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A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $136,000 Salary

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Today: a pharmacist who makes $136,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Pendleton blankets.

Editor’s Note: This is a follow up Money Diary. You can read the original diary here.

Occupation: Pharmacist

Industry: Healthcare

Age: 36

Location: Seattle, WA

Salary: $136,000 ($118,000 base and $18,000 retention bonus spread out over my 26 paychecks per year)

Net Worth: ~$460,250 ($249,000 in a 401(k), ~$3,250 in my HSA, ~$28,000 in a brokerage fund, ~$29,000 in various savings accounts, half the condo worth I split with my husband (~$522,000 total value), and half the car value (~$45,000 total value) minus half the mortgage (~$260,000 total remaining) and half the car note (~$5,000 total remaining)). My husband, B., and I have separate finances.)

Debt: Mortgage (~$130,000 my half remaining) and a car note (~$2,500 my half remaining). All student loans are paid off.

Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,625 net

Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,392.86 (B. and I take turns paying this for our condo. We refinanced during the pandemic for a very low rate and would not be able to get this low of a mortgage/rent anywhere else.)

HOA: $231 (my half)

Internet: B. pays, $115.44

Electricity: $71

Health Insurance: $16.62

HSA: $116.34

Climbing Gym Membership: $93.72

Pet Insurance: $57.74

Cat Food: $85.13 every three weeks

Car Payment: $760 (B. and I each make a payment every month — three more months and the car is paid off!)

Car Insurance: B. pays $336 every six months

Cell Phones: B. pays $128.12, but my job reimburses $50/month

Streaming Services: $15.43 for Hulu/Disney+/ESPN (I trade for HBO Max and Netflix from my bestie)

Savings/Retirement: $800

School Expenses: $616.90 per quarter (I am currently taking one course per quarter towards an Accountancy certificate)

Annual Expenses:

Condo Insurance: $493

Amazon Prime: $131.02 (B. and I take turns paying this)

YNAB: $109.13

Work Licenses: $1,124 every two years (reimbursed by work now, but it wasn’t previously)

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 was never ARE you going to college, but instead WHERE are you going to college? The friends I had in high school were mostly like me: first-generation Asian kids with the expectation that we would go to college.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?

I knew money was tight since I grew up listening to my parents fight about it from elementary school through middle school. My parents got better-paying jobs when I was in high school, so a lot of things eased up then. The majority of the conversations were centered around using a credit card to build credit, but paying it off monthly to not have a carrying balance. My parents added me as an authorized user to their credit card when I got a car at 16 (due to having too many extracurricular activities to attend after classes in order to get into a good undergrad). I knew my mom dabbled in the stock market, but I never knew an exact amount of my parents’ net worth and still don’t to this day.

What was your first job and why did you get it?

I was hired as a pharmacy technician at 16 as my first official job by a neighbor who was opening a local pharmacy. It kickstarted my career in pharmacy as I was conned into thinking all pharmacies were that chill.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I never worried about having food to eat or a roof over our heads, but I definitely grew up not getting the “cool” brands. Until college, I thought Liz Claiborne was a name brand and that Red Lobster was a fancy restaurant.

Do you worry about money now?

Not really. I still have room to cut if I really need to save. I’m saving pretty aggressively to be able to reach financial independence, though I will probably not fully retire early (we plan to work part-time for health insurance). B. makes more than me now, but I’ve gone years making more than him before, so we don’t split our finances according to who makes more. If we had to, we could sell the car and take the bus around town but we wouldn’t be able to find a cheaper place than our mortgage.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?

I got my first official credit card at age 20, after I had completed my pre-pharmacy curriculum and was accepted to pharmacy school. I was a spendthrift when it came to my parents’ money (accruing over $1,000 a month in slush spending, after which I’d get a very stern talking to), but once I was paying the bill myself (albeit with loan money that first year, until I got an intern job the summer after my first year in pharmacy school) I was very frugal. I don’t feel like I’m super frugal now, though I definitely skimp on treating myself with physical goods. B. would be my safety net if something happened to my income and both sets of parents (across the country) would let us move back in if we needed to, though we would do everything in our power to avoid that.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

I received free undergrad tuition due to my mom working for the university (my parents covered housing/meal plan) and I received something like $2,000 from a great uncle that I met once or twice in my life when he passed.

Day One

5 a.m. — My alarm goes off and my cat tucks in closer behind my legs in protest. I snooze for 10 minutes.

5:10 a.m. — Fine. I get up and make myself a cup of coffee. For those of you who remember my last Money Diary, my husband and I have gotten lazy and stopped getting up together for Silent Coffee Mornings. I play Wordle, Quordle, and Sedecordle and text my friend the results. I get up at 5:45 for a shower, at which time my husband, B., blearily meanders out of the bedroom. He’s on a no-coffee run at the moment, so he just sits on the couch and mopes about not having coffee while I get ready for work. Out the door by 6:25 for work with a “have a good day” and a kiss from B.

9:30 a.m. — Break time! I grab a bag of popcorn ($1.99) from the canteen, using money I’ve previously loaded onto my canteen card.

12 p.m. — After a morning of checking meds, I go out to have lunch. I made an easy chicken pot pie a few days ago, so I have that for lunch. It isn’t enough, so I go back to the canteen and buy a Twix bar ($0.99, prepaid). B. texts and requests to have the car tomorrow, so I ask a coworker who lives close by for a ride. He agrees to drive me tomorrow and I let B. know he’s got the car. We’ve had one car for a while now, but my Thursday to Sunday schedule basically means that he never has a car to run errands with on weekends. He’s excited to get out and do a few things the next day. Back to work at 12:30!

5:45 p.m. — We have been done with work for at least 45 minutes and yet… I’m waiting for the floor manager to finish their report so we can leave. She doesn’t ever seem to prep her report during the day when she finds a minute or two of downtime, so I’m basically never out of the pharmacy before 6 p.m. on nights when I close with her. I call B. on the way home and we decide to get hot food from Uwajimaya, a local chain of Asian grocery stores, because we only have one more bit of chicken pot pie that I’m taking to work tomorrow. $26.44 later and I have a banh mi and half of a duck. We eat dinner and I putz around texting friends while he watches YouTube videos before bed at 9. Skin care consists of The Inkey List Collagen Booster Serum, Tatcha eye cream, Tatcha Dewy Cream, tretinoin (three times a week), and Aquaphor. $26.44

Daily Total: $26.44

Day Two

5 a.m. — Ugh, the alarm. I don’t snooze today and jump right into sleepy Wordle, Quordle, and Sedecordle. Then I get up, make coffee as quietly as I can, and sit on the couch with the cat. I get up to get ready a few minutes earlier than usual since I’m being picked up. Skin care is the same as last night, minus the eye cream and the Aquaphor. My coworker, A., arrives to give me a ride. I ask if he wants to swing by Starbucks since we’re early — my treat for him picking me up. He is excited about free Starbucks. A venti ice mocha and a grande sweet cream cold brew later, we’re caffeinated and on to work! $11.34

7 a.m. — Another day at work, another morning huddle. When I wrote my last Money Diary, I had an amazing boss who was also a friend of mine. She was forcibly taken away from me (to work on projects and not manage people anymore) in January and the four pharmacists under her were “gifted” to her counterpart: a less-than-stellar lead who steals other people’s credit, never communicates, and just generally sucks. I still work on a number of my old boss’ projects as a lot of them still need to be done in the pharmacy. I let the pharmacist team know that today is a project day for me, mandated by the Powers That Be (approved by our manager, too).

8:15 a.m. — I get a Slack from our HR person that he’s on-site today and would like to chat. He stopped by on Friday to tell me that he wanted to talk to me, but that the day had gotten away from him. I already know this isn’t about me (due to the pharmacist I’m training having been called in on Thursday), but it’s always nerve-wracking to talk to HR about anything. We set up a meeting at 1. He says it’ll just be 20 minutes, but this man likes to talk. I figure it’ll be an hour at least.

9:30 a.m. — Break time! I buy another Twix at the canteen.

12:30 p.m. — I heat up the last of my chicken pot pie and eat quickly. Then, I head in to see HR. The HR rep tells me someone called into our ethics line to complain about my manager. I’m asked whether I feel he plays favorites (yes), if he communicates (no), and what he can do to earn my trust. I let the HR rep know that I don’t think I can trust him, since he’s stolen credit from me before. HR rep asks if I’d reported it and I said no since there’s no proof besides other people texting me, “Hey, I thought this was your idea? Your boss is saying it was his…?” The conversation lasts 70 minutes, then I head back to my projects.

3:30 p.m. — I skip the second break of the day to keep working on my project. The coworker stops by to ask about my HR meeting, as he thinks he’s next to talk to the HR rep. I let him know that it seemed to center around communication and that I was honest with the HR rep.

5:30 p.m. — It’s time to go hooooome! A. drives me home and we discuss my weird conversation with HR. I let slip that I’m plotting an escape from our crappy boss, but divulge very few details. Once home, B. and I eat dinner (frozen pizza, because lazy), tell each other about our days, have sex, and go to bed at 9. B. has also done the dishes, cleaned the condo, and done two loads of laundry so I can have a relaxing day off tomorrow since today was my Friday.

Daily Total: $11.34

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — I wake up by taking a cat paw to the face. I guess she’s hungry. B. is snoring away next to me. I get up to feed the cat and make my morning coffee. B. emerges from the bedroom around 6 and we sit on the couch together until he has to get ready for work. I take B. to work and then potato around for two hours before jumping in the shower and running some errands.

9 a.m. — I’ve been randomly bruising so I asked my provider to put in some lab tests for me a few days back. I head to the lab for some bloodwork and pay $3 for parking because I was two minutes past the free parking time. Sad. Afterward, I head to the community college where I’m taking one class a quarter (online) because they’re trying to charge me double. The finance office sends an email and tells me to wait to pay. $3

10 a.m. — I run my errands next. I head to Petco and buy 20 pounds of cat litter and three more stainless steel cat food bowls ($29.98). Then I head next door to Whole Foods mostly for ground coffee, but also grab some chocolate peanut butter cups, barbecue sauce, two bagged salads, chili powder, ground beef (unplanned, but on sale!), bars of soap, and lunch from the hot bar ($77.61). B. and I have been trying to cut down on our plastic usage, so we’re both using bar soap and I’m using shampoo and conditioner bars (he doesn’t, because bald). $107.59

11 a.m. — I go home, put everything away, and eat my Whole Foods mac and cheese. I potato on the couch for an hour with my cat. I change into climbing clothes for my standing climbing session with one of my climbing buddies, E. I’m leaving a bit early today since I need to pick up some climbing shoes I dropped off to be resoled ($44). Then I spend about two hours climbing nothing of note, go figure. E. mocks me for not climbing anything of note and I tattle on him to our other climbing buddy who moved away last year. She joins in the mockery. This backfired on me, damn it. My bloodwork results come back that I’m anemic. I ask B. to grab some iron tablets for me. $44

3 p.m. — Time to get B. from work! I pick him up, still fully covered in chalk from the climbing gym. We briefly chat about our days before I head to dinner with T., a friend from an old job. Before I go, I quickly change and ask B. if he wants me to bring anything back for him and he declines. I arrive at The Cheesecake Factory a whole 30 minutes early, so I wander the mall but buy nothing. T. arrives exactly on time and we have a fun two hours catching up. We split the spinach and artichoke dip, firecracker shrimp, and the Tex-Mex egg rolls, and we each get a drink off the happy hour menu. B. texts an hour into dinner asking for a ribeye because he got hungry. I roll my eyes but order it for him. I pay the bill because T. paid last time. $140.63

7:30 p.m. — After I get home, I chat with my friend, M., online about our annual climbing trip. We started this earlier this year after she moved away. We’re planning to go to Joshua Tree this time. We find an Airbnb to split in LA for a few days before so we can get good food. I pay 25% of it now. $135.35

9 p.m. — It’s bedtime! I have two quick interviews tomorrow (30 minutes each) for a new role. I’m a little nervous because my brain tends to melt during interviews. I chat about it with B. before bed and he assures me I’ll do fine. I’ve got the experience and the qualities that they’re looking for; I just need to own it in the interview. Having a supportive spouse is pretty awesome, I can’t lie. I go to bed with a smile on my face.

Daily Total: $430.57

Day Four

4 a.m. — I wake up naturally, probably due to nerves. I get up and make coffee. I take my first iron tablet and remind myself to get orange juice for better absorption. (Spoiler: I completely forget.) B. gets up at 6 and joins me on the couch. We talk through some of my interview stories to prep me for the day.

7 a.m. — I take B. to work then return home to get ready for my first interview at 8:30. I put on a full face of makeup and log in to the virtual call 10 minutes early.

9 a.m. — Okay, I feel like that could have gone better. The interviewer only asked me two questions and after one of my answers asked how my answer answered his question. I calm myself by watching episodes of Call the Midwife on Netflix and reading Crying in H Mart until my second interview at 11:30.

12 p.m. — The second interview goes really well! She also only asked two questions but I was able to answer them well and convey the scope and results of my actions. She says that I seem like I’d be a great fit for her team. I should hear back within one to two days, eeeeek! I spend the rest of the day watching Call the Midwife and daydreaming about getting the job.

4 p.m. — Time to get B. from work! He has an item to drop off at UPS so we head there after I pick him up. Unfortunately, there’s something wrong with the shipping label, so we go home and will try again tomorrow. We go home and eat dinner (beef chow fun from the Woks of Life recipe) and discuss my interview and his work day. I check my class account to find that they’ve fixed my amount due, so I pay it (in monthly expenses). Bedtime at 9.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6 a.m. — I take a cat paw to the face and wake up to feed her. B. is already up and made me coffee! He asks what I’m planning to do today and reminds me that we need to go back to UPS. I take him to work at 7 per usual then come home to pick up around the house and do laundry.

10:30 a.m. — I head out for my weekly Costco run. First stop is gas: $64.42 for half a tank of gas. Damn my large tank. Next is Costco stuff. I get tonkatsu ramen, Liquid IV, Welch’s fruit snacks, Hello Panda snacks, three Pendleton blankets, and Pepcid AC for B.’s heartburn ($221.90). I hit the food court for a slice of pizza on my way out ($2.19) because yum. $288.51

12 p.m. — I get home and put everything away, fold the clothes, then change for climbing. I have a fine climbing session, but it could have been better.

3:30 p.m. — I grab B. from work and he tells me we have to swing by home before we go to UPS. We go home to grab his packages then head to Uwajimaya to pick up Asian snacks. He buys me a banh mi and I talk him into buying some hot food from the Uwajimaya food court so that I can take the leftovers to work tomorrow. We get back into the car and pack the snacks into the box, get to UPS, and successfully ship out his packages.

6 p.m. — We’re sitting at home on the couch and randomly decide to check my application portal online. It says “no longer under consideration” for the role I just interviewed for. I hold back some tears, share the news with B., and text the image to my old boss. She immediately texts me back that she doesn’t understand. A good fit for the team almost 100% means an offer! We text back and forth about what could possibly have gone wrong while tears leak down my face. I send out thank you and I hope to hear back soon emails with tears streaming down my face. B. asks if he can do anything for me, but I just wallow in the idea that I’m going to be stuck with this crappy boss for the foreseeable future. He cuddles me and lets me leak my tears onto his t-shirt.

7:45 p.m. — My phone dings with an email and I let out a small scream. The email is a verbal offer from the hiring manager! B. is concerned because I screamed but sees that I’m smiling and guesses that I got the job. I get off the couch and jump around the living room in joy, then take a screenshot of it and text my old boss that WE WERE WRONGGGGG! She immediately calls me. We both scream about it on the phone with many I KNEW IT!s and I TOLD YOU SO!s. In bed at 9 with a huuuuuge smile on my face. WHEW, what an emotional few hours!!

Daily Total: $288.51

Day Six

4 a.m. — I wake up and immediately check my email to make sure I didn’t hallucinate the offer. I didn’t! It’s really there!!! I’m so excited I can’t go back to sleep. I get up for coffee and the cat follows me out to the couch. B. gets up at 5:30 and asks if I can take him to work tomorrow before I leave as he’s got to go in early for something. I get ready for work and leave the house at 5:45 as I need to open the pharmacy today.

10 a.m. — This morning is busy enough that I miss first break, so no Twix for me. I have my one-on-one with my manager today. He sits down and says, “So, good news?” And I reply that it’s GREAT news and that the hiring manager and I had touched base yesterday regarding the offer. He tells me the transition date for me to leave for the new role won’t be for a few weeks. He then tells me that he asked HR to do a pulse check last week. I’m guessing he doesn’t know that HR just told us there was a complaint. We call the per diem into his office and ask if she wants a full-time role (yes), break the news to her I’m transferring, then swear her to silence.

12 p.m. — Time for my daily Twix! I have B.’s leftovers from yesterday, so I heat that up for lunch and have my Twix for dessert. After lunch, I can’t hold in the news anymore and I tell my three closest friends at work and swear them to secrecy until I tell everyone. The pharmacist I tell exclaims that I’m not allowed to leave and that we had a pact! I’m gonna miss these people!!! The rest of work is pretty uneventful.

5 p.m. — I head home from work and am grinning ear to ear when I walk through the door at home. I shout 11 MORE DAYS TILL NEW JOB the second I get through the door. B. laughs at me and the cat hides under the bed because I’m loud. I spend the evening plotting my WFH setup with B. and reading Crying in H Mart until bed at 8:30.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

4 a.m. — I wake up early again for no reason. I’m still giddy about getting the job, I guess! The cat comes with me to the couch and I get kitty cuddles until B. gets up at 5:30. I head out the door to work at 6:25.

12 p.m. — Lunch is the last of my beef chow fun. I scroll through Smitten Kitchen online to find the eggplant rollatini recipe and write down what ingredients I need to grab from the store tonight on my way home. No Twix today, surprisingly.

2 p.m. — Wow, my official offer letter just came through! I see that there’s no pay bump, so I quickly ask the new manager if that’s something we can discuss. Unfortunately not, she says, since it’s a lateral move. She does say that we can discuss more during the annual evaluations next year. I thank her anyway and accept the offer. I begin finding each technician and pharmacist and breaking the news in person. I get a lot of surprised faces, which is always hilarious. All of the techs say that they’re happy for me but sad for them and a few ask me to take them with me.

5:30 p.m. — I ask B. what he wants from the store since I’m heading that way already. He asks for premade food so he doesn’t have to scavenge for food. I get two eggplants, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, pasta sauce, and two premade meals so he can have his pick. I go home and make the eggplant rollatini, which isn’t done until 8. I eat a small portion of it and call it a night at 9. Work tomorrow, and breaking the news of abandonment to more people! $69.94

Daily Total: $69.94

food, amazon, a week in seattle, wa, on a $136,000 salary

A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $136,000 Salary

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