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A Week In Gainesville, FL, On A $56,500 Joint Income

·29 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 settlement coordinator who has a joint income of $56,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on a tattoo.

Occupation: Settlement Coordinator
Industry: Personal Injury Law
Age: 27
Location: Gainesville, FL
My Salary: $41,500
My Husband’s Salary: $15,000
Net Worth: ~$12,000 (Savings: $18,069.66; checking: $1,685.07; my IRA: $7,808; my 401(k): $7,953.50; my husband’s IRA: $1,792.03; minus debt)
Debt: $24,457 (my husband, J., is currently accruing student loans)
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,311.75
Husband’s Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $600
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $875
Car Payments: $0 (paid off my car three years ago and we paid for J.’s truck in cash)
Utilities: $200
Internet: $73
Car Insurance: $186
Cell Phones: $100
Netflix: $20
Renters Insurance: $21
Spotify Premium: $15
Pet Costs: $50
Health Insurance: $0 (my employer generously covers our health insurance premiums in full)
Gym Membership/Fitness App: $18

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, I absolutely felt pressure to go to school. I’m the oldest of my parents’ three children so I feel like there’s always been a lot expected of me. Both of my parents got their bachelor’s degrees in their late 30’s and made a very big deal of it. My siblings and I attended their ceremony, and we had a huge party and were so proud of them. I did two years at a local community college to get my AA and then transferred to a four-year university to get my Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration. I was very fortunate because my father is a disabled veteran, so my entire education was paid for and I received a monthly stipend to help cover my living costs. I also did well enough in high school to receive a scholarship, so I was honestly banking over $1,000 a month while I was in school. This is a really big reason I never dropped out because I would lose these benefits if I did not complete my degree. I was not passionate about school at all and my program was extremely boring. I was a very mediocre student and graduated with a 3.3 GPA.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents talked to me about money, but I also paid really close attention to my parents’ financial habits. My father has bipolar disorder and could be a bit erratic with his spending, but my mother was very stable and more levelheaded in her decision-making. Between the two of them, I ended up with a really good understanding of the importance of saving money. However, I did have to teach myself how to finance a car, re-finance a car, do my taxes, etc. I do remember getting a small allowance when I was a child if I did my assigned chores. My father also started a savings fund for all three of us to use for college but by the time we made it to college-age that money was gone. My parents had a nasty divorce when I was 19 and I’m sure the money disappeared during that time.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was Sonic as a carhop. They made me skate on every shift. YIKES. Falling was not fun, especially with a tray full of milkshakes. My parents encouraged me to get a job so that I could pay for my own gas and car insurance. They purchased me a Red PT Cruiser when I turned 16. I also think they stopped giving me an allowance at this point, so I had to pay for any social activities myself.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Not at all. If my parents went through any financial hardships, I was not made aware of it. It was always very important to my father that we seem wealthy. We lived in a small town in the south growing up and social status was a big deal. We always lived in big houses (my dad called them McMansions) and had nice cars. When I look back now, everything that was important to my father was very superficial and we truly were not as wealthy as I thought we were at the time. But we never needed for anything. We took a lot of trips as well and my parents even bought my childhood best friend a season pass to Six Flags in Atlanta so she could come on our family trips with us.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. It definitely does not constantly consume my thoughts, but I try to be mindful about our savings account and like to keep it as full as possible. We used to only give ourselves a $100 a month allowance for extra stuff, but we’ve been bad about sticking to that lately. I am a little worried about J.’s work situation because we do not know how long his current internship will last.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became completely financially responsible for myself when J. and I moved in together when I was 20. I was mostly responsible for myself at 18 but still lived with my mom rent-free after my parents’ divorce. We view our savings as a safety net, but if we were ever in complete financial distress my mother and stepdad would help us. We’ve never had to ask for support though and we would prefer to avoid that. We enjoy being self-sufficient!

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Nope and not expecting any either.

Day One

4:50 a.m. — It’s Monday! My alarm goes off and I wake up to pee and eat a banana protein muffin as a pre-workout snack. I did a lot of cooking and baking this weekend so when I open the fridge, I am very happy to see how full it is. My husband, J., struggles in the morning, so I leave him in bed with the dog for an extra 10 minutes.

5:40 a.m. — After we’re both awake and ready, we head to the gym. My calves are really tight today from a six-mile run yesterday so I opt to do a back, arms, and abs workout today. I’ve been using the Fit Body App for around three years now and love having an easy program to follow.

7:45 a.m. — Once we are back from the gym, J. and I shower and get dressed for the day. We work on getting our breakfasts ready and talk about how he is not looking forward to his day. Last week, he had to put in over 60 hours of work and he is exhausted. Our dog decides to get sick in the kitchen while I’m plating up my breakfast (YUCK). I eat breakfast, which today is two blueberry protein pancakes with some peanut butter, two eggs, two egg whites, and fresh raspberries. I brush my teeth, then head to work.

12:15 p.m. — Time for my lunch! I always take a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood behind my office and call J. to check in. We are a bit stressed because he found out today his paid internship will probably end in May. Although we can survive on my income, it is not ideal. J. lets me know that the dog seems to be doing fine. No more accidents in the house. I head back to my office and warm up some leftover asparagus soup and toast two pieces of whole-grain bread. I watch Gilmore Girls on my phone while I eat.

2 p.m. — I decide to go ahead and order J.’s anniversary gift. We have our five-year wedding anniversary next month. We were supposed to be spending it in Japan, but thanks to COVID, we had to cancel and will be spending the weekend in St. Augustine. I ordered him a skate box because he loves skateboarding but never wants to go to the park by himself. I’m nervous and really hope he likes it. I check with his best friend and he says it seems like a good one. $199

4:50 p.m. — I start wrapping up my work for the day and eat a quick snack. I have a red delicious apple and a handful of trail mix. I got pretty busy in the afternoon, so I am ready to head home to snuggle J. and the doggy.

5:20 p.m. — I get home and we take the dog for a walk and she gets sick twice again, so we go ahead and call her vet to see what they think. They tell us we can drop her off first thing tomorrow morning. During the walk, J. and I talk more about his job prospects if his internship ends in May and he decides he needs to get started on redoing his portfolio so he can apply to different firms.

6:30 p.m. — We get back home and J. heads upstairs to get started on his portfolio while I work on dinner. I make a tempeh stir fry.

8 p.m. — We eat dinner and get all the dishes cleaned and put away. I take the dog out and she gets sick again. Really glad I’m dropping her off at the vet tomorrow morning because I’m starting to get worried. We sit down to relax and watch Pirates of the Caribbean. I stretch and foam roll my calves for a bit.

9 p.m. — We snack on some cereal while we watch. Then, we head upstairs to brush our teeth then crawl into bed with the dog.

Daily Total: $199

Day Two

12:20 a.m. — I wake up to the dog whining and shaking. Take her outside because she is sick again. Really really starting to worry about her at this point. I head back up to bed and fall asleep after tossing and turning for a bit.

4:50 a.m. — I wake up and J. actually gets out of bed on the first alarm. I am shocked. I try to talk him into a rest day because my calves are still tight, but he wants to go to the gym, so I decide to tough it out. I eat another protein banana muffin and take the dog out so she can be sick again. Hoping she does not get sick in the house while we’re at the gym.

5:40 a.m. — We head out for the gym. I’m planning to do a pretty intense leg day today if my calves can stand it.

7:30 a.m. — We get back home from the gym. Glad J. made us go because I ended up having a great workout and progressed a bit from last week. I feed the dog breakfast, shower, and get dressed for work. I go ahead and pack my breakfast and lunch, so I have time to drop the dog off at the vet before I go into work.

8 a.m. — I drop the dog off at the vet and she acts pitiful. Makes me feel bad and just worry more. On my way to work, I try not to think about all the different things that could be wrong with her.

8:30 a.m. — I get to the office and start preparing a bowl of chocolate peanut butter protein oatmeal. I realize I forgot a banana. Damnit. After I finish eating, I clean up and get started on work

12:15 p.m. — I head out for my lunchtime walk and call my mom to catch up. I miss my family a ton and hate living so far away from them. When I get back to the office, J. calls me to let me know the vet called him and they did not find anything wrong. Yay! They are sending her home with some medicine for her tummy and some wet food. I warm up some leftover chickpea chana masala with naan and some steamed green beans. Still have time for a couple minutes of Gilmore Girls before I have to get back to work.

2 p.m. — J. calls to let me know he is picking up the doggy and that the vet bill is $137. He also sends me a cute Snapchat of her sitting next to him in his truck. She seems happy to be heading home. $137

5:20 p.m. — I get home from work and J. and I head out for a long walk with the dog. The dog doesn’t get sick on the walk so seems like the medication the vet gave her is working!

6:45 p.m. — We get back from our walk so J. and I get started on dinner. I’m making a plantain black bean enchilada bake with a cashew cheese sauce and a side salad. J. does all the knife work for me and then sits down to play some video games while I wrap everything up.

8 p.m. — We finish up eating dinner, clean up the kitchen, take the dog out (still no sickies yay!!), and then sit down to watch some more Pirates of the Caribbean. I can tell my glutes and quads are going to be toast tomorrow so I do a bit of stretching and foam rolling in hopes that I can manage a run in the morning.

9 p.m. — I make a blueberry Biscoff protein mug cake (OMG so good) and J. has half a Lenny’s and Larry’s cookie. We finish up our snacks and then head to bed for the night.

Daily Total: $137

Day Three

4:50 a.m. — I can tell my legs are too sore for a run this morning, so I stay in bed a bit longer and snuggle with J. We head downstairs after 20 minutes or so and get our days started. J. has his coffee and I drink a glass of cold water. We both scroll on our phones for a bit and then J. heads upstairs to get some homework knocked out. I watch a couple of YouTube videos then I read a chapter of Sharp Objects — my best friend recommended it and it’s really good so far.

6:30 a.m. — I head upstairs to shower and get dressed for work. I actually have time to straighten my hair today woop woop.

7:30 a.m. — I give the doggy all her medicine for her stomach and then start working on making my breakfast. I am having two eggs, two egg whites, two banana protein muffins with Biscoff spread, and some fresh strawberries and raspberries. I am a big fan of breakfast in case you couldn’t tell.

8 a.m. — I kiss J. and the doggy goodbye and head into the office for the day.

9:30 a.m. — I call Expedia to rebook a flight for my good friend’s wedding next month in California. The flight schedules are a nightmare since COVID, so I’ve had to rebook this flight a couple of times and I’m hoping I won’t have to mess with it anymore. Thankfully, there is no fee. I receive a message that a client has brought in two dozen doughnuts. I grab a maple glazed.

1 p.m. — I head out for my lunchtime walk and call J. to check in. He’s not in great spirits today and thinks he’ll have to skip our walks and the gym for the rest of the week because his homework load just grew even more than he expected for the week. I can tell he’s frustrated so I let him go and call my mom. I head back to the office to warm up lunch and watch some Gilmore Girls. Today I have leftover white bean chili with some tortilla chips and some steamed green beans.

4:40 p.m. — I grab an apple for a quick afternoon snack while I wrap up my workday. Today was pretty slow at work but I’m hoping that J. will be able to relax a bit tonight.

5:30 p.m. — J. and I get changed and take the dog for a long walk. It’s beautiful outside and we even hold hands for a bit. We admire all the trees starting to bloom and chat about our day. We really love taking these daily walks together because it’s a time for us to focus on each other and stay off our phones for a bit. Still no sickies for the doggy so I think she has made a recovery!

6:50 p.m. — We get home and J. sits down to play some video games. I start to prepare dinner and tonight is a new recipe! I’m making a mushroom stroganoff with red lentil pasta. While I’m cooking dinner, my little brother calls me and we chat for about 30 minutes. I hop off the phone to plate up our dinner. Unfortunately, it’s not the best and we give it a solid 6/10. Still very edible but a bit bland for our taste.

8 p.m. — We clean up from dinner and commence our nighttime ritual. Finish off the third Pirates of the Caribbean and more foam rolling for me. I also step on J.’s back for a bit.

9 p.m. — J.eats a donut I brought him from work and some popcorn. I make myself a peanut butter protein mug cake with some chocolate chips. We finish up our snacks and head to bed with the doggy.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

4:50 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I lay in bed for a couple of minutes and try to wake up. I head downstairs to eat a protein banana muffin and drink a glass of water. J. wakes up and starts getting ready for the gym.

5:40 a.m. — We head to the gym. I’m planning to do a chest, shoulder, and ab workout this morning.

7:30 a.m. — We get back from the gym and start on our morning routine. We both shower and get changed. I head downstairs and get the dog’s breakfast ready for her (including the three medications her vet prescribed). This morning I’m having chocolate peanut butter protein oatmeal again but thankfully I’ll have my mashed-up banana this time. P opts for a HUGE bowl of protein oatmeal with just banana but adds granola and a million tablespoons of peanut butter.

8:00 a.m. — I finish up my delicious breakfast (this is my fave by far) and head into the office for the day.

12:30 p.m. — I head out for my lunchtime walk and call J. to catch up on our days. He lets me know that he’ll need to borrow my car tomorrow so he can drive to Orlando to his office. We are very hopeful the firm will keep him on past May, so he wants to make a good impression with them. I head back to the office and heat up the leftover tempeh stir fry and watch some Gilmore Girls.

4:15 p.m. — I eat a protein bar and plan to run with the dog when I get home. I also go ahead and plan our meals for next week and make the grocery list. I’ve been doing this for years and it works really well for us. Less food wasted and I always know exactly what to get at the store. We typically make four to five servings of each meal we prepare so lunches are mostly leftovers. I normally go on Saturday mornings and get it knocked out early.

5:30 p.m. — I stop for gas on the way home. I get home from work and check in with J. He’s going to be doing homework until later this evening, so the dog and I leave for a jog. $28.54

7 p.m. — J. finishes up his homework and asks me to give him a quick haircut, so he looks nice for the work event tomorrow. I’ve been cutting his hair for him since COVID started and just never really stopped since it saves us money and I do an okay job at it. I throw together a lazy dinner of Gardein nuggets, Annie’s vegan mac and cheese, and a side salad. This is our favorite comfort meal.

8 p.m. — We get everything cleaned up from dinner and plop down on the couch. Disney+ doesn’t have the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean and we don’t want to skip to the fifth one, so we decide on Maleficent for tonight (one of my faves!).

9 p.m. — J. shares the donuts I brought home for him and then I also have a bowl of Special K protein cereal. We head up to bed and pass out.

Daily Total: $28.54

Day Five

4:50 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I realize it’s Friday, woop woop! Head downstairs to eat my muffin and drink some water. Yell at J. from the couch to get moving. He begrudgingly crawls downstairs for his pre-workout drink.

5:40 a.m. — We head to the gym and I’m planning to do another leg day today!

7:30 a.m. — We get back from the gym and I’m pooped. We shower and get dressed for the day. It’s casual Friday at the office, so I throw on my new boyfriend jeans from Old Navy — so cute and comfy! I make some blueberry protein oatmeal and top it with sugar-free syrup and a Biscoff cookie. So good. J. finishes off the muffins and warms up some vegan breakfast sausage. I unload the dishwasher and feed the doggy.

8 a.m. — I finish up my breakfast and head to work. I’m taking J.’s truck since my car is way more reliable for long trips and J. will have to drive over four hours today. Super glad I wore Converse because I haven’t driven a stick in a few months.

10:45 a.m. — J.’s anniversary gift is delivered to my office. I can’t believe that came so fast especially since I did the free standard shipping. I hope he likes it!!

1:15 p.m. — I head out for my lunchtime walk and call J. to see how his drive to Orlando is going. He had a really good morning in classes and had a presentation that went super well. He lets me know he wants to try to be back by 7 so we can meet up with his classmates at a local park for drinks. He also thinks he won’t have to do any homework this weekend and I’m stoked because that means we can actually do some fun stuff together! Normally on the weekends I just grocery shop, clean, and try to find things to amuse myself while J. does homework.

4:15 p.m. — Boss man cuts us loose early since it’s Friday woohoo! On the way home, I drink a chocolate protein shake.

4:45 p.m. — I head out for a walk with the doggy and call my little sister to check in. We talk the entire time and it makes my heart happy. I miss my family so much and I’m stoked I’ll get to see them next month. The wedding I’m going to is just a couple hours away from my mom and sister, so I’ll go spend a couple days with them after the wedding.

6 p.m. — We get back from our walk and I head to Publix to pick up our weekly groceries. I also stop by the ATM and grab $200 because I’m getting a tattoo tomorrow and always prefer to pay in cash.

7 p.m. — I get home from Publix and get all the groceries unpacked. It was $151.31 which is right on budget. Our monthly grocery allowance is $700-$800. I put away the laundry J. started earlier, sweep the floors, and decide to give J. his anniversary gift early because he has this weekend off. He won’t get another opportunity like this to have the whole weekend to mess with the skate box and selfishly I’m too excited to see him open it. I grab the box out of his truck and set it in the living room. $151.31

8 p.m. — J. gets home from Orlando and LOVES the gift. He looks like a little kid, he’s so stoked. I’m so glad I reached out to his best friend and got his advice on a high-quality box. J. thanks me profusely and then bikes up to the local park to meet a couple of classmates for a beer. He promises he’ll be home by 10 so we can snuggle a bit before bed. I decide not to go because I’m tired and want to read my book.

8:30 p.m. — I heat up some leftover plantain enchiladas and make a side salad. After I finish eating, I lay down and read a couple more chapters of my book. It’s getting super good so I might end up finishing it this weekend.

9:45 p.m. — J. gets home and thanks me again for the gift. He bought two beers at the park with his buddies. $15

10:30 p.m. — We watch a bit more of Maleficent before bed. I make a peanut butter chocolate protein mug cake and J. has a Lenny’s and Larry’s cookies. We head up to bed with the doggy and pass out.

Daily Total: $166.31

Day Six

7 a.m. — We are up without an alarm! I can’t remember the last time we just let ourselves wake up naturally. It feels really nice. We lay together, snuggle the dog for a while, and talk about the dreams we had the night before. We head downstairs and J. makes some coffee for himself while I drink a glass of water and read some more of my book.

8:30 a.m. — I sit down and eat some breakfast while J. works on putting together his skate box. I eat half a pumpkin bagel with some peanut butter and hemp seeds, two eggs, and some strawberries and raspberries.

9 a.m. — I head out to drop off my bridesmaid dress to be altered. This ends up costing substantially more than I thought. I’m surprised because I’m just having the bottom hemmed. Oh well, I’m just glad it zips more comfortably now with the girdle. $73.78

9:30 a.m. — I get home and J. is painting his skate box now. I sit outside with him and watch. I’m trying to spend less time on my phone this weekend, so I leave it inside the house.

10:30 a.m. — We head out for a long bike ride down. We decide to stop about seven miles into the ride to check out one of the walking trails off the bike path. We walk down the trail and there are a ton of alligators out today. It’s really amazing to see them in the wild. We even get to see a couple of them munching on fish which is exciting. We find a water spigot to fill up our thermoses and decide to head home since we spent quite a while on the walking trail.

1:30 p.m. — We get home and hop in the shower. We’re both starving so I throw some frozen green beans in the air fryer with garlic and olive oil and reheat the mushroom pasta from a few nights ago. After lunch, I throw a couple of beers in the refrigerator for later. We’ve found it helps us cut back on excessive drinking if we don’t keep cold alcohol in the fridge all the time. I go ahead and get some laundry started as well.

2:30 p.m. — J. heads outside to break in the skate box and I drag out a Gators beach chair and read my book to keep him company.

3:30 p.m. — We head inside and I make another double batch of the protein banana muffins and keep the laundry moving. I text my best friend and tell her to go ahead and pick a book for us to read together since I am almost done with this one. We decided we’re going to start reading books together so we can call and discuss them like a mini book club.

6:30 p.m. — J. plays video games for the rest of the afternoon while I keep reading my book. Almost done! We stand in the kitchen and eat chips and salsa together then I head out for my tattoo appointment.

8:45 p.m. — Tattoo all done! So glad it didn’t take more than two hours because I’m tired, hungry, and that hurt. The tattoo costs $200 with tip. My tattoo artist is moving in May so I go ahead and book our last appointment for April. I’ll miss her and am not looking forward to finding a replacement. $200

9 p.m. — I call J. to let him know I’m heading home and make sure I know what to order from the local pizza place. We order from them so often, they send us a Christmas card with a gift card every year. I order four pepperoni rolls and a large pepperoni pizza. It will be $22 with delivery and tip. $22

10:30 p.m. — We eat pizza, drink some beer and wine, and finish Maleficent. My eyes start getting heavy so I head upstairs to clean my tattoo and we pass out.

Daily Total: $295.78

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I realize I should have drunk more water before I passed out last night. I only had two drinks so I’m not hungover but I’m really dehydrated. We get up and I drink a ton of water and we start getting packed up to head to St. Augustine Beach for the day. We’re meeting a couple of J.’s classmates out there and one is going to catch a ride with us so he’ll be here in an hour.

7 a.m. — We catch up a bit with J.’s classmate (C.) and eat muffins together. J. and I share some vegan breakfast sausage and then we hit the road with the doggy as well. This beach is dog friendly so it’ll be a fun day.

9 a.m. — We make it to St. Augustine and J. stops at a surf shop to grab some beach wax. He tells me it was $2 and he’s bummed he left his wet suit at home because the water is still pretty chilly. $2

2:30 p.m. — We have a great morning at the beach with J.’s classmates and drink a couple of beers and munch on some snacks we brought from home. We leave the beach to grab some lunch together.

3:30 p.m. — We stop at Mojo’s Tacos. Almost everyone with us is vegetarian and this place has the best tofu or tempeh tacos and burritos. J. gets us each a beer, himself tempeh arepas, and a tempeh burrito for me. $28.65

4 p.m. — After lunch, we decide to drive to the downtown area so we can walk through the shops and admire the historic buildings. Of course, there’s no free parking so we have to locate a parking garage that IS NOT cheap. $15

5:30 p.m. — We decide it’s time to head home, we’ve still got an hour and a half drive and were all exhausted from the drinks and sun. I stop by the popcorn shop because I can’t resist. They have a ridiculous number of flavors but I go with Biscoff and Oreo Cheesecake YUM. I make sure to give a tip because they are really dead and I feel bad. $13.36

6 p.m. — On the way home, we stop to fill up our tank and grab some water. C. pays for the drinks to thank us for driving today. $31.93

7 p.m. — We finally make it home; we didn’t plan to stay out all day so we put away the beach stuff and take a shower with the doggy because she stinks from playing at the beach all morning. J. warms up some toast and vegan nuggets for dinner and I’m having serious heartburn from the beers so I hold off on eating for now. We decide to rent the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean. $3.99

9 p.m. — I make myself a bowl of peanut butter chocolate protein oatmeal and then we head up to bed and pass out. We are completely pooped from spending all day running around in the sun.

Daily Total: $94.93

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