’s on his way home. They had a fun time and I’m excited to see him! He stops at the store and gets some stuff for tomorrow — vodka, Jell-O (idk why I had this idea of the two of us hanging out in our yard taking Jell-O shots… clinging to youth), seltzer, lemon and lime, and turkey dogs. Groceries in Seattle are no joke and the total comes to $75. I’ve set up my card on his phone so he can use Google Pay to pick up things for me or pull out cash if he needs to. It’s really useful to have. $75

3 p.m. — Boyfriend gets home and we have a late lunch of leftover pizza and he shows me photos from his trip. I’m always amazed at the things he does. I used to imagine that he climbed little 40 foot walls outdoors but now I realize they’re HUGE walls. Sometimes over a thousand feet! I’m so proud of him for achieving his goals!

7:30 p.m. — He sits on the couch and we look for a movie to rent while I make us dinner. I really love cooking so I don’t mind doing it. Sometimes I dream of opening my own restaurant or food truck but I cannot take on any more debt! I do love my job that I have right now, but I definitely wouldn’t call it fun. I work with lots of people who are very sick and it can be really depressing but also super rewarding. Sometimes a patient will call you just to see how you are doing and let you know they’re thinking about you, it’s the best. Turkey tacos! We decide to rent The Invisible Man. It’s really good and keeps us guessing. After we finish the movie we head to sleep. $7.70

Daily Total: $99.20

Day Four

7 a.m. — We get up bright and early and start getting ready to go to see my boyfriend’s parents. I’m really trying to bond with his sister and mom. They won’t stop reaching out to his ex-girlfriend who he broke up with eight years ago and it really feels like they’re holding out hope that they will get back together. My boyfriend is helping his dad do some lawn work so I ask his mom and sister if I can make them breakfast. I stop at the store on our way there to get everything for the meal — fake mimosas, pancakes with fruit and whipped cream, and turkey bacon. It goes well but I’m really nervous and keep saying weird things. It just feels like a lot of pressure. $29.20

2 p.m. — We head home and stop at the store on the way — it feels like there’s always something to buy! I grab puppy food, bleach, paper towels, laundry detergent, and some random food that we need for the week. $57.19

4 p.m. — I’m really tired and take a nap when we get home. When I wake up my boyfriend has cleaned the house (minus dishes but he’s only human) and we start to BBQ and have some drinks. I made the Jell-O shots last night and it ends up being a huge waste, we just aren’t huge partiers! We watch some 90 Day Fiancé while we wait for our brats to cook.

8 p.m. — It’s another movie night for us! While we have a few more drinks, we start watching You Should Have Left, a new scary movie starring Kevin Bacon. To be honest, it is really dumb and doesn’t make a lot of sense. We both get pretty disinterested and I’m kinda annoyed that I paid the full movie theatre price to rent it on Apple TV but whatever. When we finish, it’s 10. BF is already asleep on the couch and I stay up for a bit to play with my pup before I hit the hay at 11. $22.01

Daily Total: $108.40

Day Five

9 a.m. — It’s such a nice day outside and we have been wanting to plant sod in our little yard forever so we decide to head to Home Depot! We stop and put a tiny amount of gas in our car and head to the store. $10.30

12 p.m. — Okay so I LOVE buying things for the little house we are renting. It is only 400 square feet and the yard is tiny but it’s so much fun to jazz it up! We get mint, lettuce, and basil, as well as the sod. It ends up being more than we planned but these things always are. Again, I pay for it all, but we just add it to our plan. $186.48

4 p.m. — We finish laying the sod and the yard looks so good! Sad that we can’t lay in it yet but I’m really happy we decided to do this. I snap a few pics and send them to our landlord — we’ve done a lot of work on the place and I always send him updates. There are a few large issues that need to be taken care of and he’s dragging his feet so I’m hoping that showing him the improvements we’ve made will motivate him to do the repairs. It’s late and we are both starving so I make us some tuna fish sandwiches. My puppy rips mine out of my hand mid-bite and tears it apart all over the floor. I don’t know why but I am SO overwhelmed, I put her in her kennel, let my other dog eat the rest of it, and cry for a little bit. Over a sandwich! Quarantine is making me on edge a bit.

Daily Total: $196.78

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up today and water the grass — I’ve been told it’s very important to keep it wet! Breakfast is protein pancakes again. They are so expensive and every time I eat one I miss Eggos a little more.

12 p.m. — I’m feeling a little sluggish today and am over cooking so I hit up Starbucks and get a nitro cold brew and a frappuccino for my boyfriend. I stick his drink in the freezer as a surprise for him when he gets home. I normally drink black coffee and the cold brew is way too milky and creamy for me so I end up not finishing it. I have lots of meetings today and it’s been stressful so I’m feeling really annoyed about wasting the money. For lunch, I eat some leftover tuna with crackers. $11.56

7 p.m. — I start making dinner for us — turkey stroganoff with broccoli, yum! We decide to rent Revolutionary Road after I rave about Kate Winslet’s performance in it for a solid 20 minutes. Right as we are about to start the movie my puppy starts acting really funny. She is suddenly super sleepy so I put her down for a nap. About an hour later, she can’t really walk and is wobbling around. We rush her to the emergency vet and on the way there she pees on me. I’m so scared I can’t stop thinking that she has something wrong with her brain and is about to die. I’m an absolute mess. We drop her off and because of COVID, I can’t go in with her. $4.40

11:30 p.m. — The vet calls me after looking at my pup and asks us some questions. My boyfriend tells me that he was smoking weed on the porch and ashing his bowl on the patio and that he may have spilled a bowl. The vet says my puppy is fine now but she thinks that she ate some of his weed and got sick from it. I am so mad at my boyfriend. I’m not against weed but I don’t smoke and make sure to be so careful with the dogs because I don’t want them to get into anything. He tries to laugh it off but I am not having it. The vet is acting like I’m a bad pet parent, my puppy has been scared and locked up by herself for four hours, and I’ve been crying convinced she’s dying all night. I go to the ER to pick her up and pay the large bill. He promises me he will pay it, but I’m livid and don’t really care. $140.44

Daily Total: $156.40

Day Seven

10 a.m. — I wake up late for work after getting no sleep the night before. I feel like crap when I finally do get up and I try to reset. It was an accident, he didn’t mean to harm my puppy. It just feels really irresponsible. He once got his dog sick by leaving weed brownies out so this is the second time he’s done this. I make a conscious decision to forgive and move on and pour myself some coffee and make eggs.

12 p.m. — I remember that my dog peed on me last night… great. I was such a mess I didn’t even think about it. I jump in the shower and decide to order lunch rather than make it. The house is a mess as I didn’t have a chance to clean up anything last night. After I’m done showering, I strip the sheets off the bed and go to toss them in the wash and the same load my boyfriend put in three days ago is still in there. I love him but it’s just one of those days, you know? My sandwich gets here and I am instantly in a better mood. I rewash his load and move on with my day. $27.98

5 p.m. — My boyfriend gets home and feels really bad about last night. I’ve made a conscious choice to move on and commit to that. He loves our pup and wouldn’t want to hurt her. I start making dinner early. I’ve thawed out some ground turkey and we make turkey burgers, a personal fave of mine. Dinner is done around 6:15 and we eat on the couch per usual. In an attempt to lift my mood, my boyfriend suggests a game of Monopoly on the switch. I beat him as usual. After rubbing it in his face for a little bit, we laugh and chat for a while and I feel much better. We go to sleep early and I convince him to let the puppy in the bed tonight.

Daily Total: $27.98

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