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A Week In Bay Area, CA, On A $426,000 Joint Income

·17 min read

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a nurse practitioner who has a joint income of $426,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Pocky.

Occupation: Nurse Practitioner
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 36
Location: Bay Area, CA
Salary: $176,000
My Husband’s Salary: $250,000 (Total compensation, including stocks. We don’t have joint finances technically, but we afford our lives because of each other so I included his salary.)
Net Worth: ~$1.5 million joint (Savings: $22,939.12, checking: $4,524, brokerage: $517,360 (shared with husband), 401(k): $108,448, current home value: $1.5 million (bought for $790,000 eight years ago) minus mortgage. My husband and I never officially combined finances, but we do own a home together and are financially intertwined. We have our own bank accounts and we each have our own bills that we cover. He covers the mortgage (which is in both our names), car payments, and one child’s preschool tuition, and our medical insurance is deducted pre-tax from his paycheck. I cover utilities, groceries, house cleaner, pet insurance, the other child’s after-school care/camp tuition, streaming subscriptions, and pretty much anything else household/child-related.)
Debt: Mortgage: $566,589 (husband pays monthly but home is in both of our names)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,792.45
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: We live in a single-family home that we own with our two young children and a dog. My husband covers the mortgage ($3,000) and I cover most everything else housing related.
Peloton App: $44
Netflix/Disney/Hulu: $36
Gas/Electric: ~$250-$500
Water: $77
Garbage: $60
Donations: $40
House Cleaner: $360 (she comes weekly, and while it is a huge expense, it saves us so much stress)
Pet Insurance: $112
Daughter’s After-School Care: $400 (August-June)

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes. It was just assumed I would go. Neither of my parents completed their degrees, but I actually did not know this until later in my life and just assumed college was what everyone did. I was a good student and loved school so I couldn’t imagine taking another path as a young person. My grandparents and parents paid for my college. I was discouraged from applying for scholarships because we wanted to make sure those went to those who would not otherwise have the means to go to school. I did get federal loans for my graduate degree, but then paid them off within a year of graduating thanks to a trust that was created for me by my parents after they sold their business.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We talked openly about finances. I remember my mom taking me to start my savings account, teaching me how to use and balance a checkbook, and encouraging me to save parts of my allowance. My dad inherited a lot of money when I was young and owned a very successful business so we were definitely well-off, but we were raised to be very generous and humble. My dad sold his business when I was 14 and I remember them sitting my brother and me down and discussing the trusts they had created for us and how we would get money at 18 for school, 25 if we wanted to start our own business or go to grad school, and 35 to buy a house or support our own children. Ultimately that money has allowed me to have no student loans, contribute towards our down payment and home upgrades, and donate to charity quite a bit. I am immensely grateful and aware of how much of a higher footing this gives me.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a preschool aide during summers in high school. I got it because all of my friends were doing it and I wanted some spending money and loved little kids. I also was a hostess at a restaurant and worked at my dad’s business during high school summers. There wasn’t an expectation that I work, but I liked to be productive and felt like it was the mature and responsible thing to do.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I had a very privileged childhood with a lot of family travel, a nice home, and private school. My parents were able to find a balance though because my brother and I did not turn out to be spoiled brats. We emulate their generosity as much as we can, and have a deep understanding of our privilege.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. My husband is much more frugal and worried about finances than I am but I think we strike a good yin and yang. I absolutely hate that a lot of our future wealth depends on the stock market (where a large portion of his compensation comes from) which feels like gambling. Ultimately both of our salaries are plenty for us to lead a good life even if we never see any income from the stock market and I’m grateful we both work in typically recession-resistant fields/roles.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was financially independent when I graduated from college and started a full-time job. My parents still pay my cell phone plan and they covered my car insurance for a few years at the time. If something catastrophic happened, we could live with them, they could provide childcare, etc. My husband’s parents could offer the same.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, ultimately I have received ~$200,000 from the trust fund my parents set up, of which I have used all but $25,000 (currently in my savings). Most of it went to my graduate school loans/living expenses, down payment/home improvements, and charitable donations. $25,000 of it was used towards purchasing stock options granted by my company and seeding our brokerage accounts, including our kids’ 529 savings accounts.

Day One

6 a.m. — Wake up to find both kids (B. and K., ages six and four) and my husband, N., all snuggled in our bed. We really need the kids to stop coming into our room in the middle of the night. We start our day the way we usually do — make breakfast, pack preschool/camp lunches, get the kids dressed, and rush out the door by 7:30. I have my usual Daily Harvest smoothie and chaga latte on the drive to work.

10 a.m. — I take a quick snack break (cheese stick and a Diet Coke, provided by work) between patients. I work as a nurse practitioner in primary care and am just returning to work after getting COVID for the first time. I have so many tasks to catch up on and am having a hard time focusing.

12:30 p.m. — Office meeting. We discuss our safety and emergency plan, which unfortunately now includes an emphasis on active shooters. What a mess this country is in. I buy lunch for the team from a local cafe and will get reimbursed by the company.

5:30 p.m. — I finish up more patient care and listen to a really interesting lecture on a women’s health topic, my main area of expertise. N. picks the kids up on days I work a bit later so I head straight home. He calls and says that we are out of mac and cheese and it’s an absolute emergency for B., so I stop at a corner store to buy a few boxes. $9

6:30 p.m. — Because the kids watched SO much TV during our recent COVID quarantine, we are trying to detox them right now so we’re getting creative with ways to keep them entertained. I decide to bring them along to the grocery store with me. We head to Trader Joe’s and get lots of fruit, milk, yogurt, eggs, a few frozen goodies (samosas, meatballs, and knock-off Firecracker popsicles), and our favorite: gluten-free cinnamon muffins. $166.69

9 p.m. — I put my son to bed after a rousing time crashing toy cars around with him and reading a few books. I am exhausted and crawl right into bed and fall asleep immediately.

Daily Total: $175.69

Day Two

6 a.m. — Up at my usual time and finish my daily Wordle and mini crossword. I get the kids ready for camp/school and then start my workout. I got a Peloton when the COVID shutdown first started and it’s been a lifesaver. Because I had COVID, I have not been as consistent as usual and my conditioning is down, so I struggle through the 30-minute bike boot camp but get it done.

10 a.m. — I took the morning off to take my four-year-old for his first COVID vaccine. FINALLY! He was the one who brought it home to our whole family, but I still want him to get additional protection ASAP with the vaccine. We go through the Starbucks drive-thru on the way for a latte for me and I load up my card ($25). He does a great job getting his vaccine so we stop at a cupcake shop across the street. We get in line behind a woman who is trying to pay in cash which they don’t accept. I offer to pay for her cupcake and get one for my son ($9). $34

11 a.m. — On my way back to work I realize I forgot to bring my lunch (pre-packaged salads I bought at Trader Joe’s yesterday). I make one more stop at Trader Joe’s and grab work lunch for today and tomorrow (jerk chicken burrito and a salad), some cheese for snacking, some peaches for the office to share, and kombucha. $24.68

4 p.m. — Work day is done. I head to my sugaring appointment. Like waxing but so much less painful ($80 plus $16 tip). $96

5 p.m. — I pick up my daughter from summer camp and then head to my son’s preschool. I realize I’m out of gas. My car takes a lot of gas to fill and the pump maxes out automatically at $100. Gas prices in our area are averaging $6.50 per gallon — wild. $100

7 p.m. — It’s a hectic night trying to get everyone fed, get my daughter logged in for her weekly mindfulness class, and get packed for our visit to my parents this weekend. I grab bites of food in between everything (mini chicken tacos from Trader Joe’s and zucchini).

Daily Total: $254.68

Day Three

6 a.m. — Wordle and mini-crossword. It’s pay day and the first of the month. I’m trying to control my spending lately because we have a big vacation coming up and recently had to pay over $10,000 for our dog to have surgery (and that was AFTER our pet insurance was applied). I check TrueBill, which I’m using to help with my budget, and set some goals for the month, specifically no personal shopping and more cooking my own meals, especially for work lunches.

2 p.m. — My work day ends early on Fridays and I head to my parents’ place a few hours away. We will be staying with them for the weekend. This is also where a lot of my friends live, including the person who does my hair, which is my first stop when I get into town. She gives me an incredible deal for a cut and highlights ($90 + $20 tip). $110

4 p.m. — After my cut and color, I grab a passionfruit iced tea with boba and some Pocky, then head to my parents’ house. $10.73

5 p.m. — I arrive at my parents’ house and N. and the kids show up a little bit after. It is so great to be here. We typically see them every two to three weeks but it’s been much longer recently and we all missed each other. We enjoy a cocktail and catch up. I check my Instagram and see that two of my favorite authors will be speaking about their new book at a local museum so I buy two tickets ($30). I also pre-order their new book ($20). $50

Daily Total: $170.73

Day Four

9 a.m. — I go to a hot pilates class. I love this studio and wish there was something like this closer to where I live, so I always make it a point to come here when I’m in town. I usually go to a local smoothie place and get one after these workouts but I stop myself in the name of spending less money (and also because I feel like I’m going to pass out from the intensity of the workout). $24

11 a.m. — We walk to the beach and enjoy watching the kids play in the sand. I forget to put sunscreen on my legs and end up with a burn. Ouch!

3 p.m. — A few of my closest friends from childhood/high school come over with their kids. The kids play, I catch up with my friends, we eat BBQ and yummy salads, and drink some delicious mezcal cocktails.

9 p.m. — I’m exhausted from the day so I go to bed at the same time as my kids. The party is still going for some upstairs but I know I’m going to appreciate feeling good in the morning so no FOMO for me tonight.

Daily Total: $24

Day Five

9 a.m. — I pick up a friend and bring my daughter to join a few other friends at a family-friendly outdoor boot camp class. It’s free since it’s my first time. We have so much fun and do a lot of relays that include all the kids. Total dopamine and endorphin hit.

12 p.m. — I take my daughter for her first pedicure. She loves it and almost falls asleep in the chair getting a massage. I end up upgrading my pedicure to “deluxe” for more massage and scrubs and choose gel polish which is pricey. I way over-tip but it’s worth it. $113

2 p.m. — We take the dog for a walk to the beach but when we get there it’s extremely windy. We cut the walk short, take a detour to a local playground, and then head back to the house.

6 p.m. — Date night! We take advantage of being with my parents who can watch the kids and go out to dinner at an Italian place I’ve been wanting to try for ages. We have a delicious carbonara, a meatball dish, and some salads and cocktails. N. pays for the dinner and our Uber rides there and back.

8:30 p.m. — We get back and the kids are bouncing off the walls. They aren’t really used to us being away because of so much together time during COVID, so we immediately lay down with them to help them sleep. My stomach is not pleased after that massive bowl of pasta and two drinks and I sleep terribly. But still worth it!

Daily Total: $113

Day Six

9 a.m. — We head to a local parade. Our friends have set up a whole table of breakfast and snacks. It’s a funky small-town parade with a lot of animals. My son ogles all the cool old cars and my daughter loves the cheerleaders.

12 p.m. — The parade wipes out the kids so they nap/rest. While they do that, I hop on my parents’ computer to book tickets for a trip to visit my best friend who recently moved ($1,169). It will be just the kids and me; N. has plans for another friend’s birthday. While I’m at it, I book reservations for a continuing medical education conference I’ll be attending later this year. It costs $800 for the conference and another $600 for two nights in a hotel but this will all be reimbursed by work since I need to maintain my nursing license. They generously cover up to $1,500 per year to help me do that. $1,169

3 p.m. — We head to a friend’s house for some swimming in their pool. At this point, I have spent all of my social capital for the weekend and hide in their living room to read my book. These people are like second family so I’m not worried about being perceived as rude.

7 p.m. — We bid everyone farewell and start the drive back home. Surprisingly we hit no traffic and the kids fall asleep in the car. We tuck them in when we get home and I order some groceries to be delivered so I can make their school/camp lunches tomorrow. Lots of basics like fruit, bread, cheese, lunch meat, milk, and yogurt. $129.45

Daily Total: $1,298.45

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Usual workday morning routine but moving slower than usual trying to adjust after the long weekend and the gloomy weather.

9 a.m. — I get a notification that one of my favorite trashy romance authors released a new book. I pay $2.99 for the Kindle version. I read a ton (over 50 books this year so far) and I’ve recently been into beach reads/romance novels because they are just so easy and don’t take up brain space but are also entertaining. I get almost all of my books for free by renting e-books via Libby using my library card or using my Kindle Unlimited membership to get free downloads. $2.99

10 a.m. — Coffee break between patients. I opt not to go to the local cafe and make some coffee in the office. It’s not the same but still working on reducing my spending.

12 p.m. — I’m feeling so low-energy — gloomy weather plus tired from this weekend (not to mention the horrific state of news in this country). I take a long walk and end up at a local food hall/market. I brought my lunch today but it doesn’t sound good to me now so I order some Korean beef BBQ fries and a peach iced tea in the name of a mental health boost. $12.20

6 p.m. — Home after picking up both kids. I see my Daily Harvest smoothies and chaga lattes have been delivered. I drink these almost every day for breakfast but I’m having a hard time justifying the cost so I’m planning to make my own pre-packaged frozen smoothies going forward and have canceled my subscription. $61.68

6:30 p.m. — It’s taco Tuesday and my daughter never lets us forget it. We order from a local Mexican place. I get fish tacos, N. gets a carnitas super burrito, and the kids have a rice and bean burrito with a side of rice and beans. (We’re working on expanding their palates.) $54.64

7 p.m. — After dinner, I open the mail and see a bill from my dentist. I use our HSA card (pre-tax deducted from N.’s paycheck) to pay the $210.20 for some upgraded fillings I’m not sure I really needed.

11:30 p.m. — I stay up way too late reading and scrolling social media. I can’t relax my mind after all that blue light stimulation, so I do some deep breathing and eventually fall asleep.

Daily Total: $131.51

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