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A 26-Year-Old’s Humble Lifestyle: Earning $27,000 Yearly and Residing in a 240-Square-Foot Flat, Yet Grateful for It All.

Living on $27,000 a Year: The Story of Chi Baik

Chi Baik is a 26-year-old Ph.D. student at the University of Washington, specializing in special education. Baik is balancing a rigorous academic program, a side job as a grader, and living expenses on an annual income of roughly $27,000.

Big Changes and Tight Budgets

After earning a dual bachelor’s in early childhood education and early childhood special education, she spent four years working as a teacher on the East Coast. She decided to pursue her doctorate earlier than planned as a sort of break from the demanding work of teaching special ed during the pandemic era.

The move to Seattle for her dream Ph.D. program meant throwing her budget for a loop. Baik used to pay $800 to split a townhouse with friends, but now spends $1,157 for a 240-square-foot micro-studio. Plus, her income dropped from her $60,000 teacher’s salary to approximately $27,000.

Despite earning the least income she ever has, Baik says she is happier with her lifestyle than ever. She is grateful for what she has, with a home to live in, especially in Seattle where homelessness is a significant problem.

Budget Breakdown

In January 2023, Chi Baik spent her money on:

  • Housing: $1,267 for rent on her 240-square-foot micro-studio, plus utilities
  • Food: $812 for weekly HelloFresh deliveries, additional groceries, and dining out
  • Discretionary: $739 on shopping, entertainment, and pet supplies for her dog, Bear
  • Transportation: $439 for Ubers and car rentals
  • Insurance: $8 for renters insurance
  • Subscriptions: $6 for Spotify

Additionally, Baik had a few large unexpected expenses for the month, including a $1,737 vet bill for her dog, Bear, $326 for contact lenses, and $104 to pay off a traffic ticket on her parents’ behalf. She covered these bills using her credit card and carried a balance for the first time, but is actively working to pay off that debt as soon as possible.

Money Mindset

Baik considers herself responsible with her money, but “a little bit irresponsible with my extra money” after her bills are paid. She believes in enjoying life and treating herself. Baik splurges on makeup, skincare, nails, and the occasional designer perfume. Her recent purchase was a $325 bottle of Baccarat Rouge 450.

Baik doesn’t currently have any money left over at the end of the month to regularly put into savings, but she does have about $3,700 already stashed away. She has nearly $70,000 saved across two retirement accounts from her teaching days, thanks to an aggressive savings strategy learned from her brother.

Related Facts

  • The median salary for a teacher in Seattle is $70,000 per year.
  • The average cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle is $2,140 per month.
  • Seattle has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States.

Key Takeaway

Despite living on a tight budget, Chi Baik is grateful for what she has and enjoys treating herself when possible. Baik’s story reminds us that happiness and satisfaction in life can come from different sources, and that financial stability and peace of mind contribute significantly to a person’s sense of well-being.


Chi Baik’s story is an inspiring example of how one can navigate powerful lifestyle changes while balancing a tight budget. Her determination to continue her education, follow her passion, and enjoy life despite financial constraints, is a reminder that money cannot buy happiness. Baik’s story shows us that true happiness is a state of mind that comes from having inner peace, mental clarity, and a supportive community.

Denk Liu
Denk Liu
Denk Liu is an honest person who always tells it like it is. He's also very objective, seeing the situation for what it is and not getting wrapped up in emotion. He's a regular guy - witty and smart but not pretentious. He loves playing video games and watching action movies in his free time.


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