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 software developer who has a joint income of $712,000 and spends some of her money this week on avocados.
Occupation: Software Developer
Location: Seattle, WA
My Salary: $176,000 ($126,000 base + $50,000 RSUs)
My Partner’s Salary: $536,000 ($176,000 base + $295,000 RSUs + 65,000 bonus)
Net Worth: $2,305,700 combined ($1,730,700 in investment accounts, $72,000 in Robinhood, $113,000 in a money market account, $25,000 in checking, $48,000 in my 401(k), $270,000 in my partner’s 401(k), $47,000 value of the car after deducting what we still owe on it)
Debt: $16,000 left on my partner’s car
My Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $6,650 (after taxes, 12% 401(k) contributions, and insurance)
My Partner’s Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,800 (after deductions and early tax payments, does not include stock compensation)
Rent: $4,500 (two-bed, two-bath; includes water, sewage, garbage, and two parking spots; we sublet one of the spots for ~$130/month)
Money Sent To My Parents: $1,050 (includes my contribution for the phone bill that I’m still on)
House Cleaner: $180 (including tip)
Health Insurannce: $75
Partner’s Phone: $30
Renter’s Insurance: $10
Apple Music: $10
Apple Storage: $2
Spotify Family: $16 (I’m letting my friends mooch on this account)
YouTube TV/Disney+/Netflix: Mooch off friends
HBO: $16 (sometimes my friends send me money for this)
New York Times: $17
Amazon Prime: $120
Car Insurance/Registration: $700
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?
Lifelong education is a major expectation of my parents. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school and my parents would have encouraged a gap year, but it made sense to me to use the momentum and go straight to college. My parents could not and did not pay for my college, but I qualified for significant financial aid and received substantial scholarships. This, in addition to the inherited money I mention below, helped get me through college with $20,000 in debt at the end. I got a liberal arts education from a prestigious college, which was challenging and fun and did not at all prepare me to get a well-paying job. After looking frankly at job opportunities and cost of living requirements in major cities, I decided to do additional education and go into software development.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I feel like I was more aware of money than my parents were. They were hard-working/live-in-the-moment hippie boomers who told me stories about when they were younger and only had $50 left and opted to spend it on a nice dinner and start fresh the next day. Their thinking is that money is a fluid force and they have faith that when you need it, it will be there. Growing up I was never without food or shelter or clothing, but we had subsidized housing and always qualified for free and reduced lunch. Now, as they are realizing that they cannot afford to retire, I think they are more conscious of their financial decisions. They’ve had great lives and continue to make the most with very little. In contrast, I’m much more conservative with my money.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working as a mother’s helper for neighbors when I was 10 because they needed help and I was very available. I did retail and restaurant work all through middle and high school and during summers in college. My first big purchase from my savings was a laptop after eighth grade.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. I paid off one of my mom’s credit cards when I was in middle school. Technically she took the money out of our shared account without asking and paid me back later. We worked through it, but at the time, I was upset and set up a joint account with my father. I’m sorry to admit that when I was young I was also ashamed of having the free and reduced lunch tickets (which were a different color than the full-priced ones) and of having an old, rusty family car. Despite their limited means, my parents gave me a lot (movie and dinner dates with my dad, thoughtful presents, travel, and a lot of time and energy). I remember one year my dad spent $75 on office supplies for me before school started and I was both stunned and thrilled by the extravagance.
Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I don’t have anxiety about money in a negative way, but I do think about money a lot. We make a lot of money, but aside from a few big splurges (like our rent and car), we are really frugal and have very simple lives. We’re privileged DINKs, so there aren’t a lot of financial burdens saddling us.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I’d say that turning 16 and inheriting money was when I started to feel financially independent. It was a horrible situation of long, drawn-out cancer so it was more like a tragic booby prize than winning the lottery. If things go really badly, we could move in with my parents, but they don’t have the financial means to help much beyond that. It’s the same situation with my partner’s parents — he doesn’t come from a wealthy family either.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My grandmother passed away when I was five and left me $5,000. My parents invested it in a mutual fund and I used it to pay for part of college. My uncle passed away when I was 16 and left me $100,000 in mutual funds, $100,000 in a trust, and his car. My partner has not received any inheritance.
7:30 a.m. — My partner, O., gets up and starts making breakfast. I’m having a hard time waking up this morning so I hit snooze for the next 20 minutes before I drag myself up to put in my contacts, throw on a coat, and take our dog, N., out for her walk around the block. On our way back, she races down the hallway, excited for food. Being around her enthusiasm is a nice way to start the day. The smoothie that O. hands me when we walk in the door is less pleasant, but it’s filling and chock full of healthy things like spinach and spirulina and turmeric powder so I gulp it down and try not to make a face.
11:30 a.m. — O. gets a call that he’s been offered a new job in the Bay Area. He’s super excited because he has been dreaming of California as long as I’ve known him. I have mixed feelings, but try to be supportive. I’m not opposed to moving someday, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this soon. To celebrate the offer, I order us some massive burritos. $33.55
1 p.m. — I take N. for a quick walk outside and pick up a package from the concierge. It’s a picture frame for a print we bought a month ago and was super delayed in shipping. The corners of the frame are dinged up and it’s a lot more cheaply built than I expected, but I put the print in and hang it up. O. takes a look and says I should ask for a refund or replacement. He is much more comfortable asking for things like that than I am, so I resist and then decide it’s okay to ask politely. I opt for a 20% refund.
6 p.m. — I love grocery stores and I think O.’s fondness for them has grown since the pandemic reduced our primary social outings to trips to Trader Joe’s. We stock up on staples for the week. $185.63
7 p.m. — I unpack the groceries and O. makes open-faced turkey and cheese toasts for dinner. We take some time to talk about his job offer and I admit that I’m just not ready to move yet. O. says it’s unlikely we would need to be in California full-time until early 2022.
8 p.m. — This evening my big plans are watching Schitt’s Creek with O. and working on a quilt square for a friend’s baby that’s due in a couple of months. Is it just me or did tons of people just start having babies?! I see that one of my high school friends has a GoFundMe campaign for pregnancy complications, so I donate. $51
Daily Total: $270.18
8 a.m. — Our morning’s very predictable. The only difference today is that O. made so much smoothie yesterday that we have enough for today so he can sleep in. I get up, walk N., and open my laptop. I try not to have my workday extend beyond 8:30 to 6, but it’s gotten really hard for me to separate work from life.
10 a.m. — I’m not sure if it’s the smoothie or me, but snacks are in order. I make some toast with peanut butter and sliced banana. I have a couple of projects to see through the gate this week so my morning is spent head-down at my laptop.
12 p.m. — O. is in meetings so I throw two frozen Trader Joe’s pad thai cartons in a pan for lunch. It’s not glamorous, but it’s tasty and easy.
2 p.m. — The official offer letter for O.’s potential new job arrives and it’s a significant step down from his current total compensation package. O. says it’s not about the money, it’s about the job and career growth opportunity, but I know him well enough to suspect this won’t be acceptable.
3 p.m. — I have my weekly one-on-one with my manager. I’ve been meaning to have a frank discussion about making a timeline for my promotion so I can start working more actively on moving up. I negotiated really hard when I was hired, which was great in the moment, but has meant there is very little room for pay raises until I level up. Unfortunately, I chicken out. Ugh.
6 p.m. — O. wants to start on beef tacos for dinner, so I close my laptop and we do a 15-minute Peloton core workout on the living room rug.
7 p.m. — O. has a serious sweet tooth and wants ice cream so we drive up the hill to Molly Moon’s and get a split scoop yeti/vegan brownie in a cup and a kid-sized yeti in a waffle cone. $10.13
8 p.m. — I take N. and my quilt square to the bedroom and watch Westworld while O. works on a presentation in the living room.
Daily Total: $10.13
7:30 a.m. — Wake up, walk N., drink my glass of smoothie (this one has peanut butter and is less sludge-y in consistency, so I like it a bit better), and open my laptop.
10 a.m. — I have a bug in my code and need to figure out what I did that was the root cause. I end up chatting with my co-worker (and now friend) about the state of the company and our careers. She and I are in the minority of tech as women of color and we regularly cheer each other on and vent to each other about the small daily frustrations and larger issues we experience. Our friendship has made this year of WFH infinitely more bearable.
12 p.m. — I usually have a weekly therapy session, but my therapist is taking a week off, which is good for her; I’m glad she has a life too. It’s funny sometimes how much she knows about me and my thoughts and how little I know about her. I trend towards being a robot and she helps me both process my emotions and feel okay experiencing them (my co-pay is usually $11.50). I take some chicken soup out of the freezer and heat it up for our lunch. This has been a useful trick for quick lunches this year — one-pot soup with leeks, carrots, celery, spices, and an entire chicken is on our regular rotation of recipes. We’re out of bread so I start on a new loaf of sourdough.
2 p.m. — As part of my 2021 goals, I want to volunteer more, so I have a new-to-the-industry mentee. She and I have a video chat to discuss where she’s at and where she wants to be and how to get there. With everyone working remote, I stress the importance of having cameras on during small meetings so that even though she might not have a lot to say yet, she can start off being seen by her new team.
6 p.m. — I’m feeling cranky and stressed, but I want to have a nice dinner so I make the roasted butternut squash and red onion dish from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. While that’s in the oven, I chop up two chicken breast and sauté them with spices. O. is on the balcony reading and I ask him to set up the table.
7 p.m. — The food is done, but the table isn’t ready! I snap at O. for being ungrateful and unhelpful and he apologizes and offers to clean up. I’m still grumpy but realize that it’s more related to burnout than O. or the table.
8 p.m. — To satisfy O.’s sweet tooth we go to Happy Lemon and order a chocolate bubble waffle to share. $6.27
9 p.m. — Our lease renewal needs to be signed today and we’ve been putting it off, waiting to hear more about O.’s job offer. We have a frank conversation about moving to CA and decide to sign the renewal. I tell O. he’d better negotiate the fee for breaking the lease in his relocation package.
Daily Total: $6.27
7:30 a.m. — Wake up, walk N., drink my glass of smoothie, and open my laptop to start squashing bugs.
12 p.m. — We have ample leftovers so today I make an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad (arugula, spinach, red cabbage, peas, radish, cucumber, green onions, squash, chicken, cashews, raisins, and a dressing of shallots and lemon). I also put the bread I started yesterday in the oven.
1 p.m. — O. gets an updated offer letter, and although it’s better, it’s still $100,000 less than the lowest he wants to go. He talks to the hiring manager and says that it’s too painful a drop in income combined with the higher cost of living and state income taxes. The hiring manager comes back and says they will see what they can do.
5 p.m. — I walk around the corner for a haircut. It’s my first in over a year! The experience feels safe and my head feels much lighter after lopping off 10 inches. $120
6 p.m. — O. wants burgers tonight, so we drive to get some from Eden Hill Provisions — my favorite. $23.33
6:30 p.m. — Because we’re near a Trader Joe’s, we get some more groceries — avocados, yogurt, bananas, and some frozen things for quick lunches. $30.71
7 p.m. — We ordered a new dining table from West Elm in January and it’s finally scheduled to arrive next week so O. puts our sad, falling apart, old one on Facebook Marketplace for free. Someone replies almost immediately and we arrange a weekend pickup.
8 p.m. — I’ve been meaning to have O. help me figure out the best way to get into more EFTs and we spend a few minutes navigating my brokerage account and setting up transfers from my money market to checking to brokerage account — it’s all so simple, but the barrier to actually doing it feels immense for me.
Daily Total: $174.04
7 a.m. — My insurance covers therapeutic massages at 90% and I’ve had so many back issues this last year that I’ve finally started using this benefit. It’s not as fancy as a spa experience, but way cheaper and still a luxurious 50 minutes. I’ve put a lot of effort into really understanding how to use my insurance this year and I’m doing my best to use it as smartly as I can. $6 copay + $16 tip. $22
8 a.m. — I cannot have smoothies this morning and opt to make us fried eggs and toast with marmalade instead.
12 p.m. — My projects are done but I’m not feeling like cooking so I put frozen spinach paneer and tikka masala in the oven. O. generously walks N. and mails my quilt square. $2
4 p.m. — One of my co-workers says (in our team’s chat) that they don’t like the way one of my projects is designed. Another one agrees with him. I try arguing that this is what the designer and I worked on together and it was approved (and they had already had weeks to give feedback), but they insist it should be done differently. I’m frustrated, but loop in the designer and we come up with a quick solution.
5 p.m. — My change gets approved, the code is merged, and I close my laptop with a combination of frustration at having to have this last-minute fire drill and satisfaction at having been able to handle it.
6 p.m. — While O. makes turkey meatballs and steams broccoli, I put together our Ikea balcony furniture that has been waiting in storage for a nice evening like this. We eat on the balcony and I vent about my day. O. suggests a walk to get a bubble waffle, but after we clean the kitchen together, I decide I’d rather do a Peloton yoga class tonight.
Daily Total: $24
8 a.m. — Wake up, walk N., and find that joy of joys, O. has made me a smoothie! Weekends are either really slow for us or full of socially distanced adventures. We decide this is going to be a slower weekend.
10 a.m. — After getting out of bed for real this time, we do a 20-minute Peloton core workout. O. does a ride and I talk on the phone with one of my oldest friends and start dealing with piles of laundry.
11:30 a.m. — The table people are here so we remove its legs and bring it down to their car. It was a good table — O. got it for free five years ago and it served us well.
12 p.m. — For lunch, we defrost chicken soup, heat up the leftover meatballs, and make some avocado toast.
3 p.m. — Maybe it’s the stress, but I’ve been seriously craving wide rice noodles. We’re also out of kimchi and O. is always down for a mochi donut so we drive down to Uwajimaya. $56
6 p.m. — I’m always at a bit of a loss on how to use fresh store-bought rice noodles (in my hands they either turn into a gelatinous lump or break into tiny unusable pieces), but this time I’ve done my research, so I cut the block into strips and then boil the pieces enough to untangle them by hand in a bowl of cold water. Tonight we’re having my interpretation of Pad Kee Mao (less sugar, more vegetables).
8 p.m. — We didn’t do very much today, and yet I’m still exhausted. I get N. and climb into bed early for some more Westworld and a couple of rounds of Minesweeper while O. watches a documentary in the living room.
Daily Total: $56
8 a.m. — O. wakes up and wants waffles. I suggest pancakes. As a compromise, we decide on popovers, so I start cooking while O. takes N. around the block.
9 a.m. — It’s overcast and I’m still tired so O. starts playing Witcher in the living room and I offer occasionally helpful commentary like “you’re almost out of energy and will die if you do not eat something.”
12 p.m. — For lunch, I heat up leftovers and a Trader Joe’s frozen flatbread. I sometimes think that we eat too much frozen food, but the convenience is hard to beat.
1 p.m. — It’s turning into another sunny day so we get N.’s harness and drive to Sunset Hill in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle for a neighborhood walk. Last summer we exhausted walking around downtown and started picking new neighborhoods to tour. Neighborhood sidewalks are usually empty and there are lots of cute houses. Today we get a coffee and tea from Cafe Fiore. At the last minute, O. impulse purchases a muffin. $15.30
6 p.m. — O. makes us pasta with tuna, onion, eggs, and cheese for dinner. It’s cold, but still sunny, so we put on our coats and eat on the balcony.
Daily Total: $15.30
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