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9February 2021


A Week In Portland, OR, On A $34,000 Salary

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. Do you live in Paris? Have you always wanted to submit a Money Diary? Well here’s your push! We’re looking for Parisian diarists (and specifically those who work in communications or beauty/skincare/fashion) and we’d love to hear from you! Send an email to for a chance to be featured in an upcoming Money Diaries series. Credit scores have a lot of power over our lives, limiting or broadening our options. What changed when your credit score dropped, or what changed when you built up better credit? Tell us here. We can protect your identity if you’d like.Today: a graduate researcher who makes $34,000 per year and spends some of her money on macrame plant holders. Occupation: Graduate ResearcherIndustry: Biomedical Sciences Age: 24Location: Portland, ORSalary: $34,000Net Worth: -$88,500 ($7,000 in investments, $4,500 in savings minus debt)Debt: $70,000 in federal graduate loans (in deferment), $30,000 in personal debtPaycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,055Pronouns: She/herMonthly ExpensesRent: $1,450 for a one-bedroom apartment downtown. I live with my cat.Loans: $500 + any money made from part-time jobs. Utilities: ~$100 – $140 (utilities are split evenly between all apartments in the complex)Internet: $40Savings: $200 Phone: $0 (On the family plan)Renter’s Insurance: $200 annually Health Insurance: $0 (Paid for through school and both my parents)Streaming: $8.99 (My sister and I share the cost of Netflix and my mom has a Spotify family account)Food Delivery Subscription: $19.98 (Instacart and take out delivery)Donations: $15 (Patreon donations to two favorite podcasts and Molly Baz’s new recipe club) 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?Most definitely. My parents are African immigrants and education is the most important thing in our culture. Therefore, there was never an option not to go to school. My dream was always to get my Ph.D., so school was already my path from a young age. I attended junior college before transferring to a four-year college, and my parents paid for it all. Going to a junior college cut the cost of school and I still got an amazing education. I never expected my parents to pay, but they did, and I was grateful for it. When I got my Master’s, I took out federal loans on my own and knew I wouldn’t have to pay them off until I finished a doctorate program. Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?To this day, my parents still talk to me about money and managing finances. When I was a kid, my allowance was put into a savings account every month. Before going away to college, my parents sat me down and explained their financial situation so I had an idea of how to handle money. Once I got my first job, my parents stressed the importance of living below one’s means. What was your first job and why did you get it?My first paid job was a research internship at a local four-year college for the summer. The more long-term job I had was in college being a student IT assistant, where we fixed projectors, computers, and other classroom technology. Did you worry about money growing up?I did. My dad would always joke about how he had no money, and at some point, he realized how seriously I was taking his joke. When I was applying to college, he finally addressed the issue by explaining our family’s current financial situation. Do you worry about money now?Yes and no. I do not worry about paying the bills I have to pay now, but I worry about my future once the weight of all my loans is on me. It will be manageable as my job prospects are really high, especially with a Ph.D. in my field, but I always worry about big issues like this. At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?Once I transferred to a four-year college, I was on my own. I had multiple jobs to pay for my everyday expenses and save for grad school. My savings account is okay at the moment, but hopefully, it will look better by the time I graduate. My program’s funding is secure until I finish, so I have no worries about losing it any time soon. Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.No. Day One 10 a.m. — I get up, watch TV with my parents for a bit to wake up, and take a nice hot shower. I lotion myself up, brush out my hair, and dress for the day of tax-free shopping! (Fun fact: Oregon has no sales tax, so my friends and family buy their expensive items when they come to visit). 11:30 a.m. — The family is leaving tomorrow, so we decide to head downtown and my mom grabs some croissants for tomorrow’s breakfast before they commence their drive back to California. 12:10 p.m. — We stop by the local African food market so my mom can buy some traditional foods (plantains, dried black-eyed peas, and attieke (dried grated cassava)) for the house. We then travel up the street to the beauty supply store, where we grab some hair for box braids, hair masques, and oil. $45.88 1:30 p.m. — My apartment has no cleaning supplies, so we head to a shopping center to find various items. We first enter Target, where I buy all my cleaning supplies (i.e., Tide pods, sponges, Swiffer fluid). I also need some toothpaste and a new laundry basket, so we pick those items up before check out. $59.81 1:30 p.m. — Mom smells coffee in Target, so on the way out, I refill my Starbucks card and buy drinks for the family. $20 2 p.m. — We did not have breakfast, so we decide to order two large pizzas and eat in the car. They are hot and delicious. My favorite is the Hawaiian pizza (pineapples DO belong on top of pizza!). Mom pays for the pizzas. 2:45 p.m. — We head over to Ross and HomeGoods to find a deep pot with a lid, organizing bins, and cotton towels. I find a gorgeous lamp at HomeGoods that will help with the lighting problem in my apartment, so I decide to purchase it. I find a cheap peeler and some mini towels at Ross. $149.95 4:30 p.m. — The lamp does not have a bulb and we still need towels, so we head back to Target and find all the items plus a few more (it’s Target, you always find 10 extra things). Mom becomes inspired while at Target and buys some bananas for a special dessert. Dad pays since the new towels were for his pleasure (my current towel quality isn’t to his liking). 6 p.m. — We arrive back at my apartment and my sister and Dad help me organize and set up a few things in the house. The lamp is not as bright as we thought it would be, so I look for another light solution on Amazon. 7:30 p.m. — Mom makes banana chocolate mousse crepes for dessert. My sister warms up the leftover pizza and I bring out some salad and drinks to eat while watching TV on the sofa. After dinner, I browse on Poshmark to spend some money from shoes I sold during the holidays and find some macramé plant hangers. I would like to have more greenery in the house, so I opt for vertical solutions, so my cat can’t destroy the plants. I offer $27 total, which makes my out-of-pocket expenses only $2.11. $2.11 11 p.m. — We are all tired and decide to pack it in. Before bed, I order groceries for the week on Instacart and set the delivery for tomorrow afternoon. I plan to make a big batch of tomato soup and freeze it, so I buy some canned diced tomatoes and onions to go with the leftover carrot and celery in the fridge. I also want to eat more salads during the week, so I buy some toppings and salad dressing. I then watch some videos on my phone while playing games before falling asleep to the sounds of R&B. Daily Total: $277.75 Day Two 8 a.m. — I am not a morning person, but today is the exception because my family is driving back home. I look at my phone and sleep for another 30 minutes. 8:30 a.m. — I finally get out of bed, wash my face, and get dressed to say goodbye. My mom requests some crepes with sugar for the car, and I prepare them while my family watches some TV and drinks some tea. My parents put everything in order and pack up before heading to the car. 10 a.m. — My family leaves and I cry a little. We spent the past seven months in quarantine together and being alone will be a change for me. They will be back in a few months to pick up the cat in the spring so she can play outside in the California sun. 11:30 a.m. — I get back to my apartment and heat some breakfast hot pockets in the oven. I decide to have a late take-out lunch since I want to save my mom’s cooking for the workweek. I order McDonald’s on Postmates with a gift card I won in a raffle and resubscribe to the unlimited plan for the month; I want to use the gift card once a week for a takeout meal. I plan to switch to DoorDash next month. $9.99 2 p.m. — The food is here! It is delivered to my door and I tip the driver (as we all should). I catch up on the first episode of season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race while I eat. I get a notification that my Poshmark offer was accepted! $3.80 3:15 p.m. — I decide to clean up my apartment and reorganize with the bins I bought yesterday. I wash the new towels I bought yesterday while organizing the bathroom. I rewatch old Kitchen Nightmares episodes while cleaning, and Gordon’s screaming keeps me energized to finish. 5 p.m. — I decide to wash my hair for the week, so I prep my hair and put on a hair masque while watching episodes of ER on my computer. 6 p.m. — I find out my school is allowing all students to get the first dose of a COVID vaccine. The student group chat is surprised but grateful about the news and we all sign up to receive our first dose in the next couple of days. My family calls to tell me they made it to their pit stop for the night. I tell them about the vaccine news and they are happy I will be safe much sooner than anticipated. 8:30 p.m. — I am starving, so I order some rigatoni and garlic bread from a local Italian restaurant with high reviews. I don’t use the gift card this time to spread out its use over the month (total is with tip). $22.47 9:15 p.m. — The food arrives and I decide to do a face mask, wash my hair, and shower before eating dinner. I listen to the Juicy Scoop podcast while washing my hair. The most recent episode is quite interesting (I highly recommend the podcast for those obsessed with reality TV and unusual drama). I find an international Real Housewives series online, so I start to watch it while I eat. 11 p.m. — I get a text from my dad with two job listings for grad students, both paying a lot more than my current rate. I think about applying, but I first need to think about my research deadlines to see if either opportunity is feasible. These jobs would help tremendously with paying off my debt. I went to bed really late last night and researching the opportunity took some time, so I am super tired and ready for bed. I finally put on my sleep playlist on Spotify and drift away in minutes. Daily Total: $36.26 Day Three 9 a.m. — I wake up, brush my teeth, wash my face, and apply toner and moisturizer before my 10 a.m. eye appointment. I haven’t unpacked since getting back to Portland last week from a seven-month hiatus (I went back home to California just for the summer and ended up staying through the holidays). I dress in the warmest available outfit: leggings, cotton long sleeve, head wrap, and boots and check my phone to see what route will get me to my appointment. All options are available (bus, streetcar, or train (here we call it the MAX)), but the bus will get me there 20 minutes before my appointment. 9:35 a.m. — I hop on the bus and use my annual pass (which does not work), so I have to use my debit card to pay. I woke up too late to get a bite to eat, so I plan to stop at Starbucks before getting to my appointment. I load the $50 gift card my boss gave me as an end-of-the-year gift before hopping off the bus. I buy my chocolate croissant, but it’s raining outside so there is no time to eat it while walking to the building. $2.50 11 a.m. — I thought the ophthalmologist would give me a new prescription for glasses, but unfortunately, I have to come back for an eye exam. I was planning on buying new pairs of glasses, but it will have to wait until next month. The dilation wears off faster than last time! This brings hope for some afternoon meetings I need to attend. 12:30 p.m. — I take the streetcar home (free because I’m a student) and stop at CVS searching for some plastic shower caps. They are great for my weekly hair care consisting of my medicated scalp shampoo and a hair masque. They are out, so I buy some mousse body wash, nail polish, and feminine wipes instead. I stop by my mailbox and pick up some packages, one being my Fenty Skin package! I ran out of the tester set last week, so I planned and ordered the full-size pack on Christmas day. $36.02 1 p.m. — I heat the leftovers from last night, rigatoni and garlic bread, and eat while reading some work emails. My eyes are still fighting off this morning’s dilation, so the computer screen is hard to read. I update my scheduled Instacart grocery delivery list (it still hasn’t been delivered) and add parmesan cheese. The one block that sat in my fridge for months could not grate onto my pasta lunch, so I select some shaved parmesan. 4:30 p.m. — I call an investment company to inquire about an account issue and initiate a $5,000 deposit into the account online. My mom gives my sister and me some funds for investment every year, and this year, I decided to try portfolio funds. Hopefully, this money combined with other savings will be the deposit for a car when I graduate in 18 months. 7 p.m. — I get a text that my family made it home safely. They miss my cat and me and I can tell my cat misses them. She always eats when her automatic feeder churns out her food, but she isn’t interested. I heat dinner, consisting of last week’s leftovers: duck from New Year’s Day, bok choy, gravy, and I make some mashed potatoes on the stovetop. It’s super filling, so I skip out on dessert and opt for a mix of Mom’s Lemon Ginger Syrup and Spindrift Pineapple. 9 p.m. — I take a look at the Instacart app and the delivery still is not here. It was supposed to come yesterday, but the shopper canceled after picking up almost half the items on my list. I reschedule it again for tomorrow evening, but I may cancel it if it does not come soon. I then decide to watch TV a bit and take a shower before bed. Daily Total: $38.52 Day Four 12 a.m. — I wake up after falling asleep to some videos playing on my phone and decide to have a midnight snack of chocolate banana crepes to take with my medication. They are delicious and help me fall back into sleep. 9:35 a.m. — I wake up to get ready for my first therapy session in months. It has been a wild ride without her, so it will be great to catch up and vent a little. I do my normal daily routine and decide to sport the headwrap once more today; no need to attempt any new hairstyles. 11 a.m. — Therapy is finished and I feel much better already! I have to get to my vaccine appointment, so I hurry onto the bus. I check Google Maps and realize I will get there too late, so I decide to take an Uber to school. While waiting for the Uber, I decide to make a shrimp skillet I saved on Pinterest, so I pop some frozen shrimp in the fridge to defrost for dinner time. $9.58 12 p.m. — I make it to the vaccine clinic on time! I see some of my friends, and we decide to walk around the campus and catch up. We walk to our office and chat some more.1:10 p.m. — I say goodbye to my friends and head to the bus, which passes by me as I walk out of the building! I run to the next bus stop and catch the bus in time for departure. I check to see if my pass will work today (it doesn’t), so I have to use my card once more. I get back to my apartment and I am quite hungry, so I make lunch consisting of an omelet, avocado toast, cucumber slices, and sparkling water mixed with mom’s homemade honey-ginger syrup and it fills me right up before my two-hour online tutoring sessions. These sessions are a great way to refresh my math skills, help little ones with their homework, and get paid. $2.502:45 p.m. — During my 15-minute break, I chat with an Instacart customer service rep to make sure my groceries arrive today. My meal prep is dependent on this grocery run! They give me a $10 credit for the inconvenience and suggest I cancel and reorder if the groceries don’t arrive this evening.4:15 p.m. — I write up all my tutoring session reports, turn them in, and quickly respond to emails before calling it a day. I went to bed at 3 a.m. last night due to my unforeseen napping session, which will mess up my sleep schedule for a couple of days.7 p.m. — The groceries are here! My arm feels sore from the vaccine, but the feeling is familiar to other shots I normally receive. I may take some Tylenol tomorrow if the pain doesn’t go away. I slowly put away the groceries and leave out the ingredients for tomorrow’s tomato soup (canned diced tomatoes and chicken stock). I will be trying the New York Times recipe, which calls for half-and-half, but I will use the leftover heavy cream after cooking dinner. Afterward, I put together the shrimp skillet and add in some pasta, absolutely delicious! I drink sparkling water and then some chocolate milk while streaming some TLC shows. $104.749 p.m. — It’s already 9? I clean up the kitchen and put the dishwasher on. I feel like chocolate milk might be needed before bed, so I leave the cup out if I want another serving. I remember some of my favorite shows are on tonight, so I take a quick shower while listening to another podcast and then call my dad. I get to sleep around 1 a.m.Daily Total: $116.82 Day Five 10 a.m. — I turn off all my alarms and decided to wake up later than usual. I feel a migraine coming on, which can lead to an unproductive day. I go into the bathroom and do my usual morning routine while greeting my cat. I feel very thirsty in the mornings, so I crack open another Spindrift and walk back to bed since the apartment is freezing. I decide to turn on the heater for a bit to accelerate the warmth in the room. 11 a.m. — The migraine has shown up and my arm still hurts from yesterday’s vaccine, so I take some Tylenol for all the pain. Then I get the workday started and read some emails and check Slack while listening to Kitchen Nightmares on my phone. I then commence my review of some articles for a huge research project. I have to review 45 by the end of this week, so I may have to work on the weekend to finish my goal. 12:45 p.m. — I am finally warm enough to warm up some lunch, but I don’t have much time. I grab some clementines and roll up slices of mortadella to snack on during some afternoon meetings. 3 p.m. — The meetings are over and my head feels much worse; now this migraine has officially ruined my day. Normally a nap will cure the pain, so I eat some salt and vinegar kettle chips and hop into bed. 8:30 p.m. — I wake up with a worse migraine, and nausea has set in. I take two Tylenol with some sparkling water and turn my fan on for some airflow. 12 a.m. — The nausea isn’t going away, so I take a shower to help with the blood flow and do some deep breathing while the steam fills the bathroom. The migraine could be worse due to not eating much, so I eat a banana and more clementines before attempting to fall asleep. Daily Total: $0 Day Six 9:15 a.m. — I wake up to the sounds of tiles crashing. I think someone recently moved out and the complex is renovating their apartment. The migraine is finally gone and so is the pain in my arm! I get out of bed and do my daily routine and drink some water. Then I hop on Instagram and YouTube for a while. 10:30 p.m. — I finally open my laptop and I rush to Zoom. I forgot about a 10 a.m. meeting! Thankfully everyone in the meeting understands my tardiness and we catch up and talk about the ridiculous behavior in D.C. while we work. 12 p.m. — I call my dad to catch up on the past 48 hours of weirdness and then I make something to eat. I decide to make a mortadella-omelet sandwich on sourdough, served with cucumber spears and a clementine. Spindrift to drink of course! I eat the meal during and after class in case nausea comes back. 2 p.m. — I take a quick mental break by watching some music videos, finishing my clementine from lunch, and checking Slack before my tutoring sessions start. 4:30 p.m. — I finish submitting my tutoring reports and I decide to walk outside and get some errands done. My mom calls on my way out, but I decide to call her back once I come back to my apartment so she can see my cat (her favorite child). I stop by the corner store on the way back and picked up some chips and soda. $7.98 5:30 p.m. — I finish catching up with my mom and decide to do some more work before making dinner. I review 15 more articles and look over some emails before calling it a day. For the project I am working on, we mostly have to skim the articles for important information, so it helps to have a system for skimming through. My system is color-coded and makes going through the articles easier! 7 p.m. — I decide to make my tomato soup! Dinner is complemented by grilled cheese and sparkling water. While I make dinner, I also continue to review articles. 9:15 p.m. — I decided to finish my workday and eat some dinner. The soup is a success! I freeze the rest and take a shower before hopping into bed to wind down for the night. I decide to watch some TV for a couple of hours before falling asleep. Daily Total: $7.98 Day Seven 9:15 a.m. — I wake up to the sounds of construction once more and check my phone for any major updates. Then I officially get my day started with a visit to the bathroom for my daily routine. It’s cold in the apartment, so I switch into sweatpants, a jacket, and socks to warm up. I drink a glass of soda for a tiny caffeine boost and log on to my computer. 10:05 a.m. — It looks like everyone forgot about this 10 a.m. meeting! I message them on Slack and we reschedule for the following week. I then continue to go through articles for the day. I also review the most recent version of my dissertation proposal before my afternoon meeting to discuss the clinical testing aspect of my research.1 p.m. — My afternoon meeting shows up late, but I get a lot of great information that will inform the last phase of my research. I will chew on the info for a couple of days and talk to my advisor about it next week once I write down my thoughts. Lunchtime is here, but my cookware is dirty, so I opt for a snack of salt and vinegar chips while waiting for the dishwasher to finish.4:15 p.m. — I finish my work for the day and decide to have a late lunch (early dinner?) of tomato soup and grilled cheese. I call my dad to get my investment portfolio started, but he is busying teaching my sister to drive, so I ask him to call me back when he is free. While waiting for my dad to call, I pay off a large sum on my credit cards and browse Amazon for future purchases. My dad calls back and I set up my investment portfolio and move my debt into low-interest credit cards to pay off my debt faster.8:30 p.m. — I browse for something to eat and find Chick-fil-A back on the Postmates app! I order an Original Sandwich with cheese, large fries, and a Dr. Pepper. They also sell bottles of their sauce, so I decide to buy the Polynesian flavor for potato adventures. All is paid for via the gift card. I take a shower while en route and check the mailbox for my stimulus check after picking up my meal from the delivery person. I didn’t get the first check because I filed my taxes in July, but I recently found out I can claim the amount on my 2020 taxes, which will help greatly. I go back upstairs and eat my dinner while watching Are You the One? on Netflix.9:25 p.m. — Next week, I am taking an online cooking class to make dumplings (yum!), so I check the cooking list and make sure I have all the ingredients needed for the class. I then retire to my room, complete my nightly routine, and catch up on RuPaul’s Drag Race in bed. This start to the weekend feels great.Daily Total: $0 Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $51,500 SalaryA Week In Upstate New York On A $140,000 SalaryA Week In San Jose, CA, On A $72,000 Salary


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