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A Week In Orange County, CA, On A $326,000 Joint Income

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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.

Today: an attorney who has a joint income of $326,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a cabin rental.
Occupation: Attorney
Industry: Law
Age: 35
Location: Orange County, CA
My Salary: $126,000
My Husband's Salary: $200,000
Net Worth: ~$437,000 ($200,000 across my husband's (B.) retirement accounts, $127,000 across my retirement and brokerage accounts, $10,000 in my pension, $125,000 in cash (e-fund and down payment fund). We have our own separate checking accounts but treat our finances as mostly joint).
Debt: $0
My Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,800
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $5,100
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $3,700
Gym: $100
Childcare: $800
Water Delivery: $60
Internet: $79.99
YouTube TV: $64.99
Utilities: ~$150
529: $200
Husband's 401(k): $854.16
My 457(b): $650 per paycheck.
My Pension: $330 per paycheck.
Roth IRAs: $1,000 until we max them out.
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, but only because I was studious as a kid. My brother didn't go to college and my parents did not mind. I paid for college and law school with student loans, scholarships and work. I graduated from law school with about $167,000 in student loans and worked hard to pay them off early.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents did not discuss money with us at all until I got to about 16-17. That's when my mother would sometimes ask me for money from my part-time jobs to help pay the bills. That is when I realized that we struggled financially. In one sense, I'm grateful to my parents for shielding us from the stress of worrying about money, but I also wish that they had been more financially literate and taught us that literacy growing up. We were middle class and my mom stayed at home to raise the kids but we really should not have struggled to pay the bills. It was an issue of being bad with money rather than not having enough money, and I strive to avoid following in their footsteps in that regard.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job as a cashier at a department store when I was 16 to have some extra fun money for clothes, food and gas.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really because, as I said above, my parents didn't talk to us about money and they never gave us any indication that we struggled. I knew we weren't super rich by any means, but I always thought we were pretty comfortable. Again, I am grateful that my parents kept their stresses about money "secret" and let us focus on being kids.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I worry about retiring and I worry about my husband losing his job. I have good job security and he has decent security but I still worry, especially now that we have our son to care for.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I'd say at 24 when I moved out of my parents' and started paying for my rent and food and stopped receiving any financial assistance from them. If anything, I was the one giving them money to help them out. We have a financial safety net in my husband's parents, who are well off and would absolutely help us if we needed it.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No, but my husband's parents have generously agreed to gift us up to $100,000 for help with a down payment if we ever find a house.

Day One

7 a.m. — Wake up with my son, H., and start the day. I get him ready to go to my parents' house. My parents watch him during the week while we work for now, but we are looking into preschools for the future. I change his diaper and clothes, we brush our teeth, and I pack up his lunch and some of his favorite toys. I drop him off and then trek back home to get to work. I work from home for the time being, as does my husband, B. It's unclear when they will start trying to get us back into the office so I'm savoring the freedom while I can. I make myself green tea and eat some cornbread and chips and guacamole for breakfast. Not a standard breakfast but I don't love breakfast foods. I see an email for an invoice from the pediatric dentist's office where H. had an appointment a few months ago. They're saying I owe $5.43 on top of the ~$80.00 I paid out of pocket at the time of the visit. I don't really understand and am tempted to call to inquire but decide to just pay it. $5.43
10 a.m. — I take a break from working to place an online order for pickup at Nordstrom. I am seeing my friend for her birthday over the weekend and need to get her a gift. I purchase the NARS Rising Star Palette and Surabaya eyeshadow duo for her and a Kalahari eyeshadow duo for me. I've wanted this eyeshadow for a long time and am happy I finally pulled the trigger. I also browse the quilted jackets and almost purchase one that I've had my eye on, but I hold off. I have the itch to buy a warm jacket but I think it's just an impulse that will pass soon. I remind myself that it never gets so cold that I need a really warm jacket where I live. $140.08
12 p.m. — I run to the grocery store during lunch to pick up some things for dinner. I get ground beef, mozzarella, ice cream, bell peppers, a red onion, chips, burger buns and a loaf of sourdough. I make myself a burger with some chips on the side for lunch. $45.43
4:30 p.m. — I pick up H. from my parents' place and we go home. My husband is out so H. and I play together. B. gets a coffee while he's out. When he gets home, we cook up a homemade pizza for dinner and enjoy that with some cantaloupe. Then it's more playtime while we try our best to wear out H.'s crazy toddler energy. B. and I talk about some rental properties he saw today. Our rent is going up by $300/month soon and we really do not like our landlord so we want to move. Whether that will be into another rental or into a house we purchase, only time will tell. $2.95
Daily Total: $193.89

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up with H. and start the day. We make pancakes for breakfast and start cleaning up because some people are coming over for a small gathering. Cleaning takes literally hours and we are exhausted but excited to see everyone.
11:30 a.m. — I run to the grocery store and pick up some appetizers, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, romaine, dill, green onions, parmesan, heavy cream, chicken stock, bread, beer, broccoli and olives. I'm making a sun-dried tomato chicken pasta with a romaine, dill and green onion salad and some roasted broccoli for dinner. For dessert, I'll bake some brookies with a mix I got from Sur la Table a couple of weeks ago. $134.62
4 p.m. — We get started cooking up the appetizers, which include pigs in a blanket, mini cheese quiches, and chicken and pesto puffs. Our guests arrive and I finish cooking up the main dish and preparing the salad. They have a kid who is the same age as H. and they have a lot of fun playing together. We wrap up the night a bit early due to the kids but it's just as well because I am completely wiped by 9. Our guests leave and we all get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $134.62

Day Three

12 a.m. — H. is awake and sick. It ends up being a super long night with my husband and me taking turns comforting him. I text my friend to cancel our lunch plans and reschedule for the following weekend. I start to spiral and worry that if H. gets really sick we won't be able to drop him off at my parents' during the week and it will be difficult to get work done. We went through this not long ago when we all got COVID and we had to keep him home for two weeks and I do not want to deal with that kind of struggle again anytime soon.
8 a.m. — H. and I share a smoothie for breakfast made with bananas, spinach, peanut butter, yogurt and milk. At his request, we watch an episode of Guess How Much I Love You on Amazon Prime. I can't say no when he's sick. Plus, we're going to be stuck at home all day so might as well fill some time with a little show. I like this series and learned about it through a Montessori mom I follow on Instagram. I make a grilled cheese sandwich for us to share after the show to top off our smoothie breakfast.
12 p.m. — I go to the mall while H. naps to pick up my friend's birthday gifts. They wrap the gifts up so nicely and I can't wait to give them to her. I walk by the Chanel store and see that the line to get in is absolutely insane. I have been really wanting to buy a wallet on a chain but can't bring myself to pull the trigger. It seems like a good buy because I know I'll use it for years and I've been wanting one for like five years so I know it's not just an impulse purchase. But whenever I start to get remotely serious, I get cold feet. I keep walking. I stop and get some Persian food for home. I pick up a chicken koobideh plate for me and a beef koobideh plate for B., which we'll both share with H. $51.80
5 p.m. — We spend the rest of the day playing with H. and lazily cleaning up. We eat the Persian food I picked up for both lunch and dinner while also snacking on some cashews and cantaloupe, H.'s favorite snacks. Eating with a sick toddler can mean eating at weird times and this is just one of those days. When bedtime rolls around, I am again completely wiped and thank my lucky stars that I have tomorrow off. I cross my fingers that H. feels better tomorrow. I fall asleep super early at 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $51.80

Day Four

7 a.m. — Last night went much better thankfully. It's always stressful when your kid gets sick because you never know which part is the worst of it and you're just waiting for it to get worse and worse. Or maybe that's just me and my worrisome brain. We get up and I make H. some warm water with honey to help with his cough and myself green tea. For breakfast, I reheat some of the pancakes I made earlier in the week that I had frozen. We take the morning easy and watch a little TV while playing, reading books, racing cars and playing with H.'s new favorite stuffed animal.
11 a.m. — For an early lunch, we pick up some food from a local deli. We get a Reuben sandwich and some latkes to all share. B. also gets a coffee. H. goes down for his nap at around 11:45 and takes a good long nap. I'm so happy he's getting some good rest. While he naps, I watch The Crown and my husband does some work. We debate whether it makes sense to stay put until we buy a place or move to another rental in the meantime. I only want to move once so my vote is for the former. He is kind of leaning toward the latter because he has some very negative feelings about our landlord and the rent increase. The housing talks right now are really tough for us. We both want to buy but we're having a hard time finding a house that we both love. Adding to the stress is the fact that we have been looking for many months now and lost out to higher bidders over five times earlier this year, and now interest rates are really high. $35.17
2 p.m. — We decide to go for a family walk when H. wakes up. We cozy up and make sure to bring the rain cover for the stroller because the forecast calls for some drizzle. We turn our walk into a grocery run and pick up chicken, parmesan, pizza dough, mozzarella, oat milk, bananas, bell peppers and cauliflower. We decide to make some more of the sun-dried tomato chicken pasta because it was that good and eat that with leftover salad. I start cooking when we get home while B. plays with H. We eat dinner and then do the usual nighttime stuff— playing, reading books, and bedtime with H. $68.26
Daily Total: $103.43

Day Five

8 a.m. — H. sleeps in so we have a late start to the day. I get him up and ready to go to my parents' and drop him off. He doesn't have a great morning. He seems tired and I can tell he's not feeling great so I feel guilty dropping him off. When I get home, I make myself green tea and log into work. I take a break at around 10 to make an egg with cheese and Cholula on a tortilla for breakfast. B.'s sleep schedule is all messed up so he sleeps in until 11:30 a.m.
12 p.m. — Because I ate breakfast so late, I'm not hungry at my usual lunchtime. I use my lunch break to go to the gym for a quick cardio workout.
1:30 p.m. — I have a late lunch of leftover chicken and pasta. B. takes a break to eat with me and we chat about how our days are going so far. I also take some time to look at my current retirement contributions and calculate how much I should be able to save in 2023. I'm hoping to max out my Roth IRA and continue contributing $650 per paycheck to my 457(b). That, along with my employer match and my pension contributions, equals just over $34,000. I go to a website I like to use to calculate my estimated compound interest on investments and at an estimated interest rate of 6% and I'm set to get $1,328,834.52. I do this more frequently than I care to admit. I don't hate my job by any means but I do hate the fact that people are expected to dedicate so much of their lives to work just to make a decent living so my dream is to retire early, even if it's only five years earlier than traditional retirement age.
4:30 p.m. — My husband usually would be the one to pick H. up since I dropped him off but he asks if I can because he woke up so late and still has work. We get into a little argument about splitting kid and house duties 50/50 and how I feel like I've been handling more than my fair share. Luckily the fight doesn't escalate. In a sense, I think it is kind of fair that I do a bit more because he makes more money and has a higher stress job. I used to make a lot more than him but agreed to take a step back in my career so I would be less stressed and have a lot more free time for our kid. But on the other hand, I don't want to feel like a live-in maid. The only thing I know for sure is that relationships take work and constant revisiting and ours is no exception. B. goes to a coffee shop to do a little more work and buys a coffee. $2.95
6 p.m. — For dinner, we have some cauliflower roasted with salt, pepper and smoked paprika on the side of a homemade pizza. Then it's the usual night routine and sleep.
Daily Total: $2.95

Day Six

7 a.m. — I get up before H. and start working. When he wakes up, I hear him call out for me. He's used to waking up with me by his side (we co-sleep) so I hurry into the room to make sure he doesn't get upset. Then I get him ready for the day and drop him off. The traffic getting home is horrendous and I don't log on until 9:30 a.m. I have a breakfast bar while I put out some fires at work.
10 a.m. — I start my period. Lovely. I put on some period panties and check my tampon stock. I'm running low and it reminds me that I've been meaning to purchase a new menstrual cup because my old one just isn't cutting it postpartum. I order one online for in-store pickup that is supposed to be a better fit for women who have given birth. $23.04
12 p.m. — I run to the drugstore to pick up my Zoloft prescription. $10.28
12:15 p.m. — I get McDonald's for lunch on the way home. I get a six-piece McNugget and small fry for me and two cheeseburgers plus a coffee for B. $13.43
1 p.m. — B. comes to me with a crazy idea. There's a storm coming and he wants to go up to the mountains tonight so we can be there while it snows. I get really stressed with spur-of-the-moment things like this but I think it over and since my workload is light, I decide it's feasible. We book a cabin and B. picks up H. $1,300
3 p.m. — We pack and get ready for the drive. I fill up my gas tank. $51.80
6 p.m. — I pick up Chipotle for dinner since we don't have time to cook. The drive is long and gets scary at some points. I drive the first leg and at one point, the fog is so thick I can't see more than a few feet ahead of me. On a windy, mountain road in wet conditions, I have a mini panic attack. I can't even see the turnouts so I can pull over and have B. take over. Eventually, going at a snail's pace, I'm able to pull over safely and B. gets us to the cabin safe and sound. He grew up in snowy conditions so for him, weather like this is no big deal. H. fell asleep on the drive and we transfer him to one of the beds. Then I quickly get ready for sleep and knock out. $25.21
Daily Total: $1,423.76

Day Seven

7 a.m. — We wake up earlier than I would have liked based on when H. went to sleep but he's in good spirits so that's nice. We all go out to the grocery store to get cereal, milk, tortellini, oatmeal, Spanish rice, beans, instant coffee, donuts and a cheese jalapeño bagel ($53.98). We stop at Starbucks to get me an oat milk latte, B. a black coffee, and two breakfast sandwiches to share ($17.80). We get H. a vegetable and fruit pouch because when he spots them at Starbucks he asks to have one. It starts snowing while we're out. $71.78
8 a.m. — I get to work while B. and H. go out to play in the snow. We were able to borrow some kid snow gear from a neighbor, which I am really thankful for. It would have been painful to spend a lot of money on snow gear for H. when he'll grow out of it super fast.
12 p.m. — We cook up some of the tortellini I bought earlier for lunch and also have some kefir that we brought with us from home. I keep working and H. takes a good nap. After his nap, I take a break from work and we go out sledding. It's cold but a lot of fun and H. is digging the snow. He's seen little patches of snow before but this is his first time really playing in it.
5 p.m. — We warm up inside and I do a bit more work. We cook up rice and cheese burritos for dinner. We sadly discover that we don't have a can opener for the beans we bought so no beans for us tonight. After dinner, it's playtime, night routine, and time for bed.
Daily Total: $71.78
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