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A Week In North Carolina, On A $87,000 USD Salary

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: a bridge engineer who makes $87,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an orchid.
Currency in USD
Occupation: Bridge Engineer
Industry: Transportation
Age: 28
Location: Raleigh, NC
Salary: $87,000
My Husband's Salary: $84,000 (But we keep our expenses completely separate.)
Net Worth: $310,400: $180,000 in home equity, $127,000 in 401(k), $7000 (savings), $3,000 in stocks minus debt. My husband and I keep our bank accounts separate. Our home expenses are shared 50/50. Everything else is separate.
Debt: $6,600 left on my car, $313,000 left on my mortgage (to be split with my husband)
Paycheque Amount (biweekly): $1,770 (post-deductions/tax)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,800 (includes escrow), $1,400 for my half. Refinanced to 15-year mortgage during the pandemic.
Car Payment: $415
Water: $68
Gas: $18-$200
Car Insurance: $110
Cell Phone: $160
401(k): $736 biweekly, approx. 22%
Pandora: $5
Investments: $100
Electricity: ~$100 (husband pays)
Google Fibre: $70 (husband pays)
Climbing Gym: $125 (husband pays)
HBO Max: $15 (husband pays)
Netflix: my sister pays for the family
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?
Attending college was expected, but it wasn't common in my hometown. My dad grew up farming chickens and attended community college. My mom was very poor growing up and struggled through college, but graduated with a degree in computer science. I was interested in engineering in high school and knew early on that I would need to go to college. I also wanted to leave my small hometown as soon as possible. My parents really wanted to pay for my college tuition. When deciding where to go, my parents said they could pay for the large in-state school or I would have some debt attending a private school. I chose the large public university and am very happy that I did.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom was fairly open about money when I was in high school. She always said she struggled to save money. She told us that my dad's salary went towards paying bills and the mortgage and her salary went towards paying for my sister and me. My parents always kept their bank accounts separate. My mom has jokingly said that it's prevented them from getting a divorce. Since being on my own. I sometimes ask them for financial advice, but mostly look things up on the internet.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working at a summer camp during college. Pay was $250 a week, but included food and housing. The money was used for extra spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about money growing up. My mom told us lots of stories about her family struggling to pay bills and my family never struggled with that. My hometown is incredibly poor, so having two parents with decent jobs made my family look rich. I didn't realise until my senior year of high school that my parents were some of the few that made over $100,000 combined.
Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I worry about trying to save in case of an emergency, but I don't worry about day-to-day expenses. I track every purchase, but I don't follow a strict budget. My husband doesn't buy much so he's a cushion if I ever needed it. My husband and I have said several times that we are very fortunate to not have to worry about money.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
22, about a month after I graduated college. I started working as a civil engineer right when I graduated. However, my husband paid the deposit for our first apartment. I also had to buy a new (to me) car right when I graduated. My dad paid the first month and he also co-signed on the loan. If something bad happened, I know that my husband has savings to help if we urgently needed it, and my parents would try to help if we were desperate.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No, and I'm not sure I will ever get an inheritance. If I do I don't think it will be a lot. My husband did receive an inheritance out of the blue about a year after we graduated college. It was around $60,000. He bought a condo to rent out and saved the rest. His condo is 100% his. He also used a portion of the money to pay for the down payment on our house.

Day One

8:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off to wake up for work. My husband, E., has already left for work. I ignore my alarm and finally get up at 9. I'm still working from home; we're supposed to go back soon, but we'll see. My morning routine is pretty simple. I brush my teeth, splash water on my face, get dressed, brush my hair, and put deodorant on. I take our dog, K., outside. My neighbor is outside and wants to chat. We talk about the recent state fair. I told him I entered a quilt and won first place. He seems impressed and then tells me about clothing pattern stores from the 60s. Then he goes back to gardening. I feed K. when we get inside and start working.
12:30 p.m. — I finish up work for the day. We work half-days on Friday. I finished a sheet in my bridge plans that is always tricky for me. We have a lot due in the next few months. I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed since I don't think we'll be able to finish the projects in time. I develop a schedule and will try to complete my bridge design and plans by the end of the month. It helps me to have something I need to follow instead of one large deadline months away. Once I'm done with work, I create a poster for an upcoming event for the professional organisation I'm in. Then, I head downstairs for lunch. I meal-prepped earlier this week and have one more portion of chicken with sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli to eat.
1 p.m. — I go run some errands. I got married last month at the courthouse and am holding a dinner reception with friends next weekend. I'm scoping out what flowers the grocery stores have so I know where to go late next week. I go to Costco first to see their selection and to just browse. I didn't love their selection, but the prices are good. Wegmans is next. They are sold out of the flowers I was looking for. Next, I go to Trader Joe's. I like their selection the best, but I would also need to buy vases.
2:30 p.m. — The last store I go to is Walgreens. My health insurance plan gave me a card with $200 on it to buy medical-related items. I forgot about the card but it expires at the end of the month. I browse Walgreens trying to find things I marginally need. I end up with three packs of toilet paper, two Dove deodorants, mouthwash, scar cream, Tums, hydrogen peroxide, Cortisone, Olly vitamins, Neutrogena face wash, and Epsom salt. The actual total is $155, but I pay $14.09. $14.09
3:30 p.m. — Once I finally get home I start tidying up the house a little. I vacuum downstairs and wipe the kitchen counter off. Our friends come over most Friday nights. I haven't heard any official plans yet, but I'm assuming they'll be here. After cleaning, I play Animal Crossing until E. gets home. He takes K. outside and we watch random YouTube videos. It's raining too much to go on a walk.
6:30 p.m. — Our friends arrive at our house. We quickly get in E.'s car and head to dinner. They say it will be about another 20 minutes until our table is ready. It's chilly outside, so we walk around Anthropologie and look at the wedding dresses. For dinner, we have chips and salsa, I have two tacos and a cocktail and E. has a rice bowl. E. pays ($36.88).
8 p.m. — We get back home from dinner and make old fashioneds. We decide to watch Dune so we make some popcorn and start baking gluten-free cookies to snack on while we watch the movie.
11 p.m. — Everyone heads home after the movie is over. E. takes K. outside while I brush my teeth. We go to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $14.09

Day Two

9:30 a.m. — I wake up with K. lying in my spot in bed with his paws in my face, forcing me to squish against E. Once E. is awake, he gets up to play computer games and I stay in bed and cuddle with K. He likes to get under the covers in the morning and spoon. I wake up about an hour later and look at my phone and message my family. My sister, H., just got her application approved for a new apartment. It's a slight increase in price, but she'll get a much larger space.
12 p.m. — I finally get out of bed. I'm not super hungry, so I have Fruity Pebbles for lunch. After lunch, E. and I go to the local garden store. This morning I saw that they were having a sale on mulch so I want to see what they have. I buy 12 bags of mulch and an orchid. I use a $5 coupon from loyalty credit. $37.90
1:30 p.m. — Once we're home, we start putting the mulch out in the flower bed. We quickly realise that 12 bags isn't enough, so we go back to the garden store. The sale ends tomorrow, so I don't want to miss out on the deal. We buy 16 more bags. I have another $5 loyalty credit coupon. $40.57
3 p.m. — We finish mulching the flower bed. E. showers while I vacuum our cars. I take a shower once E. is done.
4 p.m. — Earlier today my friend, T., texted and asked me to pick up a package on her porch. She has a porch pirate problem and is away this weekend. I head to her house after my shower. She lives about 20 minutes away.
5 p.m. — I return from picking up the package and sit on the couch to relax for a few minutes. E.'s parents are visiting tonight to celebrate us getting married and should be here soon.
5:45 p.m. — E.'s family gets here and we head to the restaurant. E. orders devilled eggs as an appetiser. I have striped bass with shrimp, ancient grains, and asparagus. E. gets a pasta dish. He pays for our dinner ($73).
8 p.m. — We get back from dinner and his parents and grandma leave. During dinner our friends, B. and Y., invite us over for drinks and board games. We play Joking Hazard and Exploding Kittens. I have a strawberry shortcake cider. We get home at 12:30 am and go to bed.
Daily Total: $78.47

Day Three

10:30 a.m. — I sleep in more today and relax in bed for a while and look at my phone. Eventually, I get up, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I look at my computer for a few minutes before we decide to get lunch.
1 p.m. — We go to our local Bojangles for lunch. I get an egg and cheese biscuit with fries and sweet tea. E. gets the chicken supreme meal. He pays ($12.32).
2 p.m. — When we get home, we take K. for a walk. It's a nice day outside so we go on a long walk on the greenway behind our house. When we get back home we relax on the patio a few minutes before leaving for the climbing gym.
4:30 p.m. — We finish climbing. I didn't have a lot of energy today and was climbing very cautiously. I broke my leg a few months ago at the climbing gym. I've recovered physically, but sometimes have mental blocks when I climb now.
5 p.m. — When we get home, I start laundry and shower. I start to make dinner while E. cleans the house. I make veggie ravioli with Trader Joe's Everything but the Elote Dip and corn. It's an okay dinner. Not bad, but I thought it would taste better. I don't enjoy cooking and get discouraged when my food tastes bad.
8 p.m. — I have my weekly video call with my parents and little sister, H. The call started during the pandemic and I guess is now permanent. We mostly talk about H.'s new apartment and her new job. She has to give her two-week notice for the first time tomorrow and is nervous about what to say. I complain about my workload.
9:30 p.m. — We end the call because we run out of important things to talk about and my parents want to go to bed. I pour a glass of wine and go upstairs. I play the new Pathfinder computer game. E. and his friend are all playing it so I'm trying to participate. I'm only willing to play it on easy mode though.
11:30 p.m. — Finish playing and get ready for bed. E. takes K. outside and I brush my teeth. I put some PUR acne cream on, brush my teeth, and go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I wake up for work and get ready. I follow my usual morning routine and take D. out and feed him. I spend the morning answering emails related to our other projects and begin working on the next plan sheet for my bridge plans. My sister messages and says she told her boss she was leaving and it went better than expected.
12 p.m. — I have a figure skating lesson today, so I change into my tights and eat leftovers from dinner last night for lunch. I'm running late and I don't have time to finish it all.
12:20 p.m. — I arrive at the ice rink for my lesson and quickly put my skates on. This is my third private lesson since breaking my leg. Fortunately, I didn't lose any of my skills during my time away, but I'm still skating timidly. During my lesson, I do a really good camel spin. It's just now starting to look like an actual spin and not me just flailing around. It's $30 for a 30-minute lesson and $10 for the ice time. $40
2 p.m. — I get home and start working again. I try to finish the current plan sheet I'm on before 2:30, but don't quite make it.
2:30 p.m. — Last week I made an appointment to get a quote on new siding on our house. The man is very friendly and helpful. We mostly talk about the crazy real estate market in the area. He takes measurements and says he'll come back in a few days to review the quote with me. I'm pretty sure I don't have enough saved for new siding at the moment but I like knowing the numbers so I can plan for it.
3 p.m. — I spend the rest of the afternoon working. I finally finish the plan sheet I've been working on and move on to the next one. These sheets are a lot of drafting and are slow to finish. The next few sheets should go much quicker since I'll be able to copy previous drawings.
5 p.m. — E. gets home from work so I stop working. We take K. on a walk. Once we get home, E. showers and I sit on the couch and scroll through Instagram. I also browse through the Boden catalog that just arrived today. It's the only place I buy clothes these days. There are a few items I like right now but I'll try to wait until they go on sale before I buy them.
7 p.m. — E. leaves to go play board games/D&D with his friends. He's been doing this every Monday for years. I like having a night to myself. I make Trader Joe's Fiocchetti for dinner. After dinner, I work on my puzzle more while my food digests.
8 p.m. — I need a break from my puzzle so I decide to go to Joann Fabric to see what vases they have for flowers. I wasn't expecting much, but they don't have many options and the ones they do have aren't my favourite. While I'm there, I remember I need buttons for a needlepoint project. I grab a small pack of buttons and use a 40% off coupon at checkout. Since I'm close by, I stop by Lidl. Sometimes they have the random thing I'm looking for. They do have a vase that's kind of cool, but I don't like the colour so I skip it. $1.29
9 p.m. — I get home later than I expected. Since I have the buttons, I work on my needlepoint project. I'm making a biscornu. I've never made one, but I'm happy with the final result. It makes a cute little pincushion. I share my biscornu on Facebook with the ladies I'm in a needlepoint club with. The average age of the club is around 70, but everyone is really friendly and it's been a great way to learn about different types of needlepoint.
9:30 p.m. — I write the names of the guests for Saturday's wedding reception dinner on table markers. The paper has wildflowers in it and is supposed to grow flowers if you plant the paper. I'm not sure if it really works, but at least it should decompose.
10 p.m. — I pour a glass of wine and play Animal Crossing. E. gets home around 11 and takes K. outside. We go upstairs and head to bed.
Daily Total: $41.29

Day Five

9 a.m. — Wake up a little late. I have my weekly meeting with my manager this morning. We also have our monthly one-on-one goal meeting. I find the one-on-one meetings very repetitive. My goals don't really change month to month. During our meeting he mentioned that I could be the engineer of record on one of our current projects. I've had my PE license for two years and this would be the first time I'd be the engineer of record. Sealing plans makes me nervous. After the meeting, I continue to work on my bridge plans.
12:30 p.m. — I have leftover ravioli again for lunch. I spend the rest of my lunch break watching a YouTube video about house siding and work on my puzzle.
5 p.m. — E. gets home and takes K. outside. He starts working out downstairs while I finish up a few things for work. Once I'm done, I join him downstairs. We watch an SNL video while he rides the stationary bike and I relax on the couch. I don't feel like working out today. I work on my puzzle.
6 p.m. — We go to Chipotle for dinner. We both get chicken bowls, but E. gets double chicken. He pays ($19.58). When we get back home we start watching Squid Game while we eat dinner. I don't like scary movies or TV shows, but so far it seems okay. We both finish half our bowl like always.
8 p.m. — I shower and put my laundry away. I used to put my clothes away immediately after they were done in the dryer, but I've really slacked off since the pandemic. Then, I work on my puzzle more.
10 p.m. — I get to a stopping point with the puzzle and play fetch with K. until we're both tired.
11 p.m. — I get ready for bed. I brush my teeth and put some Volition Beauty Celery Creme on my face. I look at my phone for a few minutes and then we go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I wake up on time this morning. It's chilly today when I take K. outside, so I make some tea when I get home. I spend the morning working on my bridge plans. I'm more focused this morning, maybe it's the tea.
11 a.m. — Time for the weekly team meeting to go over our projects. K. loves when I have meetings and runs upstairs to join me. I hate this meeting and usually zone out for most of it. This is also the only call where everyone still has their camera on. At least this week is more helpful than usual because we got a month-and-a-half extension on one of our projects. This should really help us out in the spring.
12 p.m. — The meeting finishes and I get lunch. I don't feel like eating leftovers, so I have Fruity Pebbles instead. I work on my puzzle for the rest of my lunch break.
1 p.m. — I finish up the plan sheet I've been working on and then finish two more sheets that are similar. I'm on track to finish what I wanted to this week.
3:30 p.m. — E. gets home early today. He had an appointment to see about getting LASIK done. I got a similar procedure, PRK, done last year. E.'s eyes aren't as bad as mine but I think he will enjoy not dealing with glasses. He books the procedure for next week and checks that he has enough on his HSA to cover it.
4:30 p.m. — I change out of my yoga pants into a new outfit I've been wanting to wear. I have an event with the professional organisation I'm in. I arrive right at 5. This has been our first in-person event in a while. It's nice to chat with my friends in the organisation. Several people congratulate me on getting married and for being the new treasurer of the chapter. I buy a drink mixer and earrings to benefit the foundation. I chat with the other women and discover we all have the same OBGYN — random. On the way home, I call the siding guy back since he called during the event. He said he has the estimate and 3D model and can review it with me tomorrow. $40.76
7:30 p.m. — Once I get home I quickly change into athletic clothes and eat leftovers so we can leave for climbing. I have more energy tonight and do fairly well. I get a few tricky climbs.
10 p.m. — We get back from climbing. I work on my puzzle more and watch Explained on Netflix. I have some Dunkaroo cereal as a dessert. E. goes upstairs and plays games on his computer.
11 p.m. — I look at my computer a little before going to bed. I brush my teeth and go to bed.
Daily Total: $40.76

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — This week is going fast, it's already Thursday. It's cloudy and cold (for me) when I take E. out. I take him for a walk around the block and then we play in the yard.
9:45 a.m. — I leave for a bridge design seminar. It is also offered virtually, but my manager said he was going to attend in person. There are only about 15 people who attend in person. The seminar is interesting and I receive a professional development credit for my PE license.
11:30 a.m. — I get home and work on my bridge plans. A friend messages and says she's sick and won't be able to come to our dinner this weekend. I'm sad she won't be able to make it. She lives the furthest away so I don't get to see her as often. I eat my leftover Chipotle for lunch and work on my puzzle.
1:30 p.m. — The siding guy stops by to go over the estimate. The 3D model of the house is cool. I'm impressed with how accurate it is. The quote to get all the siding replaced is $34,000. Oof. I was expecting a high number, but that's a lot. The guy said we should have plenty of home equity since prices have skyrocketed. We do, but I don't want to get a home equity loan. After he leaves, I go back to bridge plans. I only need to finish two more this week.
5 p.m. — E. gets home and takes K. outside. He changes and rides the stationary bike. There's a freeze warning tonight, so I bring my plants in from the patio. The plants are probably fine, but just in case. I say goodbye to E. and leave to meet up with my friends for dinner.
6 p.m. — I'm the first to arrive at the restaurant. We're trying a place that just opened last week. I get a chicken sandwich and a mix of fries and cheese curds. The food comes out pretty quickly considering the number of people here. I like the sandwich a lot. I'll definitely come back once the crowds start to die down a little. $14.79
8 p.m. — We go to Crumbl for dessert. Their cookies are huge so we get one and share it four ways. My friend pays.
8:30 p.m. — Since I'm already in the parking lot, I go to Wegmans to see if there are new flowers out. I don't love their flower options, but they have cheap vases, so I buy four simple cylinder ones ($17.16). Then, I head to Trader Joe's. I buy five small bouquets, butternut squash mac and cheese and a pomegranate drink ($28.52). The employee is really friendly and gives me a large bucket to put all the flowers in. $45.68
10 p.m. — I get home and shower. I arrange the flowers into vases. I'm glad I bought five bouquets, it really helped fill out the vases. I'm really happy with how they look and it was much cheaper to do it this way. I'm tired tonight and go to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $60.47
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