A Week In Houston On A $108,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennial women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.)

Today, a food- and fitness-obsessed engineer showing up to work hungover and taking on a mortgage so her husband can pay for business school.

Photo: Getty Images.
Industry: Oil & Gas
Age: 28
Location: Houston, TX
Salary: $108,000 + 5% living supplement with up to 12% annual bonus. My husband’s salary is $120,000 with up to 8% annual bonus. We keep our finances separate though, so I really only have access to my salary, and we take turns paying for things.
Paycheck Amount (2x a month): $2,353.08 (after health care, taxes, parking, 401(k) and Roth IRA contributions, LTD insurance, and supplemental life insurance are taken out)
# of roommates: two, a husband and an extremely needy labradoodle.

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,750 mortgage payment. I currently pay all of it, since my husband is in an extremely pricey private business school, and we are trying to avoid taking out a loan; his salary covers the school payments.
Utilities: Husband pays utility bills.
Cable/Internet/Phone: $270.37. We bundled our cable, internet, and home phone, and the cost is about equal to our utility bills. Yes, I know we are getting ripped off, but we love HBO and fast internet.
Cell Phone Bill: I pay my parents $50/month for my cell phone, which is still on the family plan.
Transportation: husband pays car insurance, $60/month for parking.
Health Insurance: $40.60 for health and dental, plus $279.16 into an HSA each month. I pay an additional $16.28 for long-term disability and additional life insurance per month as well.
Savings: $1,075 pre-tax into a 401k account, $1,031.22 into an after-tax Roth account (both taken directly from my paycheck), plus an additional $1,000 per month to personal savings from what I consider my “real” money
Gym: $30/month through work, plus $260/month in personal training sessions
Dog Day Care: $150/five weeks
Dog Grooming: $145
Amazon Prime: $89/year. So worth it.

Day One

8 a.m. — Walk the dog to our usual weekend coffee place, get two iced lattes and two BBQ brisket kolaches (not the Czech kind — the Texas kind, which is kind of like a pig in a blanket but with various types of meat. So delicious, so bad for you). We get a free latte today for filling up our loyalty card, which happens far too frequently. $15.50

10 a.m. — Go to the grocery store to pick up food for a BBQ at our friends’ house, and for the rest of the week. On the menu for the week is: sweet ginger chicken thighs with roasted veggies (three meals each for lunch); meatloaf burgers topped with caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce with roasted green beans (two meals each); lemon garlic fish with roasted potatoes (two meals each), and red curry pork with snow peas, carrots, and bamboo shoots over rice (two meals each). We pick up ingredients for spinach artichoke dip and rosemary lemonade to bring to the BBQ tonight, plus a six-pack of craft beer, which makes the weekly grocery shop a bit more expensive. We also grab milk, eggs, and other essentials. I pay (my husband and I trade off). $113

12 p.m. — We eat leftover spaghetti with garlic bread from last week’s dinners for lunch.

6 p.m. — Head to our friend’s BBQ to eat smoked pork and ribs along with spinach artichoke dip. We ended up spiking our lemonade with bourbon, and it was a huge hit — and extremely boozy, so we stay out way too late.

Daily Total: $128.50


Day Two

8 a.m. — Wake up and make breakfast. We eat some eggs, French press coffee, and some frozen waffles. We're trying to clean our our freezer before Friday to make room for a quarter of a steer and a lamb that I bought at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is a charitable organization that helps provide scholarships for kids. You pay fair market value per pound of meat, and then an additional amount as contribution for scholarships, the latter of which is tax deductible. I paid about $1,000 for 60 pounds of meat, but I get to deduct $900 of that from my taxes.

10 a.m. — Head to REI to check out hiking gear for a trip to Peru later this year. We’re hiking the Inca trail, so this is definitely not a normal purchase. Buy two pairs of hiking boots and two pairs of wool socks for my husband and myself. I pay for everything, and hubby agrees to buy the backpacks at a later date. Why is being active so expensive? At least everything is on sale. $289

12 p.m. — Grab lunch at Chipotle on our way home because we’re starving and I have a BOGO coupon that expires today. So one burrito and a burrito bowl with guac only comes to $7.

2 p.m. — Head to a friend’s place to take advantage of her pool and lay out. She provides drinks, but I only have one beer because it’s way too hot out to really drink. I mostly stick to water.

6 p.m. — Make dinner of roasted potatoes and lemon-garlic fish. Also prep the marinade for the ginger chicken to throw on the grill tomorrow and cook all the veggies for lunch.

7:45 p.m. — Run to a local ice cream place for some snacks prior to Game of Thrones tonight (we’re obsessed and, fun fact, I walked down the aisle to an acoustic version of the GoT theme song; it sounds amazing). Coffee and salted caramel for the hubs and chocolate brownie over a unicorn-bait cookie (sugar with rainbow sprinkles) for me. $12

Daily Total: $308

Day Three

8 a.m. — Make scrambled eggs and hash browns for breakfast at home before walking the dog.

12 p.m. — Make the meatloaf burgers for lunch with the roasted green beans. Finish prepping lunches for the week while doing laundry.

3 p.m. — Attempt to walk the dog to a local brewery to hang out and cash in a few free pitchers of beer that we’ve collected, but it’s closed for the Memorial Day holiday. Settle for grabbing two six-packs of beer from the corner store and relaxing in our backyard. $22

7 p.m. — Make pork curry for dinner with groceries from earlier in the week.

Daily Total: $22

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Back to the office. Buy a latte from the Starbucks kiosk in the office (they have almond milk!) after dealing with the post-holiday traffic on the way to work this morning (Houston drivers are the worst). Bring a bagel from home to eat. $4

12 p.m. — Go to a workout class in the work gym over lunch and almost die since I took the past five days off. Drink a protein shake after (I keep a huge tub that I got on Amazon Prime in my office). They are so gross, but I need the protein.

1:30 p.m. — Heat up sad desk lunch of the grilled ginger chicken and veggies. The Brussels sprouts got soggy in the reheat. Gross. But I still eat them.

2 p.m. — Work is having an ice cream social to boost morale, since oil has been low for so long. Snag a bottle of water and a kind of disappointing dark chocolate ice cream bar.

5:30 p.m. — Walk the dog then start dinner prep. Lemon-Parmesan-crusted fish with the leftover potatoes from day two and a beer from day three.

Daily Total: $4

Day Five

6 a.m. — Head to the work gym for a personal training session. These are like $32.50 for 30 minutes, so pricey but worth it, and I buy the bulk 20-class pack about once every other month, so I’m still using up classes on my last pack. I drink another protein shake afterwards.

8:30 a.m. — Toast an English muffin that I brought from home and coat it in vanilla almond butter that I keep at my desk.

9 a.m. — Cave and get a latte at the Starbucks kiosk with a coworker. $4

11 a.m. — Head home to meet the mobile groomer and eat lunch. Our labradoodle is very high-maintenance, and Houston is hot as balls in the summer, so the dog gets a cut every four weeks. And he always looks just like a bobble-head afterward, because we keep his head hair longer. While the dog is getting his groom on, I heat up a leftover meatloaf burger and green beans for lunch. I burn the bun for my burger in the toaster, but eat it anyway. Groom is $115 plus a $30 tip, so $145. This is really a monthly expense that happened to fall on this week.

12:30 p.m. — Stop by the coffee shop a block from our house because I need to break a $20 to have a $5 bill for my Bunco group tonight. Use it as an excuse to get an iced latte and a peanut-butter-cup doughnut. This place is expensive, but it’s local, and the staff members are super sweet. $6.50 + $1.50 tip, so $8.

2 p.m. — Split the doughnut with a coworker.

5 p.m. — Head home and walk the dog in between rainstorms. Stop to chat with some neighbors and am gifted with a Wamosa (watermelon juice and champagne). Score!

7 p.m. — Bunco night. Last year, a group of 12 from my neighborhood started getting together and playing Bunco, taking turns hosting. Tonight, we are playing Pokeno instead. Wine and light bites are provided by the hostess. There’s a $5 buy-in, but tonight I am the big winner, so I get my $5 back, plus an extra $20. And I end up good and tipsy because we decided to turn Pokeno into a drinking game.

Daily Total: $12

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Wake up late and hungover AF. Forget to grab an English muffin on my way out the door for breakfast. Fail.

8:30 a.m. — Grab a latte and coffee cake at the work Starbucks to combat the hangover. $7

9:30 a.m. — I pay a lab invoice from my Ob/Gyn’s office for $17.78, but it comes out of my HSA account, so no real cost to me. I also get an email reminding me that my dog is almost out of doggy-day-care days. The spoiled pooch goes every Friday, so I can feel less guilty going out on Friday nights instead of to the dog park. $150 for a five-pack of day-care passes, calculated in monthly expenses; I love my dog to death, but he’s a pricey little booger. Pet ownership is expensive.

12 p.m. — Lunch workout class. Nearly died again. I need to step up my cardio. Drink a protein shake after.

2 p.m. — Lunch of grilled chicken and veggies again.

3:30 p.m. — Grab another latte with a coworker while we creep on the rain from the skywalk over downtown Houston. We end up being really lame and taking an "ussie" (a selfie with more than one person), but you can’t even tell it’s raining in the pic. $4

7 p.m. — Reheat leftover pork curry and rice for dinner. My husband is on campus studying tonight, so I plan to stay in and watch some online web-design tutorials.

8 p.m. — My friend calls, and she’s had a rough week at work. It’s finally stopped raining, so we agree to meet up for margaritas. I take an Uber, and she picks an expensive place. I’m glad I at least already ate dinner. $34

Daily Total: $45

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Drop the dog off at doggy day care. I have to get gas on my way into the office, and I am one of those people who will run the tank down to basically empty before filling up. Drives my husband crazy. $37

9 a.m. — Need a latte because I am once again hungover. So irresponsible. $4

10 a.m. — It’s National Doughnut Day! A few coworkers and I make a trek to claim a free glazed doughnut at one of the Shipleys (Texas doughnut institution) nearby. I pick up a few extra for some other coworkers and have to pay for them. $3

1:30 p.m. — Walk with coworkers to grab a quick bite to eat. Go for an "unwich" from Jimmy Johns since it’s cheap and I can pretend it’s “healthy.” I also get chips and a drink. I try not to go out to lunch, and I should have eaten my chicken, but I ran out of veggies, and it is Friday. $10

4:30 p.m. — Leave the office to pick up my quarter of a steer from a fellow rodeo volunteer’s house. Luckily I’ve already paid for the 30 pounds of steaks. I have two beers and snack on chips and queso while socializing.

7:30 p.m. — Go out to dinner with the husband. We go to a neighborhood place and get wine and a cheese board to split. I order pasta, and hubby gets some sort of sandwich with fries. My husband pays, so we can take advantage of triple points on his Chase Sapphire card. We never combined finances after getting married.

Daily Total: $54
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the price of a latte and doughnut as $7.50. The price has been corrected to $6.50.

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.


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