Welcome to Money Diaries , where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
This week, we're looking at moms and their spending during the back-to-school rush. Per Deloitte, in the United States alone,
back-to-school season is the second biggest shopping season of the year, "touching 29 million households and accounting for $27 billion in sales." Since women are usually responsible for household purchases, wherever they are in the country or in the world, we want to see what it's like for women with children of a variety of ages, in a variety of locations.
First up this week: a human resources manager who makes $48,222 per year, and spends some of it this week on loaves of rye bread and prescription drugs.
Editor's Note: All prices have been converted to the U.S. dollar using conversion figures at the time her diary was submitted. Some text has been adapted to American English.
Occupation: Human Resources Manager Industry: Non-Profit Age: 31 Location: Calgary, Alberta Salary: $48,222/year Paycheck (Biweekly): I'm on maternity leave and get $962 biweekly. My husband earns between $2,500 and $3,500 biweekly. We also receive a Canadian Child Tax Benefit of $735.76/month.
Monthly Expenses Housing Costs: $552.18 for an accelerated biweekly mortgage amount Car Payment: $218.03 biweekly. No student loans, thank god. I worked two jobs in university and had scholarships.
All Other Monthly Expenses Line of Credit Interest: $130. We are paying off our LOC as fast as possible as the bank of Canada is likely raising interest rates again this fall. Life Insurance: $58 Bank Fee: $4 for overdraft protection Utilities: Typically, between $280 and $330 for electricity, water, gas, and city services. We have rain barrels and high efficiency bulbs to keep it as low as we can. Phone Bills: $250/month for two cellphones RESP Contribution: We put away $300/month for our children's education. They are currently 10 weeks old, 2.5 years old, and 5.5 years old. Right now, we have $11,000 saved. Netflix: $10/month Home & Auto Insurance: $255/month for our house and one car. My husband has a work vehicle that is paid for through his full-time job. He uses our personal vehicle for our small electrical/HVAC company. Internet: $90/month Gym Membership: Free for me and the kids through my work.
7:30 a.m. — We wake up, and I'm super tired. My husband was up working for our company until midnight last night, so I had all three kids by myself. They did not want to sleep. I make breakfast for everyone (yogurt and homemade granola, and a chocolate hemp heart smoothie for me), but my husband skips out because he has to leave for his full-time job. I check my banking app on my phone and realize that my maternity leave payment has come in. In Canada, we receive 15 weeks of maternity leave job protection and 37 weeks of parental leave (either parent can take it), and we receive a percentage of our income during this time. I love being a working mother, but I am concerned about the cost of daycare when I go back after my mat leave. To test-drive whether we can swing it, I am taking all my maternity leave money and applying it to our Line of Credit and savings. I'm surprised by how little I feel the shift in our spending.
10 a.m. — I've cleaned up and put the baby down for a nap. I go through our pantry and fridge to determine what I will need to get for groceries this week. My husband was laid off during my last maternity leave for three months when the economy crashed in our city. We worked like crazy to make sure that we didn't go into debt. During that time, I started meal planning so that I would only need a couple of ingredients each week and to cut down on food waste; we've stuck to it since then. After I finish, I go through the list of items that my son will need when he starts kindergarten in September. He was gifted a backpack for his birthday that he loves. After going through our craft supplies, I realize that we have everything we will need, which saves us a trip. I decide to use my last few minutes of freedom during baby's nap to email my daycare and check how much we will pay monthly when I go back to work. 3 p.m. — We eat lunch at home while my daughter naps, and I do some bookkeeping for our small company. I sold a couple of items through a garage sale last week and both buyers are picking up today. It feels nice to have less stuff cluttering up my house, and I also like the $60 that's left behind. I live close to a playground and a grocery store that's more expensive than the grocery store we typically use, but it's worth it to go when we need a walk. After the kids play for an hour in the park, we buy groceries: two rye bread loaves, yogurt, milk, almond milk for smoothies, coconut milk, tofu, butter, sour cream, chocolate chips and walnuts ($53.34). On the walk home, I stop by the gas station to grab a new cord for our iPad ($10). For whatever reason, the gas station cords last longer. We get home and I make one of the freezer meals I made before the baby arrived. We eat dinner and then it's baths and bed. My husband works late into the night for our company again. $63.34 Daily Total: $63.34
5 a.m. — The baby woke up so early this morning and I'm exhausted. Over coffee, yogurt, and granola, I check our financial tracking app on my phone. My husband got paid and we only have a few more bills coming this month. I've tracked all my maternity leave benefits and the top-up from work (they give me more pay to "top-up" what I get from the government during the medical portion of my leave). We have enough in the account that I can make another payment into our Line of Credit. I move $962 over. I couldn't do this in the month he was born because we had extra expenses like a newborn photographer and property taxes.
$962 9:30 a.m. — My midwife comes for the last appointment with the baby and me; public healthcare covers the cost of all our care. We both get a clean bill of health and I give her a gift to say thank you. This is my last baby, and after she helped me give birth to two of my children, I feel a little sad to say goodbye. She gives me a referral for a postpartum support company that provides childcare for older children. It's $20 an hour, but I don't have parents and my in-laws are not particularly helpful. I groan at the idea of another cost, but I feel burnt out and will likely need a break in the coming weeks. 6 p.m. — We head to my husband's cousin's farm tonight so that he can give them a quote on their new house from our company. I got an email from my daycare saying that childcare will cost $2,600 a month after I go back to work. If I stay at the same job, I will make $386 a month. I feel sick to my stomach. I definitely need to find a new job. I want to keep working because I love my profession, but now I feel like I might be forced to stay home. I feel very torn. We stop at the liquor store on the way and I grab beer as a house gift. When we get there, I try to enjoy the barbecue and our night, and not think about my work situation. $17.91 Daily Total: $979.91
9:30 a.m. — My husband lets me sleep in. When I wake up, I get up and quickly make a coffee cake. Our neighbors are coming over this morning for coffee and to discuss work on their house that they would like our company to do. After they leave, we decide to hit up a public beach 45 minutes away, since most of the beaches in our city are restricted to community members. We pack everyone up and I grab snacks we have on hand. The beach is great and the kids have a blast. I feel like bringing a newborn to a beach is like bringing a vampire to the beach, so it's challenging — but he's super smiley and the day out is good for all of us.
6 p.m. — We leave the beach late and decide to pick up takeout on the way home. We're craving sushi but it's pricey, so we stop at a grocery store that does a great job of making rolls and sashimi. We get six different rolls and a big watermelon for desert. After we finish dinner and the kids are in bed, we stay glued to our phones to find out everything that's happening in Charlottesville. I am American-Canadian, and I'm angrily crying by the time we head up to bed. $41.22 Daily Total: $41.22
9 a.m. — My husband watches the kids while I sleep in; he will get to nap this afternoon so we both feel human. I eat breakfast — another chocolate hempseed smoothie and rye toast with peanut butter and honey. While I tidy up with the baby in his carrier, I notice that our cell phone bill has arrived. I can't wait until my husband's contract expires so that we can get a cheaper plan for him since he has a phone through his full-time job. My sister-in-law texts to let me know that she's grabbing fruit from the Okanagan Valley. We haven't been able to go on a vacation with the new baby, and I miss the peaches, cherries, and plums we always bought on vacation. I ask her to grab some for us, and I'll e-transfer her $75. I'll end up freezing a lot of it for smoothies.
5:30 p.m. — After lunch, playing outside, and naps for everyone, we wake up really late. No way can I do the meal I planned now! My husband takes our eldest children to the store to pick up something quick for dinner. They get croissants, bacon, tomatoes, black beans (I need them for a recipe tomorrow), hash browns, lettuce, deli meat, and as a nice surprise, flowers for me. We eat breakfast for dinner and talk more about the upcoming cost of daycare. I need to relax and enjoy my last maternity leave, but I'm worried about what I am going to do. My ideal situation is to get a job where I can cover all our expenses, and my husband can only work for our company. I'm tired of seeing him work so much. We play with the kids to burn off their energy and end up going to bed late. $53.23 Daily Total: $53.23
7 a.m. — My son wakes up while my husband is getting ready for work. By some miracle, the baby is still sleeping. My brother-in-law brought over the fruit late last night, and we devour it all for breakfast. I check my financial app on my phone and notice that the car payment has come out. It is the first time I've had a car payment — I usually drive used vehicles into the ground — but we had to get a larger vehicle when we found out we were pregnant with our third child. (We only planned on having two. Oops.) I let my husband know that we need to watch our spending until he gets paid again because I put so much toward our Line of Credit. Today will be a long day with my husband meeting potential clients tonight. Plus, because it's rainy, we have to hang out inside the house. I make mango green bean and tofu curry and try to fight my kids into bed until my husband gets home at 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0
7:30 a.m. — I am starting to feel sleep deprived, so after we eat breakfast (rye toast and sour cherry jam, peaches, and cherries), I pop a prenatal vitamin. It isn't the brand I took during my pregnancy. I was so nauseated then that I had to take chewables. I instantly feel sick and end up puking with the baby strapped to my chest — not a great experience. I check Amazon and see that lots of women have had the same experience. I tell my husband over the phone and he sweetly orders me more chewable prenatals off Amazon. I hope they make a difference in my energy level.
$22.65 2:30 p.m. — My mother-in-law comes over to watch the kids while I go for an ultrasound of my foot. I injured it while I was in labor and my doctor thinks that I tore a ligament. The diagnostic center is packed and I read that they offer both services — paid-for Alberta healthcare, and private, faster service. I love free healthcare and think it is a universal right. It makes me uncomfortable how many private clinics are popping up. My guess is that the guy huffing in the corner over his five-minute wait is going the private route. The tech doing my exam is extremely pregnant and I cringe when I tell her that I injured myself while I was in labor. 3.15 p.m. — My husband forgot to buy a couple of things when he went to the store last. I have some coupons from the gas station by our house where we fill up that will cover our groceries, so we go there. After coupons and sales, I don't spend very much on three big containers of yogurt, Bragg's, and a can of coconut milk for curry tonight. I get home and make squash with black bean and coconut-lime rice burritos for dinner. My mother-in-law lingers to chat and ask about my husband doing a bunch of handyman work at her rental property. She calls almost every day. I try to delicately tell her that I've hardly seen him in the last month and that he doesn't have time. She doesn't get it — and even though the tasks she describes are unnecessary or can be easily done by her, she insists that it's all urgent. She doesn't want to spend money on a handyman either. (Cool, because him driving across the city is free?) I'm over it and change the subject. He will have to talk with her himself. $15.60 Daily Total: $38.25
9 a.m. — Everyone woke up early and now the baby is down for his first nap. I do some bookkeeping and billing for our company, keeping in mind that our year-end taxes are due. We usually pay ourselves dividends each year (at most, we paid ourselves $2,000 one year), but with a new company and no business loan, we haven't made much. Over coffee, granola, and yogurt, I see that our car and home insurance has come out. I think about having to get a second vehicle and pay a second car insurance amount each month after I go back to work. I decide to check a couple of websites to see what others in my profession make, and I'm a little more optimistic that I can continue to be a working mother.
3 p.m. — My husband comes home early so I can go and get my filling fixed at the dentist. Public healthcare doesn't cover dentistry unless it's life or death, so it comes out of the insurance we get from our employers. I'm sure that my work has cut my benefits at this point and I am pretty nervous about what the bill will be. I drive downtown, pay for parking ($3), and am relieved to get the filling fixed. My filling fell out the day after my son was born and I just laughed, knowing that it would be hell to find the time to get it fixed. The receptionist takes my husband's insurance number and my credit card number for what isn't going to be covered. I should know the cost by tomorrow. $3 5:30 p.m. — On my way home, my husband calls asking me to buy ingredients for taco salad that he didn't realize he'd need before he started cooking. I stop at the store and grab sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and because it will make my oldest son excited, fudge ice cream bars. I get home, we quickly eat, and then we make our way to a doctor's appointment. My husband has an infection in his elbow joint that hasn't cleared since he took antibiotics, and I am concerned that I gave my baby thrush by breastfeeding. Two adults and three kids in an exam room will be a straight up circus, but my doctor is very compassionate and wants to see us all at once. $23.29 7:30 p.m. — My doctor assesses all of us and then writes out the needed prescriptions. I quickly run to the pharmacy to get everything filled while my husband waits with the kids in the car. My benefits don't work anymore, so we end up paying some of the cost of the drugs we need. It's both funny and not that we all have some weird sickness right now. After we get home, we take our doses of medication and then crash in bed. $36.82 Daily Total: $63.11
Editor's Note: All prices have been converted to the U.S. dollar using conversion figures at the time her diary was submitted. Some text has been adapted to U.S./American English. Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior. The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here. Have a money diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following themes: 1. High Earners: We've looked at how people living on the U.S. median personal income are spending. Now, we also want to know how those who earn above-average salaries make things work. Are you a woman making six figures on your own, or combine your earnings with a partner? Whether you're frugal, tend to spend more, or have in-depth budgeting routines, we want to hear from you! Submit it to us here. 2. Teachers: Whether you're an adjunct professor, a preschool teacher, a tenured boss, or anywhere in between, we want to know how you make your money work for you! Submit it to us here.