DMT Beauty Transformation: A Week In Portland, OR, On A $60,000 Salary
featured Khareem Sudlow

A Week In Portland, OR, On A $60,000 Salary

June 01, 2020DMT Beauty

#DMTBeautySpot #beauty

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today a case manager who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on canned gin and tonics.

Occupation: Case Manager
Industry: Social Services/Government
Age: 32
Location: Portland, OR
Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: I have approximately $6,000 in liquid-ish savings (cash, bonds), $22,000 in retirement accounts, and $9,800 of debt.
Debt: Student Loan: $1,400 Personal Loan: $8,400
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,750 net (paid hourly, variable workdays per pay period so this is an average)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $525 (My share of $2,535 — I live with my partner (N.) and two roommates (C. and D.). Our rent is based roughly on the square footage of living space, which is why mine is less than a quarter.
Student Loan: $200
Personal Loan: $543.50
Gas, Electric, Water/Sewer: $100-$150 (my share, we split bills evenly)
Internet: $16.25
Phone: $0 (on a family plan with my mom)
Renter’s Insurance: $12.50 (My half, split with N.)
Car Insurance: $288.50 every six months
Car Payment: $0 (I bought my car in 2014 with cash)
Savings: ~$700
Donations: $60 (I donate to the ACLU, OPB, and local environmental and single-payer healthcare nonprofits)
Netflix/Hulu/Spotify Premium: $15.99 (my share, split with my roommates)
Prime: $0, use my mom’s
NYTimes, including Crossword & Cooking: $22
Yoga Studio: $33, good for three classes a month
Medication Copay: $7.37
Union Dues: $60 (out of paycheck)
457(b): 1% of my gross pay, so about $25 pre-tax from each paycheck. I know it’s not enough! I also have an employer contribution of 6% to my public employee’s pension.
Medical/Dental/Vision/Disability Insurance: $54.22

Day One

7:05 a.m. — I roll out of bed to call for a semi-urgent dental appointment. I chipped a front tooth as a kid and last night the bond on it fell off and I, uh, swallowed it. Oops. Turns out they’re booked for the week and aren’t scheduling next week yet. Oh well. I run through my super short work-from-home morning routine: Alaffia face cleanser, Neutrogena moisturizer with SPF, Glossier concealer, and Dime mascara. Leggings and a t-shirt, hair in a bun, and I’m set. My partner, N., made coffee while I was on the phone with the dentist. I’m settled in on the couch to work at 7:30, my normal start time.

10 a.m. — Anyone else not super into working from home? After nine weeks, I still find myself distracted by my oppressively silent house. What I wouldn’t give for the ringing of desk phones and grinding of our ancient printer! I drag myself off the couch to eat breakfast (caramelized onion/potato/kale frittata and English muffin bread from Joy the Baker, both of which I made on Sunday for the week) and turn on some ’80s pop to get energized.

12:55 p.m. — Good news: the music worked. Thanks, INXS and Peter Gabriel. N. is home from work (he’s the operations manager at a small business and needs to be onsite most mornings), which means lunchtime. I have a burrito bowl with salsa verde chicken I made on Monday, plus cilantro, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and crumbled tortilla chips. N. has a frozen pizza, which I eye enviously… until he gives me half a slice, yay!

3:40 p.m. — Pause to eat a Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cup and make green tea. The problem with working at the desk in our bedroom is that the bed is also there, and it looks so very comfy. I give myself permission to make some client calls while lounging.

5:15 p.m. — A bittersweet end to the day — one of my favorite clients called to tell me she’s gotten a terminal diagnosis. She’s at peace and (thanks to some comfort measures) actually feels better than she has in months, but it will be hard to say goodbye after five years of working together. I decompress by strolling the neighborhood while I text my mom and listen to Swedish pop.

6 p.m. — Call my friend L. to catch up. She’s finishing her master’s degree next month, ouch. We graduated college in 2010 and now she’s facing a tanking job market *again.* I also throw together a quick slaw to go with the fish tacos my roommate, D., is making for an impromptu house dinner. Next up, some exercise. I’m doing a four-week Fitness Blender program, and, honestly, it is life-changing. Shout-out to Daniel and Kelli for making a program that is accessible, encouraging, and effective. I feel stronger than I have in months, maybe years. Today is a recovery day with just stretching, much needed after a tough week. Once I’m done, I hop in the shower, and do my nighttime skincare “routine” (it’s Derma-E night cream, that’s it).

7:40 p.m. — Dinner’s ready and the gang’s all here. It’s maybe a little weird that four professional thirtysomethings live together in a shared house, but it works for us. It’s not without its challenges (dish rage is real), but we love the cheap rent in inner Portland, and the companionship is nice. After dinner, N. and I watch an episode of Tiger King with L. (virtually, of course). This show is absolutely wild and I have successfully avoided spoilers, so every twist blows my mind. After a quick debrief, it’s time to read a bit of my silly mystery novel and turn in for the night. I fall asleep around 10:30.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — I’m up! Contacts in, face wash, moisturizer, concealer, mascara, hair in a ponytail. I make the bed while the kettle heats up, and change into a cotton dress and extra frumpy sweater. Before settling in on the couch for the workday, I step outside to get some fresh air and roll out my shoulders. I used to bike to work, which woke me up for the day. This isn’t exactly the same, but it helps.

9:25 a.m. — I’ve been hungry and in need of additional caffeine for a while, but our old and adorable cat is curled up next to me on the couch and I don’t want to disturb her. However, the situation is now dire, so I give her a quick pet to mitigate the anguish, then head to the kitchen for more coffee, and more frittata and English muffin bread (toasted, with Kerrygold butter and some sea salt).

1:30 p.m. — I never got hungry for lunch, but I know I’ll feel gross later if I don’t eat something, so I put together another burrito bowl, with a glass of agua de Jamaica I made over the weekend. I also semi-impulsively order some sale clothes from the Gap… including a pair of off-white, wide-legged cropped pants?! I’m more compact/athletic than willowy, so this has “disastrously unflattering” written all over it, but hey — if now is not the time for experimentation, when is? $81.05

5:15 p.m. — The day before payday, I transfer any “leftover” money in my checking account into savings; I like to have a clean slate each pay period. Today it’s $245, some of it earmarked for my car insurance payment next month. This is a little more than normal, even by pandemic/stay-at-home standards, because I just got a $100 credit card reward payment (simple 1.5% cashback). I put all my purchases on my credit card and pay it off weekly. The credit card I use to get rewards is a privilege I “earned” from myself after turning around years of irresponsible credit card use.

6:15 p.m. — I go on a run to use some pent-up energy. LOL, ouch. Fitness Blender is amazing, but sustained cardio is not a thing I’ve done in… some time. I stagger to the shower, feeling like I’ve just done an all-uphill marathon instead of slightly more than 5K. N. makes beef stroganoff for dinner, and it is perfect fuel after my weirdly exhausting run. I inhale two plates while chugging water.

8 p.m. — We are hosting a video conference to discuss the Oregon Democratic primary races and local ballot measures. Just for fun, N. and I dress the “Portland politician” part, donning blazers and trading our contacts for thick-rimmed glasses. We spend two hours discussing the various issues with our friends, during which time I (1) learn a lot, (2) make some decisions, and (3) mindlessly drink two large glasses of rosé. I’m slightly tipsy as I remove my makeup, brush my teeth, and crawl into bed. I make it through just a few pages of my novel before falling asleep.

Daily Total: $81.05

Day Three

7:40 a.m. — Sleep in because I work at 8 today. (I have alternate Fridays off, and shorter days when I’m on.)

9:30 a.m. — It’s tough for clients to keep track of which Fridays I work, and they usually assume I’m not… which makes for some sloooow days. Demographically, my clients are at elevated risk for COVID (elderly, disabled, lots of underlying health conditions), which has meant a real change in how I do my work — I can’t imagine an in-person visit any time soon, that’s for sure. However, knock on wood, so far my clients have avoided major disaster. Anyway, more coffee is needed today to stay alert. I’ve run out of frittata, so breakfast is toast with peanut butter and jam.

12:20 p.m. — In addition to lunchtime (leftover stroganoff), it’s payday budget time. I use a spreadsheet to track every cent of income, savings, and spending. Today I log my paycheck, upcoming donations, the water bill (shared expense, but in my name), and my personal loan payment, then transfer $375 to savings. This leaves about $600 for groceries and other spending for the second half of the month — slightly less than I would have budgeted pre-COVID, but now I’ll probably end up saving some later. A note about the personal loan: I accrued an astonishing $20,000 in credit card debt in my 20s, living WAY beyond my means. About two years ago, I went cold turkey on credit card use and eventually consolidated the balance into a 36-month personal loan. The loan interest rate is way better (6.85% instead of 21%!), but I waited to get it until I had proved to myself I wouldn’t go wild with my newly “paid off” cards — this is also when I started using my rewards card.

5:15 p.m. — Oof. I was struggling this afternoon, but the weekend has arrived. Time to celebrate by lying in bed, spending money on booze. My favorite local (women-owned!) distillery has some amazing packages of their liquor and other local products. I order the “Survival Pack” for the house (gin, bourbon, canned G&Ts, Aardvark hot sauce, Portland Syrups mixer, and distilled hand sanitizer), and the “Sculpt and Sip” for my friend F. whose birthday is on Monday (gin, mixer, hand sanitizer, and clay + sculpting tools). The total is $200 but N. contributes $60 towards the gift and the bourbon ($37.50 for the gift, $102.50 for the drinks). $140

6:30 p.m. — I must get up. I must exercise. I am fusing with the bed. Fitness Blender serves up a lower body workout, which I do outside because it’s sunny and warm. Once I’m done, I start dinner — “pantry tuna risotto,” which sounds weird (gross?) but has rave reviews on NYTimes Cooking. I rewatch The West Wing as I ladle and stir, soothed by the repetitive, slow-paced cooking and functional government.

8:30 p.m. — An ex-pat friend is giving a virtual lesson on some basic Chinese characters, so N. and I eat as we write. I thoroughly enjoy learning the seasons and classical elements, and discover our friend is quite a good teacher. Also, the risotto is a hit! I call it a night around 10, leaving the online party to clean the kitchen and take a late shower, with a glass of shower wine. Then it’s off to bed. I read for a while and fall asleep around midnight.

Daily Total: $140

Day Four

8 a.m. — Wake up and spend some quality time with my phone before making coffee. Next up: grocery list. N. and I have been venturing to the store every other Saturday for the last two months. I settle in on the couch with a mug of coffee, turn on some tunes, and dive into the NYTimes cooking section to build my recipe and grocery lists.

10:30 a.m. — I’ll be getting ingredients for six recipes that will be dinners and lunches: Peruvian roast chicken, leek and snap pea risotto, chicken yassa, yam and plantain curry, spicy shrimp and green beans, and Swiss chard pasta. Also, my standard breakfasts of frittata and baked oatmeal, plus snacks and beverages. While N. finishes his list (we alternate cooking dinner and do our own thing for breakfasts and lunches), I eat some toast and put on my store clothes: jeans, t-shirt, and a P-100 respirator. I feel vaguely guilty/like I live in a post-apocalyptic hellscape in the respirator, but we owned them pre-pandemic for house projects, so may as well use them.

12:30 p.m. — Home and all the groceries are put away. For the first time since we started pandemic shopping, there was no line to get into the store! They also had everything I want except plantains, which N. will get later at H-Mart. We mostly shop at a local chain that has high prices, but is close to our house and always stocks good quality meat and produce. $223.44

2:15 p.m. — After a quick trip to pick up yesterday’s booze order (contactless, efficient, friendly), it’s time to attack the day’s Fitness Blender: an upper body and ab workout. 47 sweaty and shaky minutes later, I realize I forgot to eat lunch. I reheat some risotto (tuna in the microwave, I’M A MONSTER) and scarf it down before hopping in the shower.

4:30 p.m. — Still hungry and need to get out of this depressing news spiral. I eat a few strawberries, chips and salsa, and a couple of spoonfuls of gelato while hanging out with N. Then, suffering from the fatigue that’s specific to eating too much after being too hungry, I retreat to the bedroom. I start the finale of Ozark season one, but it’s too tense and dark for me today. Instead, I just kind of flail around online and then get sucked into The Sims, my ultimate time waster since I was 13.

8 p.m. — I realize the afternoon has disappeared when N. alerts me that dinner is ready — a pork belly and bell pepper stir fry and five-spice cabbage. While we eat, I review my public employee benefit statement, which came in the mail today, and consider how little I know about retirement. I also read the class notes in my alumni magazine, always good fodder for some self-loathing. Am I the only person without a Ph.D., a wall full of awards, and adorable children?!

9 p.m. — Whatever. I’m going to watch Point Break with my roommates.

11:15 p.m. — Bedtime! I’m not super tired since I spent all afternoon doing nothing, so I read until a little past midnight.

Daily Total: $223.44

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Where is this energy on the weekdays? I’m awake and out of bed by 8, ready to start Sunday chores. Most of this morning (and all Sunday mornings) is spent cooking — pandemic life is simultaneously monotonous and full of terror, but there’s also a sort of pleasant rhythm that has come to define my weeks. I make my frittata for the week, then throw together breakfast tacos using the last, not-quite-sketchy chicken salsa verde for N. and I. I start a loaf of English muffin bread and clean the kitchen.

11:15 a.m. — As the bread rises, I do the day’s Fitness Blender, a general cardio routine. I’m surprisingly sore from yesterday; I’ll have to make some time for yoga later (can confirm from the future that I did not, in fact, make time for yoga later). Then I pop the bread in the oven and take advantage of a break in the clouds to read outside. Afterward, just general tidying for a bit.

1:15 p.m. — C. informs us that he’s ordering ranch pizza. This is the best news I’ve heard all week! While he’s picking it up, I do some prep work for dinner: N. and I are having a distance happy hour with our friends later, and I don’t want to be eating at midnight. C. returns, bearing the pizza, and I devour two slices. It is so good; I didn’t know how much I wanted it until it was here.

2:30 p.m. — Sunday = body maintenance day. I deep condition my hair, shave, do a pore strip (are these terrible for your skin? I don’t really care; they’re deeply satisfying), pluck my eyebrows, and wax my upper lip. Makeup to celebrate my overall improved look: Glossier skin tint, concealer, boy brow, Dime mascara, blush of unknown provenance. I love Glossier because I’m terrible at makeup and the light coverage means I avoid a clownish look, regardless of what I do. I start a load of laundry and otherwise do absolutely nothing for a bit.

5 p.m. — Off to our friends’. It’s amazing to see them, albeit from 15+ feet away. I drop my friend, F.’s, gift on the driveway and back away, so she can approach and retrieve. N. and I hang out in the bed of his truck, parked on the street, while our friends sit in their driveway. We have a couple of drinks and the time flies. Several people pass between us on the sidewalk and comment approvingly on our set-up.

8:15 p.m. — Ack. Home and hungry. Glad I did the prep earlier. The yam and plantain curry comes together relatively quickly, but I also have an overwhelming need to make chapatis, so we don’t sit down to dinner until 9:30. I’m still super wired (and full) after dinner, so we decide to watch an episode of Killing Eve before calling it quits for the day. I’m not in bed until close to 11:30 and not asleep until midnight.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7 a.m. — Up a bit early, so I unload the dishwasher after my normal morning routine. It’s a very dreary Monday and I have a headache from lack of sleep, the happy hour cocktails, or both. It’s not an especially productive morning: I do some mindless tasks and review care plans, but also chat with D. for a while as I eat breakfast, and have a long virtual coffee break with my two work besties.

12:15 p.m. — Fun fact: I have terrible anxiety! For the purposes of my SSRI script, it’s GAD, but I suspect that if I sought more significant treatment than medication, I might end up with a primarily cognitive OCD diagnosis. This presents in a few unpleasant ways, but especially as intrusive “what if” thoughts about health conditions. A pandemic has been great fun. Anyway, one of my lunchtime rituals/compulsions is refreshing the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID page until it updates with the day’s numbers, so I can add it to my COVID spreadsheet. Everything I track — seven-day case increase averages, percent positive tests, etc. — is available elsewhere, but I don’t feel at peace until I’ve done it myself. (It’s a fine line between being data-driven and dysfunctional!) The food portion of my lunch is leftover curry; it’s even better the second day.

2 p.m. — Apparently at one point in time, I felt a Monday afternoon would be perfect for a virtual, interactive suicide prevention training? I hesitate before logging in, but I end up totally engrossed and deeply grateful for the session. Suicidality is unfortunately not uncommon among my clients and I’ve craved better intervention skills for a long time. The trainers are lovely: thoughtful, well-informed, and adept at injecting just a little humor to keep us all from despairing. We wrap up at 4. I assumed I was going to be so drained that I’d need to tap out of work early, but decide I can power through, with the help of some strawberries and potato chips.

5 p.m. — Time to dive into some meat research — some friends and I are considering purchasing a half or a quarter of a cow, and haven’t decided which is appropriate (it’s a quarter: cows are huge). In researching, I learn that butchers say “a half/quarter beef,” which cracks me up. We got a chest freezer last year, and have enjoyed buying bulk, local meat since. We got a half pig in the fall, and have a huge share of salmon coming in a few months. This reminds me I need to pay C. for my portion of the salmon deposit. Post-beef research, I do a brutal upper body Fitness Blender workout, then N. and I walk up to the ballot dropbox — tomorrow is election day. $33.25

8:15 p.m. — Dinner after a quick shower. N. makes an excellent pork belly/leek stir fry with sauteed spinach. He’s super into Fuchsia Dunlop right now, and I am not mad about it. He cleans up while I do tomorrow’s NYTimes crossword on the couch. We finish the night with an episode of Killing Eve (paired with tea and gelato for me, a beer for him) and call it a day around 10:30.

Daily Total: $33.25

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Let’s bookend this diary with my ongoing tooth saga: I try my dentist again and this time successfully get an appointment for later in the week. Oh joy — being up close and personal with a stranger seems so appealing right now. Typical morning routine follows and once again I have time to unload the dishwasher (four adults generate a lot of dishes, so this is a never-ending chore).

9:45 a.m. — After a virtual team meeting (riddled with technical issues — my coworkers kept getting frozen in hilarious/unflattering poses), I make the wholly irrational decision to listen to Marc Maron’s tribute to Lynn Shelton?? In the middle of a workday?? Why?? I’m openly weeping in my living room while also trying to write client notes.

5:25 p.m. — Huh. I definitely did some work today, and I definitely had both breakfast and lunch, but it’s all a blur. My friend’s car broke down and she requested ballot delivery assistance, so I drive up to pick it up from her porch. We shout updates at each other from a distance for a few minutes, and then I head back home, dropping off the ballot on the way. I also use about a gallon of hand sanitizer during this whole process.

6:30 p.m. — Home for the LAST Fitness Blender workout of this program, and then time to cook a spicy shrimp and green bean situation for dinner. I call my mom but have to leave a voicemail. She’s retiring from her job in two weeks! I originally planned to fly to my home state and throw her a party, but now it looks like it’ll just be a delivery of flowers and wine.

8 p.m. — We’ve been hosting a “lecture series” throughout the pandemic, in which friends present on their jobs/area of expertise to the group via video chat, every Tuesday. It’s been really fun and informative, and tonight we learn about clinical pharmacy. At these events, we collect an optional $5 “cover charge” for COVID relief — as of tonight, we’ve raised over $600 for local relief efforts! I make a whiskey cocktail to enjoy during the presentation.

10:45 p.m. — Yikes! Got to chatting post-presentation and it is late! Run upstairs to do the dishes and take a quick shower. Lights aren’t out until midnight… tomorrow will be a bit rough, but it was a great night, so worth it.

Daily Total: $0

COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

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