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 project manager who has a joint income of $112,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on vitamins.
Occupation: Project Manager
Industry: Higher Education
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
My Salary: $62,000
My Husband’s Salary: $50,000
Net Worth: $133,000 (All of our finances are held jointly — we have about $105,000 in equity on our home, $45,000 in retirement savings, $8,000 in checking/savings, and our two cars are paid off and worth about $38,000 together minus debt.)
Debt: $400,000 remaining on our mortgage, $63,000 in students loans
My Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,460
My Husband’s Paycheck Amount (2x/month): ~$1,800 (he is self-employed so this is pre-tax)
Student Loans: $423
Childcare: $1,700 (for two kids)
Retirement: 5% per paycheck, partially matched by my employer
Health, Dental, & Vision Insurance: $282 for our family
Car Insurance: $85
Phone Bill: $140
Apple Fitness App: $9.99
Apple TV+: $4.99
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. The expectations regarding how it would be paid for were less clear — both of my parents had student loans that they paid off (college was much cheaper when they went!) so they saw that as a given part of the process. In the end, they paid for everything that wasn’t covered by the federal student loans in my financial aid package. I finished undergrad with about $20,000 in student loans, which my husband and I paid off a few years ago. I also attended graduate school funded entirely by student loans and my work-study job, and I anticipate we’ll be paying on those for quite a while.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn’t talk about real numbers and only discussed in the abstract whether things were affordable for us. My parents both drove used cars and my mom would talk about things like avoiding new car purchases for as long as possible, or about saving for a vacation, but we didn’t spend time on the specific parts of that. Once we were in high school and had our own jobs, the conversations became a little more granular. My dad was terrible with money which became more apparent to me in a variety of ways as I got older. My mom talked a bit about saving and investing and gave me some personal finance books when I became more interested in the topic in college, but we never really discussed budgeting.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Aside from babysitting here and there, my first “real” job was at a restaurant when I was in high school. My mom was very into hard work and gaining professional experience so when the opportunity fell into my lap, she insisted that I take it. Once I began working, there was an expectation that a certain portion of what I earned would go toward my expenses, like gas or eating out with my friends, and later towards the apartment I was renting for undergrad (though my parents covered the remainder).
Did you worry about money growing up?
There were a few times that I remember being concerned. I got braces when I was really young and I remember overhearing an argument my parents had about the cost, but we were pretty solidly middle class and my needs were always met. It wasn’t until high school that I started to realize how tight things were for my parents, with used cars needing big repairs and the cost of college tuition.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. Our daughter has disabilities and will need long-term care. I always have generalized worries about saving for that in the back of my mind. We have a significant amount of debt and that’s stressful, but we’ve always been able to pay our bills so it hasn’t been a primary concern.
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 once I started grad school, before my husband and I were married. We have a small amount of emergency savings and if we truly needed it, there are a variety of family members who aren’t wealthy, but comfortable and generous enough to help us pay our bills.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. When a relative passed away a few years ago we unexpectedly received around $50,000 that allowed us to pay off our cars and some other bills. Neither of us comes from a family where inheritances are a thing, so this was really shocking.
6 a.m. — We just returned from vacation and because we had a cooler with us, were the recipients of many of the leftovers in the fridge at the end of the week. I assemble a quick breakfast from odds and ends, doing mental calculus to see how soon we’ll need to run to the grocery store. My husband packed the kid’s lunches last night, so I take a few minutes to respond to work emails. My workday has changed a lot since the pandemic, and even though we have childcare, it’s not completely full-time for our daughter. My husband is self-employed and often works in the evening, so I handle picking up our kids and the dinner/bedtime shift during the week. I usually work for a stretch of approximately six hours during the day and the rest of my work is made up in small chunks before the kids get up and after they go to bed.
8:15 a.m. — My husband I each take one of our two children to their respective childcare destinations and on my way home I stop for coffee at my favorite coffee shop. We’ve been trying to limit our weekday takeout coffee purchases to one per week (it’s a normal part of our weekend routine), and I decide to pick up mine today as a treat to kick off the week ($6.19, including tip). I head home and begin work, trying to catch up on the email backlog from being out last week for vacation. $6.19
12:30 p.m. — I break for lunch and pay a medical bill from a recent dermatologist visit. I throw in a load of laundry and then get back to work projects before I leave to pick up our daughter. $119
3 p.m. — I pick up our daughter, K., and we stop by a local place for her favorite cookie ($2.33 with tip) before heading home to start meal prep for dinner. K. has cerebral palsy and she’s also largely nonverbal (communicating with a handful of words and signs) and uses a wheelchair. She’s limited in what she can do on her own, so I try to be realistic with my expectations about what I’ll be able to do during this time, in addition to playing with her. $2.33
6 p.m. — I give the kids part of the casserole I prepped earlier and eat my own in between refilling milk cups. After bedtime for the kids, I work on some work projects until my husband gets home around 9:30 p.m. We watch an episode of Ted Lasso. That show never stops being the best thing ever!
Daily Total: $127.52
8:30 a.m. — We drop off our kids and I decide to work from our porch this morning. We were gifted an espresso machine for Christmas so I make my latte at home and take it to the porch with me before it gets too hot to work outside.
11:30 a.m. — I’m randomly craving a soup I read about in the morning newsletter from The New York Times, and since we’re lucky to live two minutes from the grocery store, I pop over to pick up the ingredients. $23.07
12 p.m. — On my way home, I stop at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for our daughter. There is no co-pay — she is covered by both our insurance and by Medicaid because she is disabled. At present, she is on five different medications and every time I pick them up I am grateful for this coverage. It would otherwise cost us more than $1,000 per month, even with “good” insurance. On my way out of the pharmacy, I also pick up a baby shower card for a friend whose shower will be held virtually because of the recent increase in COVID cases. $5.03
1 p.m. — I take a break from work to unpack a few bags still lingering from our trip last week. I’m glad to see that we still have enough sunscreen to make it through the rest of the summer, and note that we have way too many sand buckets, so I set some aside to post on our local Buy Nothing group.
6 p.m. — Both kids are hungry, so I give them strawberries to hold them over until I can finish making their pasta. I’m not very hungry so I wait on my husband to get home so I can eat with him, before another episode of Ted Lasso and then bed around 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $28.10
6 a.m. — A lot of my workday will be dominated by Zoom meetings today, so I jump into work projects first thing to knock out a few important tasks before the kids wake up. I also quickly place online orders for a few things we need — trash bags ($20), vitamins for the kids ($29.47), and new shoes for our son that have been sitting in my Zappo’s cart for a few days ($42.07). I’m tired and ready for coffee, but it’s more enjoyable if I wait to make my drink until after the kids are dropped off. If I make it while the kids are home, I will undoubtedly find myself rewarming it in the microwave several times (parent life!). $91.54
1 p.m. — I’m finished with an exhausting morning of meetings and eager for a break. I eat some of yesterday’s soup while listening to Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which I borrowed from the library via the Libby app. The book is tough but is so powerful. My mom stops by for the afternoon and hangs out with our daughter so I can continue working. I’m not used to be able to work in the afternoon and it feels like I’m able to be tremendously productive with this “found” work time.
6 p.m. — My mom generously picks up takeout for us from a local restaurant and it’s exciting to be eating something delicious instead of the soup that I was planning to eat again. She also brought cupcakes, so on the whole it was a much more thrilling evening than our usual evenings ($50 covered by my mom). I exchange some quick texts with our daughter’s physical therapist about a scheduling conflict that means we’ll need to move our appointment to next week. Therapy is so essential to her wellbeing and like her medication, would normally cost hundreds out of pocket each month if not for our insurance and Medicaid. We are fortunate to have found a good therapist who accepts Medicaid payments because not all do.
Daily Total: $91.54
7 a.m. — We drop off the kids and then I take our dog for her annual vet visit. Because of COVID precautions, I can’t go in with her, so I take a short walk around their grounds and keep listening to the audio of Just Mercy. I’m hoping to finish it today; I have eight days left to return it, but I always get a lot of joy from returning books early when I know there are lots of people waiting on them. Is that weird? It feels like good karma or something. I get a call that our dog is finished. Her check-up, vaccinations, and a few months of her flea/tick medication comes to $367.18 (painful, but expected). $367.18
10:30 a.m. — I have a few minutes before a work call starts and I remember that our son needs cups and a new toothbrush, so I place a quick order for those ($35.83). For lunch, I reheat some of the soup from earlier in the week. It’s still great and fortunately eating the same thing for several meals doesn’t bother me. $35.83
2:30 p.m. — I get hit by a wave of exhaustion, which is always tough when I’m transitioning from the work segment of my day to the pick-up/hanging-out-with-the-kids portion. I make another quick drink with our espresso machine, which reminds me that we’re getting low on pods, so I place a quick order ($15.83) on my phone before heading out. $15.83
6:15 p.m. — I attempt a new recipe tonight that sort of falls apart and winds up being basically just a baked potato with cheese and broccoli. The kids seem to like it enough and I get the mental victory of knowing they both ingested at least a little bit of vegetable. I work until my husband gets home around 9:15, and make popcorn while he showers. Another episode of, you guessed it, Ted Lasso, before bed around 10:30.
Daily Total: $418.84
8:50 a.m. — I leave for a check-up at the dentist. Normally I’m on top of my regular check-ups but the pandemic has really thrown that off. This appointment should have been in… March? It’s all routine stuff so no co-pays for this visit.
1 p.m. — I text with a different pregnant friend, which reminds me that I have a small box of clothing that our son has outgrown that I had set aside to mail to her. I send the package and coincidentally run into a neighbor I haven’t seen in ages, so we have a quick catch-up before I head back to work. $8.25
5 p.m. — We’re almost out of milk, which we’ll need for our kids. My husband will be home early tonight, so I ask him to grab two gallons on his way home ($8.23). He’s a better cook than me, so he makes dinner for us while I play with the kids and place a pick-up order at Target on my phone for dog food, baby wipes, makeup remover, kid snacks, and dish soap ($56.34). Tonight is the Season two premiere of Ted Lasso which basically qualifies as An Event in our house, and we celebrate with brownies after the kids go to bed. $64.57
Daily Total: $72.82
6:15 a.m. — The kids are awake, so I get up with them while my husband sleeps in (when possible, we try to alternate sleeping in on weekend mornings). After he wakes up, we head to our favorite local coffee shop where we pick up coffee and muffins ($20.03 w/ tip). We visit a local park for a walk with the kids before heading home. $20.03
11 a.m. — My husband will be working for a stretch in the middle of the day, so I take the kids to pick up the Target order I placed ($2 to tip for the person who brings the order to our car). We run by a drive-thru for lunch because our kids are obsessed with the idea of each having their own container of chicken nuggets ($21.05). For about five minutes they think I am mom of the year because I let them each get small lemonades. Thankfully I remembered to pack the silicone straw our daughter uses as her muscle control makes plastic straws not super safe for her, particularly in the car. $23.05
1 p.m. — I play with our daughter while our son naps and mentally make a note to pick up more sidewalk chalk since ours isn’t looking great. It’s too hot to stay outside long so we retreat inside to watch a few minutes of Moana before her brother wakes up. I start our grocery order on my phone. When our son wakes up, the kids and I work on cleaning off our daughter’s wheelchair which is something we do every weekend that both kids are surprisingly into, probably because I occasionally let them use their own spray bottles of water. My husband gets home and I immediately ask him to check out our dishwasher, which has been behaving strangely. Our very old washing machine seems like it might be on its way out, so I’m crossing my fingers that the dishwasher is a simple fix. After 45 minutes and some YouTube videos (what did people do before the internet?), we’re thankfully all set.
6 p.m. — We all eat leftovers for dinner, and I place our grocery pick-up order for tomorrow before it’s time to put the kids to bed. Our kids are in bed, and we work on straightening up the house before a movie and bed around 10. $136.29
Daily Total: $179.37
7 a.m. — The kids are awake and it’s my turn to sleep in while my husband gets up with them. The kids are watching a show together when I wake up, so I use the few minutes to schedule an overdue haircut for our son. We pick up coffee and muffins ($20.03 with tip) and head to the grocery store for the order I placed last night ($2 tip for the person who brings the order to our car). I remember a few things that didn’t make the list, so I run into get them ($18.76) while my husband takes the kids to get gas ($34.19). $74.98
12 p.m. — We make a pretty basic lunch from the new groceries and we all work on putting away laundry while our son naps. It’s cool enough to take our dog for a walk so we take the whole crew outside for a bit, and I finally remember to grab the few books I set aside for the Little Free Library in our neighborhood, which we drop off on our walk.
8 p.m. — After the dinner/bedtime routine, I remember that I need to Venmo a friend for my portion of a group gift. That reminds me that two other friends have birthdays this week, so I grab our stash of birthday cards and stamps to hopefully get those in the mail this week. $23
Daily Total: $97.98
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