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A Week In Denton, TX, On A $96,000 Joint Income

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.
If you make more money than your partner (or vice versa), how do you split spending and expense? 50/50? Proportionate to income? What sounds fair to you? Let us know here to be included in an upcoming story.

Today: a teacher who has a $96,000 joint income and spends some of her money this week on SEEN haircare.
Prices in USD.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 24
Location: Denton, TX
My Salary: $56,000
Husband's Salary: $40,000 (My husband just started a real estate company, so he has no cap commission and is early into his business ownership, so he can make more some months and less other months.)
Net Worth: -$44,500 ($3,500 in savings, $2,000 in cryptocurrency, minus debt.)
Debt: $50,000 in student loans (I haven't started paying my student loans yet, but we are trying to get our savings to $6,500 and then pay off $5,000 while they aren't accruing interest because of COVID. Once we get back to $6,500 in savings, we will pay off another $5,000. We should be able to pay the first $5,000 off in June.)
My Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,700
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000
Car Payment: $340
Utilities: $200
WiFi: $35
Hulu: $13
Disney+: $8
Tolls: $30
Gym: $26
Car/Renters Insurance: $185
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, there was an expectation for me to attend higher education. I don't think my dad would have been too upset if I didn't go to college if I decided instead to get something like a real estate certification or cosmetology degree — he really supports the grind. However, my mother was a first-generation college graduate, so it was very important to her that I attend college. My parents were able to pay for half of my undergrad, but I had to take out loans for the remainder. They also did not pay for my teaching certification, I had to take out loans for that. Fortunately, my parents did pay for my housing until my senior year of college when I moved in with my then-boyfriend (now husband).
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up talking about money was hard and it's still hard for me to talk about money. My parents definitely have a "started from the bottom now we're here" story. When I was born, they were very young. My mom was still in college and my dad was in the military, so we didn't have a lot of money. We lived in apartments until my mom became a teacher and my dad completed his service. After that, we still had money issues and my sister was born, so my parents had two mouths to feed. Long story short, we ended up moving to a place with more financial opportunities and my dad eventually got his dream job when I was in high school and my mom has climbed her way up the educational ladder, so their financial dreams have really come true. However, when I was growing up, especially elementary through early high school, money was tight and I remember my dad stressing about money a lot. I'm so happy they finally have financial peace and their story does inspire my husband and me to achieve our goals. My parents, especially my dad, have always been very honest with me about the importance of saving, working hard, and budgeting.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was babysitting. I babysat all throughout middle school and high school. It surprisingly became pretty steady and good income because I was able to start charging anywhere from $15-$20/hr. My first W2 job was as a hostess at a restaurant and I got it to start paying for gas for my car. I hated that job and babysitting paid more, so it didn't last long.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, I did. I knew my family and I would never go without, but I saw my dad stress out about money a lot. Luckily, we did go to an awesome church that would donate clothes for me and I loved it because hand-me-downs are the best. I was an early thrifter, lol! I just remember getting really worried and sad when my dad would get super anxious about money. My parents also had a lot of debt, so even when they did make more, they had lots to pay off.
Do you worry about money now?
Not as much. I am so thankful to have a job during COVID-19. When my husband and I first got married, we were broke as a joke. That was the most stressed I've ever been about money because we were paying rent, utilities, and a car payment all on our own with very little income. But for the past year, I haven't worried about money as much. I would say I'm more money-conscious now, especially as we learn more about investing.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent at 21. I wouldn't say that I have a financial safety net. If things got really bad, my parents would help us out, but I would never ask. I hate asking for money.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Nope, I wish.

Day One

4:15 a.m. — My husband, J., and I wake up to our very loud and vibrantly annoying alarm. We've recently been going to the gym at 5 a.m. so that we can have evenings to ourselves to watch TV, read, and hang out. It never gets easier waking up at 4:15. At the gym, I have notecards with different workouts that J. made for me. I choose the notecard that focuses on legs, glutes, and back. We leave sweaty. We stop by Walgreens to grab some dishwashing soap and thankfully this one is 24 hours because it's only 5:50 in the morning. $2.50
6 a.m. — We get back from the gym and both get ready for work. J. works from home, but he still gets ready with me, which is very sweet. I spray my hair with water and scrunch a little mousse into it. I finish getting ready and we sit down to have more coffee. I recently got cocoa mushroom latte mix from Golde, so I have been frothing that into some oat milk and having it in my coffee. We always do bible study together in the mornings while we have coffee and then I am out the door.
12:30 p.m. — It's been a good day of learning! I've been physically back on campus this whole school year, but our desks have shields and we all are required to wear masks. We also sanitize the desks and classes frequently. For lunch, I have a cabbage, bone broth, and chicken soup that I made over the weekend. It honestly doesn't taste very good. I enjoy having bone broth because it's so good for you, but it doesn't have the best flavour on its own, so I should have seasoned my broth more.
4 p.m. — Time to head home! Yay! J. and I just started watching Married At First Sight and we are obsessed. The drama! The love! The comedy! Everything you want in some good ole reality TV. J. makes quesadilla burgers and they are delicious. I have been really wanting to try SEEN haircare, so I decide to splurge. I really need to start a YouTube channel and talk about all the things I have tried with my own money! Lol! Recently, my scalp has been sort of irritated, so I hope the SEEN products work for me! $65
8:30 p.m. — In order to wake up at 4:15 a.m. tomorrow we have to go to bed early, so I do my nightly skincare ritual. I wash my face, apply toner, repair serum, and moisturizer. I am usually pretty good about staying consistent with balancing actives, skin repair, and hydration for my skin. Tonight, I just hydrate and repair because I did a retinol serum yesterday.
Daily Total: $67.50

Day Two

4:15 a.m. — Alarm goes off. Bleh. Do we really have to work out? I look over at J. and he doesn't want to get up either. Reluctantly, we get up and get ready for the gym. Today's workout includes some intervals on the treadmill and resistance band exercises. I am going to be sore.
7 a.m. — As I head to work, I call my mom. I try to call her most days on my way to work because my parents live a few hours away. We catch up. I have gotten her into hair and skincare, so she updates me about her wash day. Her hair is relaxed, so I have been learning how to take care of her relaxed hair on YouTube. Being mixed, everyone in my family has a different hair texture, curl pattern, and hair colour. It's been a struggle trying to find all of our different hair needs, but luckily I enjoy researching and testing products. I've been trying to get my sister to embrace her curls more, but she is in high school at a predominately white school so she feels pressure to straighten her hair all the time. After catching up with my mom, I arrive at school and prepare for the day. I write my objectives on the board, check emails, put in a few grades until my first class starts.
12:45 p.m. — Lunchtime! Today, I packed old-fashioned oats, peanut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, and blueberries for lunch. I don't usually have time or any desire to eat breakfast, so I just eat my first meal at this time. I love to ask my students what they have for lunch and it's always much better than me! I text J. a bunch of memes that I find hilarious and he memes me back. Memes are our love language. I finish the day with my planning period, so I spend time organizing my class, grading, and catching up on work.
4:15 p.m. — On my way home from work I call J. and we laugh about the memes we sent each other. He says that we only have pork chops in the fridge to make, but we aren't feeling pork chops, so I pick him up when I get home and we head to Kroger. We decide on ribeyes ($11) and these noodles ($4) that are made of heart of palm. Thankfully, the store isn't packed and we get in and out quickly. $15
6:30 p.m. — I make the steaks, a salad with my famous homemade dressing, and the noodles. We wash down dinner with some plain seltzer water and snuggle on the couch to start Married At First Sight. J. has had a stressful week with a buyer, so he has to take some work calls, and I pass out on the sofa. He gently wakes me, and we go get ready for bed. Lights out. I'm exhausted and my body is so sore. Everywhere.
Daily Total: $15

Day Three

6:15 a.m. — Thank god it's Thursday! We don't go to the gym today because we are in desperate need of a recovery day. We sleep until 6 a.m. and J. makes us some americanos. They are delicious. We do bible study and then I head to work. I call my mom. My parents have a weekly date night, so she tells me about the new date spot they tried last night. They're so cute. They've been married for almost 26 years and they still blush around each other. I arrive at Starbucks for, ashamedly, my second cup of coffee. I've been trying to cut back on how often I go because it really does all add up. We're trying to start saving more, so I can lump sum pay off my student loans. Today, I get a vanilla cream cold brew with an extra shot. It's nearly $7, but I reload $10 onto my Starbucks card so I can get double stars. I get to work and write out my to-do list. I'm the teacher who always has music on, so today my classes are jamming to Talking Heads and Robert Glasper...random, but it works. $10
9:30 a.m. — I power through the morning. The last day of school is only about a month away and I can tell the students are antsy to finish. I work on some presentations and lessons, and dream of lunch. I'm still super sore, so my mobility is suffering! My Apple watch keeps passive-aggressively telling me to stand up and I am not having it. During a little break, I download Acorn to start rounding up my purchases. I'm excited to see just how much I can save. I check the status of my SEEN package on FedEx and it's out for delivery! That was quick. I am so excited to try their new haircare line. Hoping this becomes my holy grail because I have yet to find the perfect products for my hair type.
12 p.m. — Ugh. J. texts me that my SEEN package is opened and missing one of the products. I am disappointed because I was so excited. I quickly reach out to SEEN because that wasn't cheap! For lunch, I have the same meal as yesterday. Rolled oats, flax, chia and hemp seeds, blueberries, and peanut butter. It is honestly not super tasty, but it's good for me and keeps me full. I sip on some sparkling water. I finish my lunch and continue teaching until my planning period.
4:15 p.m. — So exhausted! And it's raining. Bleh. I am excited for the plants to receive their needed nutrients, but I hate driving home in the rain. I call my dad on the way home.
5:30 p.m. — When I get home, J. is hungry and I am, too. We catch up about our days and I start making the pork chops. I make a mustard and dill aioli to cook the pork chops in, and then top them off with more of the aioli. They turn out delicious. I also make a side salad. We curl up and watch Married At First Sight until our eyes get heavy and we head to bed. I'm in a fussy mood because I'm still sort of hungry and super tired. I do my skincare routine adding in actives (the Kate Somerville retinol glycolic serum) and then pass out for the night. Since starting to actually build a skincare regimen, my skin has become so glowy and full of life.
Daily Total: $10

Day Four

6:25 a.m. — Friday! We don't have time to go to the gym today because have to be at a competition for one of my students, so I have to get to school earlier. I stop by Starbucks for a chai tea latte. $4.79
1 p.m. — We are at the competition, so we go grab a bite to eat. We stop by Smashburger and I get a chicken sandwich with avocado and fries. I'm just thankful to not eat oatmeal today for lunch! $9
4:30 p.m. — Yay! Home for the weekend. J. and I head to the gym because we weren't able to this morning. We do a quick HIIT workout and then get tacos. We laugh and crack each other up about our days. I miss him so much during the day. We finish our food and head home. $16.20
7 p.m. — We are having major dessert cravings. We stop by Insomnia Cookies and get a dozen chocolate chip cookies. We head home and plop on the couch for Married At First Sight. $10
10 p.m. — We are drained from the week. Excited to sleep in tomorrow.
Daily Total: $39.99

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I guess we slept in if you can consider waking up at 7:30 a.m. sleeping in. It's so hard to sleep longer than that now. We lay in bed and watch some YouTube videos until we mosey on over to Starbucks. I get a cappuccino and J. gets a plain dark roast coffee. We need it. J. is going out of town with his dad and brother today, so I soak up all the morning time that I have with him before he has to go. $7.50
9 a.m. — J. leaves with his dad and brother. I watch some more Married At First Sight until I finally get off the couch and get my workout clothes on. Not looking forward to this workout, but excited to feel the burn! I also pack a bag of clothes that I've been wanting to sell. Before I buy clothes, I try to first sell or donate clothes that I don't wear anymore. I also always thrift. I really don't want to contribute to fast fashion and I just believe thrifting is a more ethical decision.
11 a.m. — I complete a lower body workout and head to the consignment store. I'm sweaty and gross, but I'm already on this side of town.
12:30 p.m. — I make $30 on my clothes, which I apply to my purchase. I get some workout clothes, two dresses, and two tops. I've been needing some spring clothes to add to my wardrobe. I always get excited to have a "fashion show" for J. when I get new clothes. J. texts me to see what I'm up to and I catch him up on my day and ask him about his boy's day. I'm one of the only people in the store, so it is easy to keep socially distanced. $57
1:30 p.m. — I stop by Smoothie King for a peanut butter post-workout smoothie. I debate whether to grocery shop for the week and get it over with or to wait until tomorrow. I decide to wait. $7
5:30 p.m. — J. comes home! We decide on where to go for dinner and get ready. We go to one of our favourite local restaurants.
6 p.m. — Date night! I'm feeling cute in a one-shoulder top and J. looks so handsome. I order a steak and french fries (classy!) and J. gets a chicken sandwich. I do not think sandwiches count as dinner but to each his own. I get two cocktails and J. gets two beers. We enjoy the meal, pay the waiter, tip, and head back home. $85.98
Daily Total: $157.48

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — We wake up and go to our favourite local coffee shop. It's our tradition. We go every Sunday! We have bible study and just talk for a few hours. I get a lavender latte and J. gets a black drip coffee. It's a beautiful day outside! I love springtime. $7.95
9:30 a.m. — Time to grocery shop! We get beef, chicken, salmon, cauliflower rice, cauliflower crust flatbreads, heart of palm noodles, and stuff for banana pudding for tonight. We also get more paper towels, dish soap, distilled water, a bunch of veggies and fruit, olive oil, peanut butter, tea, sparkling water, and oat milk. Stuff really starts to add up. But I'm glad that we grocery shop for all of the weekdays so we don't have to come back. $160.27
12 p.m. — We stop by our local cafe for lunch. It's a super sweet spot with delicious lunchtime foods. I get crepes and J. gets a club sandwich. Yum! $29.90
2 p.m. — J.'s family invited us over for dinner, so I make a banana pudding to bring for dessert. I let my banana pudding chill and we watch TV. I want to take a nap, but it's too bright outside, so I get ready to go to his parent's house.
4:30 p.m. — We head out. We jam to music on the car ride. J. is a fabulous musician and he has introduced me to so much good music.
6 p.m. — My mother-in-law makes a roast, mac and cheese, homemade bread, devilled eggs, and salad. Everything tastes delicious. We hang out outside in the beautiful sunset.
Daily Total: $198.12

Day Seven

4:30 a.m. — We begrudgingly wake up and head to the gym. We do a back workout and feel the burn!
6:30 a.m. — I get ready for work, do bible study, and have coffee. Monday blues are real today. I call my mom while I drive and we catch up.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch includes oatmeal, berries, flax seeds, and peanut butter. I work the rest of the day and prepare for a meeting later this afternoon.
4:30 p.m. — Time to go home! I'm running low on gas, but decide to get some tomorrow. I call J. and we talk about our days until I get home.
7 p.m. — J. makes cauliflower pizza and salmon — it's delicious! We watch some more Married At First Sight until we get sleepy.
8:30 p.m. — I do my skincare routine, brush my hair, and we doze off into dreamland. Goodnight.
Daily Total: $0
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