A Week In The Suburbs Of St. Paul, MN, On A $115,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a Controller working in Manufacturing who makes $115,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Valentine's Day socks.
Occupation: Controller
Industry: Manufacturing
Age: 33
Location: Suburbs of St. Paul, MN
My Salary: $115,000 base + 15% discretionary bonus
Husband's Salary: $17/hour (soon to be $70,000 salary)
My Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,057.46 net
Husband's Paycheck: (biweekly) ~$1,050

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage/Housing Expenses: $2,222.49 (includes mortgage, HO insurance, flood insurance, & prop. taxes on a three-bed, three-bath house that I live in with my husband, two daughters, and dog)
Car Payment: $478
Student Loans: $0 (my student loans ~$25,000 were paid off years ago)
Daycare & Before/After School Care: $1,300
Utilities & Garbage: ~$200 in the winter
Internet: $70
Netflix/Hulu: $22
Gym: $120 (family membership)
Cell Phones: $120 (I get $100 stipend from work)
Life/Auto/Ring Insurance: $450
Billie: $8
Annual Amazon Prime: $120
My 401(k): $1,061 (12% of my pay, current balance ~$60,000)
Husband's 401(k): $0 (he will start contributing again with his new position, current balance ~$55,000)
Daughters' Savings: $250 ($125 for each)
Investments: $500 (will increase to at least $1,000 when my husband, D., starts his new position, current balance ~$15,000)
Savings: $0 (we keep $10,000 in our checking account, and currently have $50,000 in a high yield savings account)

Day One

7 a.m. — Ah, Sunday. My husband, D., is an early riser and is already in the living room enjoying his coffee. I hear my five-year-old, T., come out of the girls' bedroom. She could go hang with D., but she wants to snuggle and I love these weekend moments. She eventually wanders into the living room with D. and I slowly work my way out of bed when I hear my two-year-old, N., get up.
10 a.m. — D. takes T. to go wash and clean out my van (yes, I drive a minivan. I used to be cool.) ($16). I see later that they also went into Fleet Farm and purchased a few items ($74.16). While they are gone, N. and I start some Sunday food prep and make healthy banana chocolate chip muffins (banana, dark choc chips, whole wheat flour, coconut sugar, vanilla, almond milk, coconut oil). She is very pleased to be helping me with her older sister gone. $90.16
11 a.m. — The groceries I ordered yesterday arrive from Instacart. I canceled my membership a couple of months ago when they raised the prices, but they keep sending me free delivery and $20 off coupons, so I have still been using it regularly. The one tip that I give people that are trying to save money on groceries — buy them online for pickup or delivery! I plan my menu and buy only the items we need + some snacks. It curbs the spending so much not to wander the aisles. My order today is lean ground beef, lots of bell peppers, a salad kit, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, apples, bananas, blueberries, hash browns, brown rice, quinoa, eggs, fruit bars, granola bars, green beans, hot sauce, cooking spray, oil, shredded cheese, and buns ($119.71). I ordered from Aldi today and they have amazing prices on basics, so I restocked a lot of items. D. and T. return around the same time. $119.71
11:30 a.m. — T. wants to bake cupcakes that she and N. received in a cooking kit as a Christmas gift. Since it is the end of January, I don't think I can avoid this any longer. We mix all of the ingredients and get the first batch in the oven. While those are baking, I make a veggie egg bake for the week (eggs, broccoli, cottage cheese, parmesan, red pepper, green pepper, and garlic). D. and I will eat this as breakfast or lunch throughout the week.
12 p.m. — I take a break to make a "snack" lunch for everyone. The girls love this and they actually eat a lot when I put this together. They each eat a couple of beef sticks, cheese slices, and green pepper slices. D. and I snack on the same thing.
1 p.m. — D. goes back out to the garage to finish cleaning out the inside of the van and installing new booster seats we got for T. while I get N. ready to take a nap. As she is getting closer to three, she is starting to have an opinion about taking a nap. But I know she still takes a two-hour nap at daycare and we are going to my sister's later, so I don't want her to be cranky. I lay down with her for a bit and she eventually dozes off.
3:30 p.m. — N. is awake, so we get ready to head over to my sister and brother-in-law's for dinner, bringing along the cupcakes. They just bought a new house so we want to go check it out. We also don't get to hang out with them without the whole family very often. My sister makes an enchilada quinoa bake and fresh guac and chips. We have a relaxing evening eating and catching up.
7 p.m. — We get home and I give the girls a bath and get them ready for bed while D. finishes up some laundry. Typically, I do mine and the girls' laundry and D. does his own. I read the girls a book and tuck them in around 7:30. They come out a few times asking for various things (kids get suddenly hungry, thirsty, and have to go to the bathroom five times when it is time for bed. If you are a parent, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN). I work on putting away my clean laundry in the meantime.
8:15 p.m. — The girls are sleeping and we are wiped out. We typically watch a show or something when they are sleeping, but we are tired tonight. D. proceeds to fall asleep on the couch while I read my book for a while. I usually read every night for at least 30 minutes before bed. Lights out around 9:30.
Daily Total: $209.87

Day Two

5 a.m. — Alarm! D. and I both enjoy early AM workouts, so we switch off morning kid drop-offs while the other one leaves early for the gym. Today is his day, but I still want to get in a workout, so I chug some pre-workout (game-changer for early AM workouts) and head downstairs for a short full-body lifting circuit before the girls get up. Our dog comes down and lays next to my workout area to keep me company. I strength train/lift heavy 4-5 days a week and have been trying to get better about incorporating more cardio and HIIT.
6 a.m. — Take a shower, dry my hair, moisturize, and do my make-up while the girls are still sleeping (BareMinerals serum concealer, BareMinerals BarePro foundation, bronzer, and mascara — this is as deep as I go with makeup). Since the girls are still sleeping, I pack my food for the day and get their clothes ready.
6:50 a.m. — Okay, we are usually out the door by 7, but the girls are still sleeping. I go to their room and turn on the light to wake them up (such a mean mom, I know). Kids also do this thing where they get up early on the weekends, but NEVER want to get up on time during the week. I pop into their room and grab N. as she is the most awake. Get her dressed and fix her hair, much to her disdain. T. trudges her way out, so I help her get dressed and do her hair. I tell the girls to grab their breakfast bars and start putting on shoes and jackets while I walk the dog. We rescued our 85-pound, five-year-old dog about a year ago. We started with a lot of separation anxiety issues. It took a lot of trial and error and work, but he has really calmed down and gotten comfortable. I finish getting the girls ready, grab all our stuff, and we are out the door at 7:12 (not bad!). Bundling up for MN winters is no joke, so it is quite the production to get out the door with littles.
7:15 a.m. — I drop N. off at her home daycare (right up the street), then take T. to school and drop her at before-school care and I'm on the road to work. We live in a suburb of St. Paul, but I drive to rural Western Wisconsin for work. It is a 45-minute drive, but very peaceful with no traffic, so I can't complain. I drink a chocolate protein shake that I packed on my drive.
8:15 a.m. — I make it to work through freezing rain. I saw a rollover and a head-on collision on my drive today. Yikes. Glad to be here and the temps are supposed to go up through the day. My boss lives in another state, but she is here this week and I run into her right away. We have an excellent working relationship — having a strong female mentor has been a huge career and morale booster for me. We catch up and I head to my desk to dive into emails and prep for a meeting later.
10 a.m. — Eat a banana chocolate chip muffin I packed from home. I am a big snacker at work!
12:15 p.m. — Just got out of a leadership meeting. A partner from the private equity group that owns us was in town to join us today. I am the youngest person by about 10 years and one of a couple of women in these meetings. Women are still a minority in Finance in these parts, especially in the manufacturing world. Just another reason I am grateful for a strong female leader in this industry. I am proud to be included in this meeting and have transparency into the direction the company is headed (imposter syndrome be damned!).
12:30 p.m. — Heat up some egg bake and refill my water. D. also packed some of the food I prepped over the weekend. I spend the afternoon working on a PowerPoint for an educational/learning section I am presenting to my employees in a staff meeting on Wednesday and one more conference call. I also eat an apple with peanut butter around 2.
5:15 p.m. — Get home from work. D. picked up the girls and they are already home and have walked the dog. Everyone is hungry! I warm up Pacifico roasted red pepper and tomato soup. I add tortellini and spinach to the soup and broil some garlic bread. The girls just eat tortellini with parmesan, blueberries, and grape tomatoes. We clean up dinner and just hang out and play until bedtime for the girls. I also throw some frozen chicken breasts in the Instant Pot to shred for dinner tomorrow night.
7:30 p.m. — I help the girls get their pajamas on and brush their teeth. Then we read two bedtime stories on the top bunk. They love reading our books up there and then making me go down the slide on their bunk bed! After the usual shenanigans, I think they are asleep by 8.
8 p.m. — I pack my gym bag and food for tomorrow (more unsolicited pro advice: packing a gym bag and laying out workout clothes the night before increases your chances of going exponentially). D. and I watch a couple of episodes of House Hunters before heading to bed. I read my book, Nine Perfect Strangers, for a bit before lights out around 9:30. Did we really have a zero spend day?!?
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — Up and getting dressed for the gym! I put on my favorite Athleta leggings and tank, put my hair in a ponytail, and brush my teeth. Mix my pre-workout and grab my gym bag, laptop tote, and food for the day. I love my gym mornings (it took me a while to get to this place though!). Everyone, including the dog, is still sound asleep as I walk out the door.
7:15 a.m. — Crushed LEG DAY. It's a love-hate relationship — it hurts so good. I take a body shower, dry shampoo my hair, and do my makeup at the gym. Hit the road and drink my protein shake in the car. I also stop for gas on the way to work. I fill up at least once a week with my commute. $38.18
9:45 a.m. — Spending most of today working on user security access issues with the costing module within our ERP system. This is a boring and tedious task, so I am taking small breaks to work on my forecasted financials for the month and quarter. I snack on another banana chocolate chip muffin and mix up a post-workout hydration drink as well. It must be some miracle that I do not have any meetings today.
12 p.m. — My boss stops in and asks if I want to go to lunch. I packed food, but she is not in town too often and it's hard to get one-on-one time when she is here, so I take her up on it. We go to a local café and I have a chicken pesto sandwich and she has a Philly cheesesteak. I will admit that I don't get out of the office enough! She pays and will expense it. I see that D. went to his work cafeteria today for either breakfast or lunch. $7.15
3:30 p.m. — I leave work a little early because N.'s daycare is closing early today. Up until last week, I have been involved in a major project and I was logging significant hours in the evenings and weekends at home. The project is on hold at the moment, so I am enjoying a bit more downtime. I pick up both girls, get home, and walk the dog. Since I am home a bit early, I take the chicken I shredded last night and mix it with buffalo sauce and shredded sharp cheddar in the slow cooker to warm it up for buffalo chicken tacos night. D. calls to check in and let us know he is on his way home. We usually talk on the phone every day during our commutes.
6 p.m. — Dinner time. We add lettuce, green peppers, and guac to the buffalo chicken tacos and eat them with a side of strawberries while playing "Family Talks." It is an assortment of thought-provoking questions that I bought to enhance our family dinnertime conversations. Tonight's question is "What is the most difficult thing about being a kid?" T. answers "cleaning up" LOL. N. is too young to understand most of the questions, but she giggles like she knows what is going on. I love it. After dinner, I do the dishes and clean the kitchen while D. gives the girls a bath.
8 p.m. — The girls are in bed, so I take a shower and wash my hair. D. and I settle in to watch the latest episode of Good Doctor, but I fall asleep on the couch before it is even over.
Daily Total: $45.33

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Up and getting ready for the gym. D. has an appointment this morning, so we switched gym days. Everyone is still sleeping when I leave. I give D. a kiss goodbye on my way out. Today is back and shoulder day — my favorite! I finish my workout, take a body shower and get ready at the gym. I head to work and stop at the gas station for a Quest bar. I am heading to our other plant this morning, so I also grab a dozen donuts to bring to folks up there. $10.37
10:30 a.m. — Done with a couple of meetings and need to head back to my office at the other plant for a meeting with my staff. It is only about a 10-minute drive. I eat a banana from my bag on the way back.
12:30 p.m. — Finished with the staff meeting. My "learning" section of the meeting was well received. The topic today was "Manufacturing Variances 101" (thrilling, I know!). I have been trying to incorporate teaching sections into these meetings to help my staff understand how their day-to-day job duties flow through and affect the overall financial picture of the company. After a morning of meetings, I take a mental break and eat the beef and veggie burrito that I prepped last week. I see that D. got Chipotle after his appointment. $10.43
2:30 p.m. — My boss just walked in and informed me that I am getting a $7,000 raise (up to $122,000)! We recently had a freeze on merit increases, and it was just lifted this week. I had a performance review last week that went really well, so I was hoping for at least a $5,000 increase once the freeze was lifted. I am pleased!
5:30 p.m. — Get home from work and start making dinner for D. and the girls. I have plans with my neighbor/friend, B., at the local wine bar tonight. I make "healthy" sloppy joes and get ready to leave. I pick up B. at 6:30 and we drive the two miles to the wine bar. We are both working moms and try to plan a kid-free night about once a month. We enjoy a bottle of wine, spicy chicken drops, truffle fries, and a slice of flourless chocolate cake. We love the ambiance of this place — it is so warm and cozy next to a fireplace and never too crowded. We have a relaxing evening with great conversation. I treat tonight. $66.11
9:30 p.m. — Arrive home and D. is watching Deputy and the girls are fast asleep. I spend some quality time with D. before falling asleep around 10:30.
Daily Total: $86.91

Day Five

5:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off and D. is still in bed. Today is a rest day from the gym for me, so I snuggle with D. a bit before he leaves for work. He has a gym at work that he uses before work. I get up, shower, blow dry my hair, and do my usual makeup routine. T. wakes up and comes in while I am blow drying my hair. She finds it hilarious to sneak up on me when I am drying my hair! T. gets dressed and I wake N. up and get her ready as well. We are out the door around 7:10.
8:15 a.m. — I drop both girls off and go to work. I settle in at my desk with an office coffee and a lemon RX Bar I brought from home. I get caught up with emails after a long day of meetings yesterday.
11:45 a.m. — Spend most of the morning talking with the CFO about cash flow forecasting and some other initiatives we are working on. I decide to run to Subway (limited options here, folks). I stop by and ask the CFO if he wants anything (he is in from out of town) and he gives me his order and throws cash at me. That was not my intention, but I thank him and head out.
5:30 p.m. — Head home and listen to an episode of Armchair Expert on my drive. D. and the girls are already home when I arrive. The pup is at my in-laws for a couple of days. We made a decision a few months ago to "share" the dog with them. They were thinking about getting a dog, but this works out great for everyone (especially the pup) because my mother-in-law is retired and can spend a lot of time with him during the week when we are working. I make quesadillas with the leftover shredded chicken, bell peppers, and cheese, and the girls have mac n cheese.
8 p.m. — The girls are bathed, the bedtime story is done, and they are in bed for the night. I am exhausted tonight, but we watch the newest episode of New Amsterdam before hitting the hay.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6 a.m. — Alarm goes off and D. gets up for work. I am working from home today, so I decide to stay in bed a bit longer. T. comes in around 6:30 and N. gets up shortly after. We all get dressed, brush teeth, fix hair, and are out the door by 7:15. I drop both girls off and head to the gym. I do 20 minutes on the stair stepper, and finish with an arm and ab session.
8:45 a.m. — I get home and get logged in for work. I make my favorite breakfast of granola, whole milk Greek yogurt, frozen pomegranate arils, and a drizzle of honey. YUM!
12 p.m. — Working away when I lose all connection to the network and realize there is no power in my house. I report it to our electrical company and see that many others also reported. It is not estimated to be back until 2. I guess I'll take a lunch break. I put together a "snack lunch" of summer sausage, sliced cheese, Dot's pretzels (if you know, you know), and guacamole. I also have a raspberry Bubly water.
1:10 p.m. — Power is back on. Back to work!
4 p.m. — I go pick up the girls from daycare and school and get back home to get ready for dinner with some friends tonight. This is an extremely rare week in that I have two kid-free nights! D. gets home around this time too. I head to the Park-n-Ride around 5 to pick up four of my friends (we are ridin' dirty in the minivan tonight!), and D. heads with the girls to his mom's house for a pizza party.
6 p.m. — We arrive at a restaurant in uptown Minneapolis and get a table. We enjoy a fun evening with drinks, queso, cream cheese wontons, veggie fried rice, veggie lo mein, and orange chicken. I have been close with this group of ladies since HIGH SCHOOL. We are not all in the same stage of life, but we have a blast and laugh so much when we are together. They are angels. I often struggle internally because I work for a for-profits company and make significantly more money than my friends. I do love my job and the challenges it brings, but these ladies are underpaid and underappreciated. I do not know if they have these same thoughts (or even know how much I make), but I try to treat them in small ways when we are together. I offer to treat everyone to dessert, but we are way too full. $42.93
10 p.m. — I make it home and D. is chillin' on the couch watching Deputy. The girls ended up staying overnight at his mom's house. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and read my book for a bit before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $42.93

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and try to go back to sleep, but I'm awake and give up trying around 7. D. and I decide to head to our favorite coffee shop on our way to pick up the girls. I have a chai latte, D. has a pour-over coffee, and we share a cinnamon roll ($12.75). We talk about our plans coming up, as we are thinking about selling our house to some friends this spring and need to start thinking about our next move. We have been watching the market and researching building a house. We can't make any decisions until our house is sold. We have a good amount of equity in this house (about $230,000), but we want to buy something reasonable and save a big chunk of that money. $12.75
8:15 a.m. — We pick up the girls and the dog and head home. T. appears to have a fever and is extremely tired. We stop on the way home to get her some Gatorade. We get home, get her settled on the couch, and have her take a chewable Tylenol to help with the fever. $5.25
12:30 p.m. — We spent the morning doing various projects, admin, and cleaning around the house while N. plays and T. sleeps (poor thing definitely has a virus). D. does a lot of the cleaning, while I usually handle all the cooking and meal planning. I prefer it this way as I have control issues with meal planning, ha. I have a random salad with leftover sloppy joe meat, lettuce, cheese, and tortilla strips for lunch. D. eats my leftovers from last night and N. has some salami, cheese, and oranges. N. goes down for a nap after lunch, so I decide to go run some errands. T. normally likes to go with me, but she is still resting.
1 p.m. — I decide to stop at Pier 1 first because the store is closing and I want to see if there are any good deals. Nothing catches my eye. Next, I go to Target. I buy deodorant for D., random condiments I can't get at Aldi, bread, Kodiak Cakes, tuna snack packs, Valentine's Day goodies to give the girls — hair ties, bath bombs, heart T-shirts, and heart socks. $90.05
2 p.m. — I call and check in with D. and head to Aldi for the weekly grocery haul. I planned our meals and made my list this morning. I get ingredients for broccoli salad and fruit salad for a Super Bowl party tomorrow, tomatoes, kiwis, berries, peppers, onions, butter lettuce, cilantro, sliced cheddar, shredded cheddar, various crackers, turkey sticks, granola, two tubs of yogurt, eggs, milk, tortilla chips, granola bars, black beans, cottage cheese, juice boxes, sour cream, mochi, ground beef, raw shrimp, and probably some other things I am forgetting. $96.56
3 p.m. — I get home and unload all of the groceries. T. is still not feeling well, so I snuggle with her while N. and D. go outside to play in the snow. It is a whopping 39 degrees here today, which is unheard of for this time of year in MN. It feels SO GOOD. I would love to go for a family hike or skiing but that won't be happening today with how T. is feeling.
8 p.m. — We had a quiet evening at home with T. being sick. Typically, we will go out to dinner as a family on Saturday nights, but we stayed in and ate random leftovers and snacks. The girls are in bed, so D. and I watch the latest episode of The Resident, and a couple of episodes of House Hunters before going to bed. I have a feeling tomorrow will be another quiet day with a sick little one.
Daily Total: $204.61
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:
Did you get a prenup, plan to get a prenup or have strong thoughts on current prenup trends? Share your opinions here and you could be featured in an upcoming Work & Money story!

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series