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A Week In Columbus, OH, On A $119,010 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: a bookkeeper who has a joint income of $119,010 per year and spends some of her money this week on highlighters.
Occupation: Bookkeeper
Industry: Non-profit
Age: 37
Location: Columbus, OH
My Salary: $39,075
My Husband's Salary: $79,935
Net Worth: $170,000 (Home value + car values + savings = $350,000, minus debt. = $170,000. 401(k): $95,000, HSA: $500, mutual funds and eTrade account: $6,000, Acorns: $600 (I just started this up to replace the Fifth Third Dobot app that was just discontinued. It will automatically deposit around $150/month from our checking account throughout the month). Bank short-term savings account: $800, 529 college savings plans: $15,000 combined between two kids (my parents make monthly contributions to this as well).)
Debt: $180,000 (mortgage, car loan, home improvement loan, credit card)
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,232.55
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $946.46 (net after health insurance, HSA, 401(k) and $800/paycheck taken out for mortgage)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,510 (14 years left to go. This includes financing on new siding that we did in 2020. In total, the balance is around $160,000 for principal and interest.)
Car Loan: $199
Home Improvement Loan: $247
Car Insurance: $88
Internet: $65
Cell Phone: $145
Electric: $163
Life & Disability Insurance: $70
529 College Savings: $180
eTrade Weekly Transfer: $30 (~$120/month)
Mutual Fund: $260
Acorns: $150
YMCA gym: $900 annually
Hulu: $6
Netflix: $15
HBO Max: $15
NYT/Crossword/Cooking: $2
Podcast Subscriptions: $20
Monthly Recurring Donations: $30
Credit Card Balance: I pay off around $500/month now on the card to keep things in check. I get around $100/quarter back in rewards cash.
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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?
Yes. I have a BA in Psychology and an MA in counseling. I went to private Catholic schools growing up and there was always the expectation that we would go to college. My parents paid for my undergrad with the help of student loans. I went straight from undergrad to grad school and I financed my master's degree with student loans. I took a few accounting courses at a community college a few years back to help me in my current job and I loved it. I would stay in school forever if I had the time and the money. My younger brother ended up joining the military straight out of high school and was then later able to pay his way through college when he was done serving. As a result, my parents have been generous enough to use their college savings meant for him to help me pay my student loans. My husband and I are not religious and we send our kids to public school. It is very important to us that we save up enough for them to attend college without having to worry about how to pay for it.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Almost zero. Looking back, I know that we did not have a lot of money growing up. We lived in a modest house where some years we had AC, some years we didn't, sometimes we had cable, and sometimes we didn't. We didn't eat fancy foods, have fancy clothes, or buy fancy cars. They thought it was important that we go to the school associated with our church, and I'm sure it wasn't cheap. I only have fond and loving memories from childhood, and if my parents were stressed about money, they didn't let it show. I felt like we were spoiled. Our vacations weren't fancy but they were always fun, and we did take a trip to Disney when I was probably around 9 or 10. They had me when my dad was still in college and my mom stayed at home with me full-time. My mom got her nursing degree when I was 8 and we moved into a bigger house when I was 10.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
My brother and I shared a paper route as kids and we also worked at the concession stand at our neighborhood pool. But my first real job was at a movie theater when I was 16 and it was a blast. I drove one of our family's minivans when I got my license and I paid for gas. I also paid for my school lunches, outings with friends, concerts, etc. (I will NOT disclose how many times I saw *NSYNC in concert in high school.)
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I didn't always understand why we had to have generic everything and store-brand everything, but I never worried about money.
Do you worry about money now?
Absolutely. It is one of my biggest stressors. I would feel so much better if I could ditch the cycle of the credit card and instead build up good savings.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became fully independent and responsible for all of my finances when I graduated college and moved to the city I live in now for grad school. Before that, my parents paid for me to attend school and live, but I always worked for spending money. I was an RA in college to help offset room and board fees.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Over the past ten years since we got married, our parents have probably gifted us in total around $5,000 for various occasions. They also helped us pay for our wedding and part of our honeymoon. We do vacation and camp with my parents a lot and they help with those shared trips as well.
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Day One

7 a.m. — The kids start a new week of camp today, so we all wake up around 7 in order to have breakfast and get everyone dressed, slathered in SPF, and out the door on time. Breakfast today is a bit of a treat — leftover blackberry-raspberry coffee cake with an almond streusel that I made for my book club meeting last night. We're so happy to be meeting up in person again. Book club over Zoom was better than nothing at all, but attendance dropped a lot over the past year, and half the fun is getting together and sharing drinks and snacks at someone's house. I also serve some vanilla Chobani and water to drink for the kids/coffee for mom and dad. I take mine with coconut-almond milk creamer and my husband takes his with 1% milk. The kids share pet chores — my son feeds the dog, my daughter feeds the cats.
9 a.m. — I drop my daughter at half-day dance camp while my husband drops our son at all-day YMCA camp and then I come back to start work from home. Summer is my busy time at work, but I really drag my feet on starting for the day. I spend 20 minutes creating a banner for our book club Facebook group that announces the newly selected book of the month.
12 p.m. — My husband gets our daughter at noon while I prep our lunches — turkey, hard-boiled egg, and lettuce sandwiches on focaccia, carrot sticks, and a pickle. Watered down juice for my daughter and a Diet Pepsi for me. The lettuce is from my garden — it is one of the easiest things to grow and it's nice being able to pick a few leaves for a sandwich here and there as needed.
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4 p.m. — I pick up my son from camp at the end of the day and start on dinner. Barbecued chicken breasts, roasted potatoes, and a gratin of zucchini and onions from our CSA. My daughter and I color for a while after dinner before baths. Once the kids are in bed, I watch an episode of the USA women's gymnastics series Golden on Peacock, read a few chapters of my book, and then watch an episode of Survivor with my husband before heading to bed. We started watching some seasons in quarantine and couldn't stop, we're fully addicted. We're watching season 34, Game Changers (#TeamMichaela forever). Bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7 a.m. — It is HOT. Ridiculously, oppressively hot. It will feel like 99 degrees by noon. I pack my son the largest water bottle we have for camp. Breakfast today is peanut butter sandwiches and peaches for the kids and a slice of coffee cake for me. Kids feed the pets. This morning I am more productive than I was yesterday, but still in that slow, hazy summer mood. I order highlighters for me and two large pencil cases on Amazon, one for me and one for my daughter ($38). She has art supplies strewn all over the house and I would like to try and contain things a bit. We live in a small house with four humans, three cats, and a dog, so it gets cluttered super quickly. $38
12:30 p.m. — Lunch is a salad with lettuce from our garden, radishes, peas, carrots, cucumber, hard-boiled egg, leftover chicken breasts, and ranch dressing. Some pea crisps and slices of cheddar cheese on the side, and the daily Diet Pepsi. I have a digital intake appointment with a potential counseling practice at 3. I have had anxiety and OCD since I was about 12, and I had a case of pretty severe postpartum anxiety and OCD after my oldest was born. Things have been great since then — I saw a counselor for four years, found exactly the right medication that I needed, and I still go back and volunteer with the peer support group that I used at the time. But COVID really stirred up some anxieties for me, and I have been feeling the urge to get back into counseling. The appointment is $125 that I pay for with my HSA account beforehand. Fast forward to 3:30 — the intake counselor has canceled. Super frustrating. $125
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4:15 p.m. — I pick up my son and get home and eventually work on dinner — a vegetable and herb tomato sauce using everything in the fridge I want to use up, with turkey meatballs and fettuccini. Dessert is popsicles for the kids. We draw some more after dinner, paint my daughter's nails, and then read a bedtime story.
9 p.m. — I watch another episode of Golden, then the Survivor finale, and THEN an episode of Downton Abbey after my husband goes to bed. I vow to read more in the evenings for at least a few days before starting another season of anything. Bed around 11:45 p.m.
Daily Total: $163

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — It's a gloomy rainy morning. Breakfast is rice cakes with crunchy peanut butter and a banana on the side. Coffee, always. Kids feed the pets and my husband is out the door at 8:30 for camp drop-offs. The house is quiet and it's time to start work. My husband works noon-10 p.m. four days a week, which is nice for sharing parenting duties. He has Fridays off which is very convenient. It's been like this for the past nine years since we started planning our family and it saves us a fortune on childcare. Ultimately, he would really like a 9-5 job, so that we can all eat dinner together and do things on weekday nights as a family. He's been holding off on looking until both of our kids are out of preschool and at the same elementary school all day, which happens to be this fall! And he has a second interview tomorrow for a fairly significant promotion/career move, so fingers crossed.
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12:30 p.m. — Lunch is a sloppy omelet made with the leftover zucchini and potatoes from Monday night. I add bell peppers, turkey, kale, and some parmesan cheese as well as some Trader Joe's jerk plantain chips on the side, and Diet Pepsi. Still raining and the dog is an anxious mess. He does NOT like thunder. He's our quarantine rescue dog that we adopted in October 2020 and he's our first dog. I snuggle with him on the couch for a few minutes to help him relax. I spend the afternoon working while my daughter plays with the neighbor. Our house is the house on the court where all the kids tend to gather to play, and I love it.
6 p.m. — Dinner is Trader Joe's frozen coconut shrimp and some Zatarain's dirty rice. Not the healthiest meal, but tasty. I throw some cucumber slices on our plates to at least add something green, and the kids and I eat outside on the deck. I have a Tropical Wave Ciderboys and it's perfect. By 8, I don't know what it is but I'm completely exhausted. I let my kids climb into my bed after their baths to watch a few SNL skits. After showing them the lady Ghostbusters movie a few weeks ago, they want to see anything and everything that Leslie Jones and Kristin Wiig have ever done. Kristin Wiig as Gilly is their favorite by far. I zombie scroll through my phone until I pass out at 10.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I've been getting away with sleeping in a little more every day. Thanks to my husband for getting the kids up and fed breakfast. It's going to be a long day today, so it's very much appreciated. Breakfast is strawberry Frosted Mini-Wheats and coffee. Log in for my rescheduled therapy intake appointment and I am completely ghosted by the guy. I call their office at 9:20 and leave a voicemail and ask for a refund of my $125 appointment fee. I stress that no one needs to call me back to reschedule again. I get to work right after in a frustrated mood.
11:45 a.m. — It's my daughter's last day of dance camp and I'm invited to a 15-minute "performance" at the end and it is adorable. The dance camp is based on jazz and hip hop and is Disney Descendants-themed — other parents out there, if you know you know. I pick up a Panera order for us on the way home. Chicken sandwich and broccoli cheddar soup for me with a large green iced tea, and grilled cheese and tomato soup for her ($26.50). I spend lunch looking for other therapy providers online and reach out to two different locations. Work for the rest of the afternoon until it's time to pick up my son. $26.50
4 p.m. — Camp pick-up time. Thursday nights my son has track practice from 7-9, so I try to feed them early so he's not running on a full stomach. I have zero good ideas for food tonight, so I redeem a reward for a free large pizza from a local place. I order a salad as well and with the tip and delivery, the total is only $12. We eat around 5:30. I zone out on the couch for a bit while I let them watch some TV so we can all decompress a bit before heading out again. $12
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7 p.m. — The dog has been stuck inside a lot lately due to rain, so I decide to drop my son off at track and take the dog to the dog park. My daughter has an absolute blast and makes best friends with about five German shepherds at the park. When he's worn out, I stop at UDF and grab us ice cream — cotton candy for my daughter, chocolate chip for me, and a vanilla pup cup. $4.29, what a deal. We enjoy it in the car then head back to the track to get my son. We get everyone home and bathed by 10. I read a few chapters of my book and then go to sleep around 11. $4.29
Daily Total: $42.79

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Breakfast today is rice cakes with peanut butter and bananas. It's my dad's birthday today and he's a real morning person, so the kiddos FaceTime him during breakfast. He answers from the bike trail where he's just finished 15 miles. He's been cycling fairly seriously for about 20 years now, and he has more energy and stamina than I do. It's nice to have parents who are super active with the grandkids. Working hard this morning to catch up before the weekend. I have a bookkeeping job for an arts non-profit that involves a little bit of everything: data entry, database management, billing, accounts receivable, running reports, and sending email blasts. It's great because most of it can be done remotely and on a flexible schedule. I do miss my office — it's the best job I think I've ever had. I really click with my boss and my coworkers and I have some really nice job perks like five weeks of paid time off, free classes for my kids, and free tickets to shows.
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12 p.m. — Lunch is leftover dirty rice, some veggies and ranch (carrots, bell peppers, broccoli), and some slices of cheddar cheese. Plus, a Diet Coke. The ACH for our CSA delivery comes out of my account ($82). It is delivered every other Tuesday. This week we're getting blackberries, cucumbers, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, cabbage, and swiss chard. $82
2:30 p.m. — I'm pretty stressed out about the amount of debt we have accumulated in the past year or so, so I'm trying to cut out unneeded and unnecessary expenses. I cancel a few things that I don't need, but the biggie is Amazon Prime. We don't really use it for streaming and eliminating the prime shipping should stop me from making so many impulsive purchases. I pay off one of our cars today ($347 final payment, yahoooo!), so that is a big relief. I also start a shopping cart in my grocery store app for pick-up this Sunday — our friends are coming over on Monday to hang out and I plan on making grilled chicken, mac and cheese, and a salad. I think pre-ordering saves me money; I don't make as many impulsive choices as I would inside the store, and by meal planning ahead I can buy exactly what we need and only that. $347
6 p.m. — Dinner is twice-baked potatoes with bacon, cheddar, and chives from the garden, and some roasted carrots from the garden. I have a Tropical Wave Ciderboys and we eat outside on the deck. Speaking of impulsive purchases, I got myself and my daughter roller skates a few weeks ago. My son got a skateboard for his birthday, so after dinner, we all go out to the cul-de-sac to skate for a while. I got my daughter the full set of protective pads but didn't for myself. After going out for the first time, I think I need to invest in some wrist guards at the very least! I didn't fall, but I also didn't go too fast. Afterward, my husband takes the kids out to an Indian ice cream place nearby and brings me back a scoop. $14
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10 p.m. — After the kids are in bed, I watch the Keanu Reeves movie Replicas so that I can listen to the most recent episode of How Did This Get Made about it. My husband works the three-day weekend shift this weekend, so he stays downstairs all night. He works in the air travel business, so operations go on 24/7, 365 days a year. I fall asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $443

Day Six

7 a.m. — My son has a track meet this morning, so we wake up at a decent hour. I make him yogurt, Golden Grahams, and a banana for breakfast. I have rice cakes with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg, and some cherries. Also, coffee, of course. Leave with my son for the track meet. I can't believe my eyes, but I see that he gets on the field and immediately lines up for the first event, which is the 1600m (mile). He has never even run the mile in a practice before. My in-laws arrive just in time to see him run the mile race, and I am floored by how proud I am of him. He finishes in 8:55 with a big smile on his face. I asked him what prompted him to run the mile this morning and he said "I just felt like I wanted to impress everybody!" Well, job done, kiddo. I am so proud!
9:30 a.m. — I leave the meet early because I lead a postpartum depression group today. Our meetings are still taking place exclusively via Zoom, so I head back home and set up my space in my room to log in. The in-laws stay at the meet and will drive my son home after.
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12 p.m. — We had a really good meeting today. Lunch is a leftover twice-baked potato and some carrot sticks, with some dried pineapple. Diet Coke to drink. After lunch, I play a game of Battleship with my son and then really need to take a nap. I did not sleep well at all last night. We make plans to go to the zoo later in the afternoon. I read a bit of my book before napping.
4 p.m. — Rested and refreshed, we leave for the zoo. We have a season pass so we don't need to pay for parking or admission, but I do buy 20 ride tickets so that the kids can ride a few of the rides ($40). We only use about half of the tickets and I save the rest for another day. We see sea lions, stingrays, sand cats, penguins, lemurs, toucans, an armadillo, and an array of tortoises. $40
7 p.m. — We grab dinner from a local burger drive-thru ($26). I have a fish sandwich and fried zucchini and drink a mango La Croix. We debate whether to go see fireworks tonight or tomorrow night and we all agree that we're pretty tired and choose to go tomorrow. I finalize the grocery shopping cart and schedule pick-up for tomorrow ($159). This includes dinner fixings for Monday night, charcoal, ice, soda, and White Claw, and groceries for the upcoming week. I also buy supplies for lunches for camp this week. And I restock our ground coffee. We let our kids have a "sleepover" downstairs, where they sleep on the couch in the sleeping bags, and we let them watch TV until they fall asleep. They think it's the best thing ever. My husband and I watch The Wedding Singer upstairs and fall asleep around 11:30. $185
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Daily Total: $225

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Wake up and make breakfast. I don't know what I'm in the mood for, so I just make toast with butter and my coffee. I end up sharing half a peach with my daughter. My husband is working, so I brainstorm fun things to do with the kids this morning. I decide I want to take the dog to the dog park and "dog beach" at a lake nearby. He's never been to the water before and I got him a lifejacket a few weeks ago in anticipation of getting to take him. He LOVES it. He has the best time ever with about 10 other dogs playing in the waves and retrieving dog toys. He is a natural at doggie paddle. My kids enjoy wading in the water and playing with mud.
11:30 a.m. — We're home and everyone has been hosed off and changed into clean clothes. I start a load of laundry. My husband is able to get away from the phones long enough to pick up our grocery order and I help him clean out the fridge and put it away. Saturdays or Sundays are always grocery pick-up days, and therefore lunch on grocery day is always a smorgasbord of things that I need to clear out from the previous week. Today it's some leftover fries and fried zucchini from yesterday, cheese and crackers, bell pepper slices, baby carrots, turkey slices, and cucumber slices. Diet Coke to drink.
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2 p.m. — I play a game of Candy Land with the kids followed by a game of Jenga. And then as usual on the weekends, I take an afternoon nap. I read a little bit before I fall asleep. Dad has the kids work on cleaning up the downstairs and their rooms while I'm out. Afterward, I fold some laundry and take the dog out before getting to work on dinner.
8:30 p.m. — I pack up the kids to take them to the neighborhood fireworks. My husband has to stay home to be near the phone for work, but it's nice that the dog has him there with him since he's a nervous wreck during fireworks. My kids and I find a decent parking spot and walk a half-mile to our seats. The kids find playmates and run around for an hour before the show starts. I arrive home around 11 with two half-asleep kids. They climb into bed in their clothes and I immediately grab some chips and dip and a big glass of water. My husband and I watch the first half of the documentary Summer of Soul before I crawl into bed and pass out around midnight.
Daily Total: $0
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