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A Week In Orange County, California, On A $330,000 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 penny.

Today: an employer brand director who has a joint income of $330,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on $600 worth of ASOS clothing.
Occupation: Employer Brand Director
Industry: Health Tech
Age: 44
Location: Orange County, CA
My Salary: $220,000
My Husband's Salary: $110,000
Net Worth: $450,000 (House value: $1.2 million minus debt. Our net worth is entirely made up of equity in our primary residence. We own no other properties, have no savings, and no 401(k)s. My husband doesn't pay attention to our finances, which are entirely joint across checking and savings. I pay all the bills and handle all of our money and financial decisions.)
Debt: $750,000 ($10,000 credit cards, $40,000 in auto loans, and $700,000 remaining mortgage)
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $4,600
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $6,500
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $4,700
Daughter's Rent: $1,800 (for her apartment at college)
Auto Loans: $1,100 (for my car and my daughter's car, my husband's car is paid off)
Cable & Internet: $250
Streaming Services: $100 (Netflix, Hulu, Apple+, Discovery+, Amazon Prime)
Phones: $200
Utilities: $1,000
Gym: $50
HOA: $285
Auto Insurance: $500
College Tuition: $1,500 (paid monthly towards my daughter's public university)
Health Insurance: $500 (pre-tax)
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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?
I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, and higher education was strongly discouraged by my family and community. My parents would never pay for any education. I was homeschooled from seventh grade onward. I started going to community college in pieces as I worked through the years, learning mostly through experience.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents lived for the moment and had no long-term planning. Their worldview drove a short-term mindset. My dad owned his own company, and my mom worked small jobs when necessary. We lived mostly paycheck to paycheck, but I never wanted for anything. My dad said "credit debt will always be there," something I only recently realised doesn't need to be true. My mom has a distaste for money. She was raised wealthy with an unhappy childhood and associates money with moral and ethical decline. To her, money is a necessary evil and doesn't represent security. My only financial education was when my mom taught me to float a check.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at 15 selling concert tickets at a winery in the little town where I grew up. I was hired by my mom's friend and was surrounded by nurturing, sweet women. I couldn't wait to have a job and make money. It was a great experience in work ethic, and I learned that, through work, I had more options for myself.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I know that bill collectors called and that there were foreclosure notices once, but we travelled and went out to eat a lot and I was never told I couldn't do or have something because of money.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, very much. I am the main breadwinner and haven't saved, so that is stressful.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible living on my own at 19, but I always had my mom to fall back on for money. I met my (older) husband at 20 and had his financial support for years before I worked full-time. We don't have a financial safety net. Worst case we would need to move in with my in-laws.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My husband received a substantial amount of money ($500,000) when his parent passed, and we invested only $40,000 into our home. The rest went to travel and cars and furniture. Something we deeply regret!

Day One

8 a.m. — I order a sesame bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese. Since working from home, I've gotten into the bad habit of ordering a single bagel to be delivered several times a week. The bagel itself is only $4.49, but after the fees, tax, and tip I pay $15.50 for a bagel and cream cheese. I realise that objectively this is ridiculous, but to me, an extra $10 is worth a bagel and cream cheese on-demand in between work calls. $15.50
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2 p.m. — For the life of me, I can't find an organiser/calendar/notebook I like. After a conversation with a coworker, I'm influenced to buy a fancy one (this will be my fourth this year, and it's only February). $75
8 p.m. — TikTok strikes again. I find myself scrolling while watching Ozark and end up on #cleantok. After I've watched five fridge organisation videos, I immediately toggle over to Amazon and buy what I am sure to be life-changing plastic bins for my messy fridge. I can't wait to line up all of my oranges. $88
Daily Total: $178.50

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I accompany my husband to the dentist for his long-overdue root canal. He's nervous, so I keep telling him how brave he is in front of the dentist, which is embarrassing for him, but entertaining to the dentist and his assistant. He is literally triple-insured because I have overlap in my insurance providers this month, yet our portion is still $880. We put it on one of our Amex cards because our checking account is overdrawn. Maybe from yesterday's bagel? $880
2 p.m. — My husband can barely chew but he is craving a tuna sandwich. Which I, of course, can easily order for delivery. I order one for each of us and a small tomato soup as well. Also cookies. $27
8 p.m. — I just started a new job and want to elevate my above-the-waist fashion game for Zoom calls with all of my new colleagues. I order three very cute sweaters from & Other Stories, which will go perfectly with my pyjama bottoms and slippers. $198
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Daily Total: $1,105

Day Three

7 a.m. — My sister-in-law messages our group text that the elementary school where she teaches is hosting a virtual fundraiser tonight. We just need to order from Panda Express online using a special code. I place our order for delivery tonight so I don't forget. We recently became vegetarian, so this is not without its challenges. I order veggie chow mein, veggie rice, spring rolls, and stir fry. $35
1 p.m. — I finished a great book last night, Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney, so I immediately get on Amazon and order another of her books His & Hers. I have always gone broke buying books and I won't stop. $15
7 p.m. — My daughter texts me from college that she needs groceries. She's literally at the store, so I Venmo her $200. I'm still overdrawn so I know this is really going to cost me $235. What is wrong with me? I think as I send it to her. I need to get my sh*t together. $200
Daily Total: $250

Day Four

10 a.m. — Payday for both my husband and myself! I feel rich! My daughter was feeling down yesterday and lonely at college, especially since most of her classes are online, which means she's stuck in her apartment not meeting people. To cheer her up, I go on an online shopping spree at ASOS. I feel a little sick at how much I've spent as I check out, but I know she'll end up returning most of it. I also use a new email to sign up for their newsletter to save 15%. $618
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1 p.m. — I like my new boss's earrings. I find them on Bloomingdale's app and buy them. I'm not sure why I have a Bloomingdale's app. I constantly fill my cart but rarely check out. $55
6 p.m. — It's Friday eve (AKA Thursday)! I use that as an excuse not to cook and order from The Cheesecake Factory: stuffed mushrooms, avocado egg rolls, and Greek salad. $65
Daily Total: $738

Day Five

8 a.m. — I order my Friday bagel for delivery! I also ask my husband to bring me home an iced latte while he's out on an appointment. $21
1 p.m. — I have to consume so much industry news in my new job role, that I want to go old-school and subscribe to physical magazine subscriptions. I'm tired of passively reading so much from my phone at night. Are we so cool now that we can't enjoy a physical magazine anymore? I subscribe to three of the most popular mags. $75
7 p.m. — I told (threatened) my husband last week that I wanted him to make a dinner reservation for us and surprise me. I wasn't surprised by dinner tonight necessarily, but we have a delicious dinner of truffle bread, Italian pasta, and cocktails (grapefruit martini? Whaa?). It's pricey, but worth it, and we're good tippers always! $220
Daily Total: $316

Day Six

9 a.m. — I order groceries to be delivered. I try to plan the menu for the week so that I don't have to think about what I'm going to make for dinner. I order lots of veggies for salads, sweet potatoes for the air fryer, salmon (we do eat some fish), lemons, honey, berries, brie, a French baguette, good olive oil, and fresh pasta. Man, groceries have gotten expensive. $160
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1 p.m. — I fill up my gas tank. That is a lot. Jeez. $85
8 p.m. — We meet friends to see a comic and then grab drinks and dessert after. We split the bill, even though I'm pretty sure we drank more. $120
Daily Total: $365

Day Seven

10 a.m. — I see an Instagram video with a laundry hack to wash all your socks together in a mesh bag so they don't get separated. Genius! I buy three on Amazon immediately. $15
3 p.m. — I'm trying to only drink Thursday through Saturday, so I need something new for a nighttime beverage. I buy a variety pack of teas and 50 of those little honey sticks on Amazon. $40
6 p.m. — Maybe I do want a glass of wine. I order a couple of bottles for delivery. $65
Daily Total: $120
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.

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