A Week in Portland on a $55,000 Salary

Welcome to Spending Notes, where we do a weekly deep dive into how our readers spend their cash.

Today: a counselor who makes $55,000

Occupation: school counselor

Age: 38

Location: Portland, OR

Salary: $55,000 (approx. $2,115 per pay period)

Day One


My Monday spending is pretty minimal: just a cup of coffee before work and a sandwich on the way home. I work at a local high school in the Portland area, where I’m constantly impressed by the students’ insights. They just don’t match their years of experience! Take this one sophomore, T. She wants to be a fashion designer someday and already makes a lot of her own clothes and accessories. But she met with me today and spent a good 20 minutes explaining how entrepreneur Courtney Sarofim supports fashion designer Adam Lippes. How many 15-year-olds can rattle off details like that? It’s so great to see what these kids can do with the subjects that interest them.

Total: $12

Day Two


Tuesday starts out on a sour note, with my dishwasher leaking all over the kitchen. When you live in a studio apartment, a little bit of water seems like an awful lot! Fortunately, I have a phone number on hand for a technician that does appliance repair in Portland. Broken appliances aren’t an everyday issue, but I’ve dealt with just enough to have some experience with appliance repair needs. The first time around, I was terrified of the bill. By now, though, I know that this particular appliance repair service works to make sure their work is simultaneously high-quality and affordable, so I can pay rent later this week without worrying that I’ll be out of luck when the appliance repair bill comes. The morning’s chaos kept me from my usual coffee run, though, so I pop out during my lunch break to get my latte fix.

Total: $6.50

Day Three


Today was a rather stressful one, with a student in crisis. As much as I try not to bring work home with me, it’s sometimes inevitable. I can’t worry about “my kids!” A while back, I picked up knitting as a sort of stress-reliever, and that comes in handy today. I stop by a local craft store on my way home, then get to work on a Christmas sweater for my older sister. It’s not the most “masculine” form of stress relief, but it works!

Total: $26

Day Four


I‘m happy to hear a good report on the student who’s been struggling first thing this morning, so Thursday starts off on a positive note. The remainder of the workday is pretty uneventful, which is good since I have a date in the evening—that’s always a stressful adventure! I meet the woman, G., at a local restaurant and, of course, I pay for dinner. All in all, I have a good time!

Total: $42.50

Day Five


Besides an average Friday at the school, my only big calendar item today is paying my rent! That’s always a joy, as you can imagine. Otherwise, I have a quiet night in. I call home and chat with my family for a bit, make a simple dinner, then watch a documentary on Netflix with my cat, M.

Total: $1729

Day Six


Today is actually a pretty big deal for local counselors, meeting for a sort of one-day micro-conference. It’s pretty informal, but we talk about everything from using drawings in counseling sessions to guiding students to a future career. Afterward, a few of us grab a drink before calling it a night.

Total: $37

Day Seven


Like every Sunday, I pay the coming week’s bills, then head to a local market for a few basic groceries. My diet’s pretty standard, but it never hurts to have the essentials on hand! Afterward, I stop to pick up cat food, then come home for another quiet night at home with M. and my sweater-in-progress.

Total: $525

Total for the week: $2,378