The construction cranes, the traffic, the housing prices, the general crush of a more crowded and growing city: there are plenty of indicators out there of just how much the tech boom is reshaping Seattle. But what do these tech workers make, really, and how do they spend their time and money?
A new installment of “Money Diaries” on the website Refinery29 is headlined “A Week In Seattle, WA, On A $240,000 Income.” Before you rage tweet about it like I wanted to or eye roll this story right off your web browser, it’s worth taking a look at this slice of 2018 Seattle life.
Money Diaries is aimed at better understanding how modern, female millennials spend some of the money they make, tracking every dollar over a seven-day period. In this instance, the writer is identified as a 29-year-old product manager working in technology for an unnamed company (It’s Amazon, right? It’s gotta be Amazon).
The woman makes a $95,000 base salary, plus $145,000 in stock grants. Monthly expenses are broken down and include such line items as $2,400 for an apartment she lives in alone; $0 for student loan payments which she paid off; $12 for Netflix; $13 for Amazon Prime; a $100 barre class pass; $2,000 toward her 401(k) and more.
The diary chronicles the woman’s routine throughout each day, and how much she spends on a variety of items ranging from Uber rides, coffee, meals, entertainment and a taste for cherry Coke Zero. It’s a rather voyeuristic look into the spending habits of one person, but she clearly agreed to share all of this with Refinery29 — and us.
On her least-expensive day, she spends $11.50, and on the most-expensive day, in which she entertains her visiting mother, she spends $365.50. A few comments and purchased items stick out:
- “I make a lot of money, but I try to live like I don’t. I cook most of my own meals, I shop at Zara or stores with similar price points, and have neither a car nor a personal trainer.”
- Ahead of a concert she will be attending with a friend, the writer is anxious about the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas last year. “We see an ad for a stadium seat that converts into a bulletproof vest. I buy two of them.” $285
- “I left my management consulting job for a large tech company, the stock price of which has since tripled. My semi-annual stock grants — which I quickly convert into a combination of cash and index-fund investments — are now in the neighborhood of $75,000 each.”
- “I make another stop at a pet store for cow ears, [a friend’s] dog’s favorite treat.” $8
- “Wherever I’m living, [my mom] insists on doing the most touristy things possible. I book us two CityPasses, which are good for admission into most of the places she’ll enjoy telling my father about when she gets home.” $178
At the end of the week, the woman has spent $1,341.50. Some of it feels pretty routine, some of it feels thrifty, and some is rather splurgy. And it all sounds rather comfortable for someone with plenty to spend in a city where there’s lots to do.
The piece probably won’t do much to generate sympathy toward anyone who has moved to Seattle to make gobs of tech money and who might feel like they’ve received a chilly reception from those trying to get by on less. Maybe we can hope this person humbly omitted her charitable efforts.
But in an industry where women are still dramatically underrepresented and in a country where they still make 20 percent less than men, scorn for the successful and well-compensated author of this diary would be misplaced.
Save the outrage for big tech. While it pays its newcomers so generously, ask whether it could be doing more for the many neighbors who are left behind by the boom.