Money Diaries: A Week in Portland, OR

portland oregon cookies

Originally posted on : November 1, 2018

Ever wondered what a day in the life of a software engineer living in Portland, Oregon could look like? This is an uncensored play-by-play of every day of my week, including every dollar I spent.

Occupation: Software Engineer

  • Age: 25
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Monthly Expenses
  • Rent: $930
  • Living: ~$570
  • 401(k): Maxed out
  • HSA: Max out on Jan 1
  • Roth IRA: Max out on Jan 1

Dear Money Diaries…

Day One – Sunday:

9:30am – In the morning we had a nice breakfast and a coffee at Mr. Mechanic’s family’s house outside of Portland and then started our drive home.

12pm – On the way we stopped for groceries and stocked up for the week, planning on a big veggie roast and some salads. The most expensive thing on the receipt was Mr. Mechanic’s almonds he snacks on ($5.22), beating out the heavy butternut squash ($4.57). We split this cost equally. The total was $49.15 so my portion is $24.60

3pm – I started working on my blog post about selling my dream car and researched numbers for typical depreciation rates. When it was finally time for dinner we cooked up a Trader Joe’s Chicken Shawarma  (~$8) with pita bread ($2.79), and whipped up some homemade tzatziki sauce (~$2) to go with it. Our Black + Decker rice cooker went kaput so we made rice in a pan and promptly forgot about it, leaving it to burn on the bottom. Whoops. We packed up all the leftovers for lunches during the week (5 meals = $2.60 a meal). This cost is included in the grocery total.

10pm – I go to bed. A roof over my head is $30 a night. I won’t count these in the money diaries but I try not to forget that every day I do have that expense.

Daily Total: $24.60

Day Two – Monday:

6:40am – The alarm goes off and I blearily wake up, made more difficult because the sun is taking longer to rise. I get two eggs boiling for breakfast, one for me and one for Mr. Mechanic. We have a wonderful Dutch egg cup, but only one, so we take turns eating out of it.

I bike to work in the cold October air. I bike the 2-mile route along the river into downtown, which only takes 20-30 minutes.  (Bike was $240, I’ve ridden it about 40 times now so $6 a ride. Do I usually think about cost of things this way? Definitely not.) When I get into the office I chat with my coworker and we go to grab FREE coffee from the machine in the lobby.

10:30am – There is an interoffice email about FREE quiches provided in the lobby, so I snag a slice before my daily stand-up meeting where we provide our daily status updates.

12pm – For lunch I walk with my coworkers for a break and some fresh air, even though I packed lunch for today (oh man am I looking forward to that shawarma). One of my coworkers has started doing the same so we hang out while we wait for the others to get their food from the local food carts. We eat on the roof because it is an unusually warm day.

5pm – There is beer on tap at the office so I grab a FREE brew and head to the roof with my coworkers. There are four choices: an IPA, a pumpkin ale, a stout, and a cider. We all grab the IPA as we are fully indoctrinated into the Pacific North West IPA craze. Gotta take advantage of those amenities! We get into a debate about Roth IRAs vs. Traditional IRAs, which gets me quite animated. I bike home and decide to skip dinner because I am so full from quiche and lunch.

There’s a cold brew coffee and beer cart at work

7:30pm – Mr. Mechanic and I watch the Bread episode of the Great British Bake Off and I drool over all of their flavor combinations. This hints to Mr. Mechanic that I might be a bit hungry, and he might be right because I start snacking on Trader Joe’s hot Cheetos (I definitely snuck them into the cart at the last moment ~$3).

9:30pm – I get sleepy while finishing up my blog post. Mr. Mechanic edits it, I edit it, and I schedule it to post in the morning.  Mr. Mechanic reminds me that he brought home two salads from GardenBar that were FREE after a talk he went to last night. Lunch for tomorrow, sweet!

Daily Total:  $0

Day Three – Tuesday:

7:30am – I start up a ChooseFI podcast interviewing Physician on Fire for my bike ride into work. I make a mental note to share this one with Mr. Mechanic, who is on track to be a doctor. The podcast has some interesting insight into FIRE-ing for those in a higher tax bracket.

8am – I get into the office a bit hot from the bike ride (now it’s only $5.80 a ride!), so I make a FREE iced espresso from the machine in the lobby. I get back to work, moving my adjustable desk up to a standing position. Software engineering can be rough on your health, especially when paired with an equally-computer oriented hobby of blogging in the afternoons – so I try to add a dose of fitness by standing at work.

I bought my 2005 Specialized Sequoia off of Craigslist this year to replace my car.

9am – We get an insane deadline for a huge chunk of work and everything feels dramatic and stressful.

To offset this, I check my Personal Capital and see that the funds from the car sale have officially moved from Chase (I made an account just to deposit the cashier’s check) to my Ally account! I dump $10,000 into VTSAX in my brokerage account.

12pm – We go for a longer walk this time so my coworker can get a salad from GardenBar. These salads are $9-$11 each! The line is too long so we keep walking around until we find a Poke bowl place and I salivate over the menu and the $14 bowls.

Portland, why is your delicious food so expensive?!?!

I remind myself that I have my own GardenBar salad that Mr. Mechanic brought home last night, plus more of that chicken shawarma. Yum. ($2.60)

5:20pm – I head to the roof with half a beer to hang out with coworkers again. The sun starts setting early; I need to remember to put the front light on the bike for riding home in the dark. I head out and put on Paula Pant’s playlist Afford Anything to see what this whole Suze Orman vs. FIRE hullaballoo is about and find it pretty comical.

6:30pm – We have the second salad for dinner (FREE), turn on The Great British Bake Off, and get extremely hungry from watching them make churros. Mr. Mechanic toasts up an everything bagel with cream cheese and I sit down to write out this money diary.

9:30pm – How did it take so long to write a money diary! Dang.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four – Wednesday:

6:40am – I make a bagel this morning. I bike to work, stopping to take a snap to show you my view of South Waterfront Park in SW Portland on the ride there.

Hello Portland in Autumn!

8:20am – A FREE iced latte this morning for me. I get an email asking me to speak at a local Women in Tech event, so I try to decide whether to talk about pursuing Breadth vs. Depth in your career or write a new talk about salary negotiation. I go with salary negotiation.

12pm – FREE Lunch is provided today, so I munch on a caprese sandwich while meeting all the new hires at work.

5:30pm – I get home before Mr. Mechanic, which is a rarity lately. He suggests that we go on a walk before the sun goes down, so we take a stroll around SW John’s Landing and run into the local beaver statue that locals dress up each season!

6:00pm – We walk past our favorite pho place and wonder if we should turn the walk into a date-night. We still have to make that veggie roast, so we talk ourselves out of it and keep walking. On the walk back, however, we change our minds. The weather is nice enough to eat outside and that is rare in mid-October so we seize our chance and share a bowl of pho. Pho = $6.37 each

7:30pm – We walk home in the dark and watch another episode of  Great British Bake Off. I tear up over the most recently voted-off contestant. What can I say, I’m a big softie.

Daily Total: $6.37

Day Five – Thursday:

6:40am – I turn off the alarm, because I’m going to work from home today! No real reason except that I can.

12pm – I go for a walk on my lunch break, turning on ChooseFI podcast to listen to the White Coat Investor episode. He has some amazing advice for young doctors including continuing to live like a resident (i.e. live like you make less, avoid lifestyle inflation) and on deciding where to live based on a scarcity of medical providers.

12:30pm – I heat up a Trader Joe’s Kati Pouch and some leftover rice from our shawarma bake. I add some leftover tzatziki and some mango chutney for added deliciousness and watch a quick snippet of Travels With My Father with Jack Whitehall, a British comedian, then get back to work.

5:10pm – I go take a nap until Mr. Mechanic gets home and rouses me for another walk. We finish up the podcast episode while making our vegetable bake.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six – Friday:

6am – My alarm goes off early because it is couples’ counseling day! We both eat a hard-boiled egg. When we found out that we could get FREE counseling through Mr. Mechanic’s school, we booked an appointment right away. We are two happy people very much in love, but what relationship doesn’t need some maintenance? I used my company-provided public transport pass to ride the tram for free, escaping the $5 fee. The way down the tram is free for everyone though!

Tram ride + counseling = FREE

8am – I make it to work to a happy surprise—my work phone arrived! I’ve always been an android user and have had the same phone for the last 5 years so I was psyched about getting to try out an iPhone.

12pm – Lunch time! Thank goodness because the morning was incredibly stressful. Counseling was a bit more grueling than usual so I felt extra wound up as I worked through some tough challenges in my code. I went for a walk in the area (this time listening to By The Book, a fun podcast where they live for two weeks according to a different self-help book), and microwaved up some veggie bake leftovers.

5:30pm – I bike home, we put on another Great British Bake Off (hmm I’m seeing a pattern here!) and I started my post on Ostrich to Hawk – my money management evolution.

great british bake off

Daily Total Spent: $0

Day Seven – Saturday:

10am – Mr. Mechanic makes breakfast every Saturday morning. Today was eggs, beans, and toast, mmm. We spent the morning lazing around. I finished up the post and then we went into town to explore some different neighborhoods on the other side of the river.

1pm – We swing by a bike shop on Belmont Street in SE to pick up Mr. Mechanic’s birthday present to me: bike fenders! Fenders = $45. Then we resist temptation as we walk along Hawthorne Street with several different food carts. We debate sharing a Bánh mì, we debate whether or not to get tacos, and we debate whether or not we should get a chile relleno burrito. Then on our way back up the street we re-debate all over again, eventually deciding to skip it and go grocery shopping.

2pm – We go to Fred Meyer to pick up ingredients for butternut squash soup (to use up the rest of that big ol squash from earlier), and the usual eggs, milk, butter, yogurt, etc. Groceries = $51.73 that we split!

2:40pm – We stopped by Trader Joe’s to pick up stuff to make a homemade pizza (they have dough for $1.19!!!), as well as some Indian frozen meals and spiced cider.! I caved and threw in a little mini cinnamon broom that is supposed to make your house smell like spicy cinnamon. ‘Tis the season! Trader Joe’s = $2.10, because Mr. Mechanic had a $25 gift card.

5pm – We go for a walk in John’s Landing again. I practice taking photos with my new iPhone. We watch the dogs play in the dog park and head home to make some homemade pizza. Our favorite combo is mozzarella, tomato, sausage, and basil.

Homemade pizza

9pm – We head to Life of Riley Tavern in NW Downtown to meet Mr. Mechanic’s classmates at a bar. We grab cups of water, both thinking about the entire shelf of beer we have waiting at home. Bar water = FREE

Daily Spent: Mine: $26.91, Mr. Mechanic: $71.91

Weekly Total: $58


  • This week included all the grocery shopping for the month, so there was a lot of money going towards food!
  • A lot of entertainment is free thanks to beer on tap at work.
  • The transport cost goes down every time I ride my bike ☺
  • I didn’t really have any large purchases this week, so it felt like a typical spending pattern
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  1. You write so well! Your money diary is also a wonderful snapshot of Portland. You seem to get a lot of free stuff through work which is a nice perk that not everyone has. I know it still takes discipline to avoid spending more money on additional stuff. I didn’t see any mention of coupons. Do you not clip coupons? I also have to comment that I like how you talk about the Great British Baking Show – can’t wait for another season:)
    Your post was an entertaining read. Thank you!

  2. You and Mr. Mechanic live like monks, compared to how I lived at your age in post graduate school. If this week is typical of current spending and your frugal philosophy persists, you should do well in future, assuming you continue to max out your 401k and have an investment fund for other contingencies.

    1. Yes, I max out my 401k, IRA, and HSA, then funnel the rest into investments. It’s funny that it seems like we live like monks but to us it felt like a packed week!

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