A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $107,500 Joint Income

·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 program administrator who has a joint income of $107,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on SuperGoop sunscreen.

Occupation: Program Administrator
Industry: Social Services
Age: 31
Location: Seattle, WA
My Salary: $61,000
My Husband’s Salary: $46,500
Net Worth: $437,905 between my husband and me. (Our biggest asset is our home. We got in the housing market right before things got really wild and that was the best financial decision we’ve ever made. My husband and I completely intermingle our finances. We each have our own checking accounts and credit cards, but all joint savings and some joint credit cards. Home: estimated value $620,000 (we owe $329,817); my Roth IRA: $12,186.30; my husband’s Roth IRA: $1,022.06; my 401(k): $64,614.56; my husband’s 401(k): $29,333.45; my HSA: $6,222.62 (30% of this is invested); my husband’s HSA: $5,109.41; savings (joint CDs + High Yield Savings Accounts): $16,447.95; my checking: $2,482.91; my husband’s checking: $1,606.55; my car: $4,000; my husband’s car is estimated $30,000 value and we owe $17,989.58)
Debt: Mortgage: $329,817.96; husband’s car: $17,989.58; repayment to my mom for school loan: $7,313.66
My Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,816.94
My Husband’s Paycheck Amount (1x/month): ~$2,450
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,739.72 (includes property tax and homeowner’s insurance)
Water/Sewage: $114
Electricity: ~$70
Recycling/Compost: ~$70 every quarter (we don’t pay for trash because it motivates us to not produce as much trash and I’m cheap. We produce about one grocery bag size of trash a week and our friend kindly lets us dispose of that bag each week at his place.)
Car Payment: $353.32
Student Loans: $350 to my mom
Garmin InReach GPS: $34.95 annually and $16.25 each month we use it. We only use it from June-October (for hiking/backpacking), we like to hibernate in the other months.
Car Insurance: $180.95 (Our premium increased by 40% recently with no claims or tickets, so I am researching more affordable car insurance now.)
Phone Bill: $101 (for three lines, including my mom, but we’re about to switch to another cheaper phone plan where we don’t need to worry about data overages)
Hulu: $66.05 annually
Netflix: $9.77
Orange Theory: $64.13 (pricey but it’s a great workout)
Adobe Premiere: $10.86 (for my husband’s editing needs)
Internet: $55
Credit Card Annual Fees: $95 + $75 annually (two different cards)
Annual Parks Pass: $80 annually
Costco Annual Membership: $120 annually
Ring Annual Plan: $60 annually

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?
Not really, but I held this expectation for myself. My parents weren’t born in America and my grandparents sacrificed a lot to immigrate to America. I recognize how much my family has given up so that my generation can thrive, and I don’t take that for granted. Most of my family didn’t attend higher education. My mom supported the family on her own, so I qualified for as much financial aid as possible and received scholarships. I graduated with about $21,000 in student loans, then completed two terms of AmeriCorps to apply $7,000 to this balance. By that time, my mom hadn’t supporting any of us for several years (I’m the youngest), so she offered to pay the $14,000 left of loans and be my bank. At the time, I very much appreciated this, but I regret that decision because it has since caused a terrible fight between my mom and me, and I will not mix family and finances again.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I can’t remember explicit conversations, but I could see that things were tight and I could see my mom’s stress with finances. She always tells me to save for retirement and she’s always been a coupon-er and has passed that on. I am super cheap now — I irritate myself with how cheap I can be and how much I hate spending money on something like a $3 soda at a restaurant when I could get a whole six-pack at the store if I waited to spend my $3.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started babysitting when I was 12. I babysat after each school day and got $15 each time. I had to quit once I got into high school and was in high school extracurriculars. When I was 16, I was a receptionist at a rehabilitation home on the weekends and got paid $10/hour. We didn’t get allowances and I wanted to buy a lot of clothing and go to Panera with my friends. Having my own money was the motivation.

Did you worry about money growing up?
In some ways I did. I knew my mom didn’t make that much and had three children to take care of with no child support because my father made very bad choices. But she always kept us fed and housed. After my parents’ divorce, she took great care to find a house in the same town for us. We didn’t participate in any of the frills and I noticed — no vacations ever, no summer camp. I had to quit dance because the classes were too expensive; I couldn’t go on some school trips that cost extra money because we just didn’t have the extra money. I remember my mom being super-stressed when my oldest brother was graduating high school and exploring college options. She was so relieved when he got a full scholarship to college. But those are all first-world problems.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. We purchased our second home this year and although we love the new space, it has also come with more expenses and repairs we didn’t quite see coming. Our first home was really cozy and we got used to a lot of extra savings each month with a small mortgage. Our emergency cushion is building its way back up, but I am so cheap and I just want to save save save. We have been thinking about having children and I want to be as prepared as possible for that financially. I think I’m so conditioned to worry about money that I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel that secure.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent in college. My husband’s family is not in a position to support us financially, but we could live with them if we needed (although they are out of state). My side of the family would be able to offer some financial support. My mom just got laid off so she couldn’t financially help as she could in the past, but we could move back to the East Coast and live with her as a last resort.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up, get myself together before work (brush teeth, toss some moisturizer on my face, nasal spray daily because of my allergies), and head downstairs.

9 a.m. — I work from home so I open my laptop to start the day. It always takes me a second to remember where I left off on Friday. I grab a banana and make some dandelion tea. Today is filled with meetings.

1 p.m. — Lunchtime. I also notice that our energy bill is charged as planned to our credit card on its autopayment schedule (in monthly expenses).

5 p.m. — I log off work and am Zoomed out.

5:30 p.m. — My husband, R., gets home. He stopped by the grocery store to get us a few essentials to get us through the week. We try to do a “Pantry Challenge” at the end of the month to not exceed our grocery budget and to reduce food waste, but he picks up bananas, garlic, beef roast (to make beef jerky for this weekend’s camping trip), and a gallon of milk. $27.04

6 p.m. — We’re working on fixing up our backyard and our next big project is getting a chunk of the lawn re-seeded. R. and I go outside to level out the dirt and then I sprinkle some grass seed on one section of the lawn to test out the best seeding method. We bought some discounted water barrels the other weekend, so I water the seeds thoroughly with collected water.

Daily Total: $27.04

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — Morning alarm. I wake up earlier today to bring my husband’s car to the dealership for its first oil change/service. We unexpectedly bought a new car in March when his old car died. He commutes to work and I work from home, so I take care of weekday appointments. I grab a protein bar from the cupboard for a quick breakfast.

7:45 a.m. — I get to the dealership. I’m almost late because I’m geographically challenged. We have a small data plan for our phones so I try to avoid using data (like GPS) whenever possible and rely on my brain (which tends to get me lost from time to time).

8:45 a.m. — The car is done earlier than expected, yay! It’s a free oil change since we were able to negotiate free oil changes for two years when we bought the car.

9:05 a.m. — Driving back home and the tire pressure light turns on, even though they just checked the tires. This is also annoying because this car has managed to get two tire nails in its short life. I pull over to a park to check it out. I don’t see anything wrong with the tires and decide to figure it out at home.

9:20 a.m. — I get back home and grab the tire pressure gauge and check all of the tires. They all check out fine! I text my husband to let him know I’m home safe.

9:40 a.m. — Log onto work. I make some green tea and grab my water bottle, check a few emails, and get ready for a string of virtual meetings.

11 a.m. — I need some snackage to get me to lunch. I grab a banana and peanut butter to eat in my next Zoom meeting.

2 p.m. — Finally out of meetings and time to take a lunch break. I take a few minutes to sit and mindlessly scroll. I scroll by a post on my local Buy Nothing Group, someone is getting rid of frozen pizza and organic chicken. I comment that I’ll gladly take it off her hands to avoid food waste but can pass if another family was more interested. Today’s lunch is leftovers from last night, we made cilantro lime rice and a bean slaw. I go outside onto my porch to get some air. My sunflower seeds are popping up and it makes me happy to see new life.

5 p.m. — Time to log off. I send a summary of the day to my boss and I’m feeling a bit drained. There have been a lot of client crises in the last couple of weeks.

5:15 p.m. — Thinx is having a sale, I have three pairs now and love them. I want to buy more to get me through a full period week. A friend and I bought a vending machine amount of tampons from Amazon seven years ago (only $0.10 each!) and I’m almost done with them. Thinx underwear and a cup could be perfect replacements and in better alignment with my zero-waste goals. I get three more pairs, taking advantage of the 30% off sale and $10-off coupon from a blog I follow. $76.90

5:30 p.m. — My husband gets home, he’s a little late because he had to get gas for my car (we switched cars today). We take a quick walk and catch up on our days. We sold our first house and bought this house in January, mainly for its access to the outdoors and woods. The Buy Nothing poster sends me a message that I can get the frozen food. My husband and I decide to pick it up tonight and that’ll give us a chance to try to re-calibrate the tire pressure system. $33.32

6:30 p.m. — Get the frozen food and we’re back home! Tire pressure says it’s still low but my husband re-checks the tire pressure and they’re all okay. We were gifted frozen pizza, veggie fries, and chicken. Perfect free dinner for tonight. I toss the pizza and fries into the oven while my husband unwinds with video games. I’m usually dairy-free but YOLO for tonight.

7:30 p.m. — Done with dinner. My husband goes back to his video games and I look into volunteering with a mutual aid nonprofit.

8 p.m. — Husband and I meet up on the couch for some cuddling and Hulu time before bed. I eat part of an apple with peanut butter because that frozen pizza was way too small.

Daily Total: $110.22

Day Three

7:20 a.m. — I wake up to 70 missed texts — two of my friends are in different time zones and they’ve been chatting for a while today. We’re making plans for a (fully vaccinated) reunion in a few weeks! We text for a bit trying to arrange meet-up plans.

8:30 a.m. — I make it downstairs with 30 minutes to spare before work. I boil some hot water for green tea and eat a banana with peanut butter for breakfast. I soak some cashews to make cultured cashew cheese later and move frozen homemade tomato sauce to the refrigerator for a weeknight dinner. Husband had to get gas this morning on the way to work in his car. $38.81

9 a.m. — Log on to work! Today is full of meetings but I am determined to get all of my case notes in.

1:30 p.m. — Time for lunch. I made black beans in the Instant Pot this week and there are some leftovers to munch on. I also grab some Cheez Balls from the cupboard for a well-balanced meal. I take my beans and Cheez Balls to eat while sitting on the porch in the sun.

3 p.m. — I get a message from someone on Facebook, offering me a spot for an impromptu event I learned about this morning. You pay $40 for a bucket, then you go to a field and dig up as many tulip bulbs as you can fit in the bucket. I am psyched and Venmo her $40. $40

4:30 p.m. — I’ve responded to all urgent client needs and take off work 30 minutes early (I’ll start early tomorrow). I jump into the car and drive to the farm, about 50 minutes away in traffic. I’m eager to get there quickly to get a good option of tulip colors!

5:30 p.m. — I get to the field and the bulb digging begins while I inadvertently eavesdrop on two moms digging close by. One of them found out her daughter was watching LEGO videos when she’s only supposed to watch Veggie Tales. I hear her call her daughter a “sinner.” I try to hold back on the judgment since I’m not a parent but I can’t help but wince.

7:15 p.m. — R. has pasta and chicken ready when I get home. He also marinated slices of a beef roast so it’s ready to dehydrate and turn into beef jerky tomorrow night. I’m too lazy to make the cultured cashew cheese as I planned this morning, so I put the soaked cashews in the fridge for tomorrow.

8:30 p.m. — We head to the couch for some America’s Funniest Home Videos after dinner and clean-up. I get some vegan chickpea crunchies to snack on. I also grab my computer to try to find a face sunscreen deal. I find a 20% off sale with La Roche-Posay, but all the face sunscreen is sold out! I am determined to find some sort of sale/coupon to buy my face sunscreen.

10:15 p.m. — We head to bed. I spend time on my phone scrolling trying to find some other sales and come up with nothing. I give up around 30 minutes later and fall asleep.

Daily Total: $78.81

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — I hit snooze on my alarm, but then R. calls me. He tells me he got some scary-sounding email from Vanguard, telling us we need to take action immediately on his newly created Roth IRA account or else we’re in some trade violation. What does that even mean? We are very new to investing.

8:05 a.m. — My husband has to start his shift, so I call Vanguard customer service for some help because we can’t figure it out. They walk me through what we have to do, which is re-initiate the original $1,000 bank account transfer to our settlement fund. I do that and he assures me we are all set. I take a shower and start work.

10:15 a.m. — I take a quick work break. I remember that I’ve collected enough eggshells to make eggshell tea as a fertilizer for my plants. I’m doing an experiment with my strawberry plants, one pot will be fertilized with coffee grounds and one with eggshell tea. We’ll see which pot produces better strawberries. Time to boil a gallon of water for the eggshells.

12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime! Leftovers from last night’s dinner (we always try to make portions of four for dinner so we’ve got lunch for the next day). I consider cleaning up my tulip bulbs for storage but decide to watch part of the This Is Us finale instead.

6:30 p.m. — Sign off and start making dinner (catfish and asparagus), and put on the This Is Us finale while cooking.

8 p.m. — R. and I finish with dinner and we need to make plans for this weekend’s camping trip. We scour maps to figure out where to go.

9:30 p.m. — After an hour and a half of searching (we really didn’t want to go to an overcrowded place, hard to find), we find a farm that’ll let us car camp for just $40 bucks a night! Success. We’re splitting one night with our friends, so we make the purchase and they’ll Venmo us later. $70.50

11:30 p.m. — Late bedtime since the beef jerky is almost done dehydrating. I stay up late to shut the dehydrator off since I don’t need to wake up until 8.

Daily Total: $70.50

Day Five

7:19 a.m. — I scroll a bit and see an email about sunscreen. Not too many coupons for the sunscreen I’m eyeing but they’re offering free shipping. Mental note to buy sunscreen today.

8 a.m. — I get downstairs and wash some pots and pans then run the dishwasher. I also pack some food for our camping trip.

12:30 p.m. — Lunch at the end of the week is always a struggle since we tend to get lazier with our meals as the week goes on. I’ve got some leftover pasta from two nights ago and my husband brings leftover rice, asparagus, and his protein shake.

12:50 p.m. — I’m going with SuperGoop sunscreen after months of debating. I like the word “goop” and hate that it swayed my decision a bit. I get free shipping and save 10% off coupon for my first purchase, I’ll take what I can get. $33.26

3:30 p.m. — I’m supposed to get off work now but some urgent client needs come up, so I stay on a bit longer to make sure it’s covered.

5 p.m. — I get two Buy Nothing scores and R. and I go to pick them up. I pick up a set of stainless steel bowls (I could always use more bowls) and a handheld seed distributor. I’ve been looking for this to finish reseeding our lawn! I love Buy Nothing.

7 p.m. — I have a Zoom meeting with the mutual aid organization. I make soup at the same time. I’ve got thawed black beans, a bunch of random veggies, and some bean water. I’ve been doing this new thing of saving the water that I cooked my beans in. Going to toss this all together with some spices and see what happens. I call this fridge soup.

8:30 p.m. — R. is tired from waking up early so we head upstairs to watch something in our bedroom. He falls asleep quickly so I end up packing my clothes and other things for tomorrow. I also find some hikes we can go on!

Daily Total: $33.26

Day Six

7:50 a.m. — Wake up excited to head out! Take a shower and pack the last of the stuff we need.

8:30 a.m. — I have thawed catfish that probably won’t last until Monday, so I eat it for breakfast. I feel like my grandparents. My husband isn’t a huge breakfast eater, but he makes a protein shake for the car.

9:45 a.m. — On our way out of town, R. runs into the store to get a fishing permit, good until next March! We will be on the coast so we may go clamming or fishing. $44.90

12 p.m. — We stop at an abandoned nuclear power plant as a small detour to do some exploring and photo ops. There are so many beautiful wildflowers who have cracked through the asphalt of old parking lots. Mother Nature is so powerful.

1 p.m. — We call R.’s little brother. He graduates today. We can’t be there but will be visiting soon. Can’t forget to send him some graduation money later.

1:30 p.m. — We’re almost to our destination! I run into Safeway to get us deli sandwiches. Only $1.50 more to add chips and soda? I’ll take it. $17.29

2 p.m. — We get to the state park, which is on a beautiful coastline and beach. We grab our lunches and a blanket and find a spot on the beach to chow down and enjoy the ocean and sun.

5 p.m. — Time to head out to our camping spot. We stop to get gas. $35.35

6 p.m. — We’re at our camping spot that we reserved in advance. There’s plenty of free camping spots in the world but I’d pay $40 for peace of mind. We’re at the edge of a farm and the sunset is beautiful. I set up our car camp situation, R. starts the fire, and we have a dehydrated meal for dinner followed by marshmallows.

Daily Total: $97.54

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Late wake up. When you’re car camping there’s always some element of tossing and turning but I slept well enough. Now we wait for our friends to get here.

11:30 a.m. — Friends have made it! We’re both sleeping in our cars, so they don’t need to set up anything and we decide to head out to the beach.

1 p.m. — We walk along the beach, picnic with the shared snacks from our houses, play frisbee, watch cars get stuck in the sand, collect seashells, and make things out of sand. It is a wonderful afternoon.

5 p.m. — Before we head back to the campsite for dinner, we go into a small ice cream shop, maintained by two very elderly people. The ice cream signs are outdated, so it isn’t until I get to the cashier that they tell me my one scoop of sherbert is $5.68. I’m obviously going to pay it, but then I think that it could have bought me a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream at the store and I regret the sherbert. These are the times that I really annoy myself with how cheap I am. My husband passes on the ice cream since he’s kinda cheap too, and doesn’t care too much for sweets. He does pick out some candy at the store next door though. $10.93

6 p.m. — My friend remembers that there’s a good clamming spot nearby. It’s on the way home, we take a quick pit stop (luckily low tide timing is on our side) on the beach where the clams are. With a shellfish permit, you’re allotted a specific amount of clams per person, per day. We only have one permit, so we quickly reach the one-person allotment in a matter of minutes. We submerge the clams in a bucket of sea water to bring back to camp.

6:30 p.m. — The guys need beer. We stop at a gas station and buy the beer for the group. $12.29

7 p.m. — We get to camp, start a fire, and settle in. We boil the clams in our camp pot and it’s seriously delicious compared to the rest of our dehydrated dinner meal. We play campfire games until it’s time for bed. A perfect day.

Daily Total: $23.22

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