A Week In St. Petersburg, FL, On A $203,000 Joint Income

Photo: Courtesy of Toyota.
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.
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Today: an Executive Director who has a joint income of $203,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a rental car.
Occupation: Executive Director
Industry: Non-profit
Age: 32
Location: St. Petersburg, FL
My Salary: $85,000 plus an annual bonus of ~$8,000
My Husband's (M.) Salary: $110,000
Net Worth: $27,500 (IRA: $10,500 (I've never had a job with a 401(k), so I just ignored saving for retirement until recently); M.'s 401(k): $80,000; $40,000 equity in our house; $30,000 savings minus debt)
Debt: M.'s student loans: $58,000; my student loans: $54,000; mortgage: $350,000; solar loan: $21,000
My Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,716
My Husband's Paycheck (2x/month): $1,246 plus ~$3,000 1x/month

Monthly Expenses
Mortgge: $2,469
My Student Loans: $0 (suspended due to COVID)
My Husband's Student Loans: $690
Solar Loan: $171
Home Warranty: $51
Electric: $12-$80 (we are still on the electric company's grid, so these are the admin fees plus whatever solar doesn't cover)
Water/Trash: ~$130
Car and SUV Lease: $546
Car Insurance: $141
Lawn/Pest Maintenance: ~$190 (pay more in summer for mosquito control, less in winter)
M.'s HSA: $100
Cell Phones: $155
Internet: $60.69
Disney Annual Pass: $39.14
Spotify: $9.99
Disney Plus/Hulu/ESPN: $14.76
M.'s 401(k): ~$1,500 deducted from paycheck
My IRA: varies month to month but I'll pay the difference to max it out at the end of the year
Classpass: $49
Amazon Prime (Annual): $119
Credit Card Annual Fees (Annual): $233
Beachbody On Demand (Annual): $99
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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, both of my parents have college degrees yet have always lived paycheck to paycheck with little savings, so I am unsure why they put such an emphasis on having a degree. I have a master's degree and paid for both undergrad and grad school with a combination of scholarships and student loans. I'm six years into the PSLF plan and am still on track for my loans to be forgiven in four years.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom taught me to always buy things on sale and seek out coupons/discounts. When grocery shopping, I buy the brand that is on sale even if I prefer a different brand out of habit. Otherwise, I do not remember many conversations about finances and have mostly figured things out on my own.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a bagger at Publix. My dad told me he would match whatever money I made to buy a car thinking it wouldn't be much. I worked my butt off at minimum wage, and in a couple of months, I had $1,000. He came up with the $1,000 to match it and that's how I got my first car.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. My parents were never quiet about the fact that they had credit card debt. They got divorced when I was a freshman in high school and it took my mom years to get out of serious debt. My dad declared bankruptcy a few years after their divorce. I had all my basic needs met, but if I wanted anything extra, I had to work to buy it myself.
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Do you worry about money now?
Not day to day but I worry I am not saving enough for retirement.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
18. I am sure if I really needed it, my family could help me out on a very temporary basis, but I would never ask.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No.

Day One

2 a.m. — My husband, M., and I are standing in four inches of water in our living room drinking White Claws and taking videos of our house. Hurricane Eta just came through during high tide and our entire house took on water. I send a message out to my staff explaining the situation and ask for my patience in answering emails. We didn't lose power but our internet is out so I can't really work. I imagine some of the staff will have the same issue.
4 a.m. — We finally decide to just go to bed. Some of the water has receded and there is nothing we can do now. I set an alarm for 8 a.m. so we can get started making phone calls. Just as we are about to sleep, we smell burning coming from our kitchen. We realize we never turned off our appliances. M. goes into the garage and turns off the circuit breaker and I have a heart attack when I realize he did that standing in water. I call 911 because I'm not 100% the fridge isn't on fire. They tell us it is too flooded to get to us so we spend the rest of the night awake making sure our house doesn't burn to the ground.
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8 a.m. — Our house never caught on fire and I managed to sleep for an hour. There is still a good amount of water in the street but it has receded away from the house and driveway. We get to work right away. M. calls our flood insurance and I call a water mitigation company. Apparently, our neighbors started calling last night so we are on a long waiting list for them to get to us. After I'm done, I call our car insurance to start a claim. Both M. and my car took on water and M.'s still has standing water. They tell us they will call us soon. M.'s coworker drops off a shop vac so M. gets started on sucking up the water that didn't recede out of our house. I dump the contents of our fridge after taking inventory and pictures and then get to work on cleaning out the garage.
4 p.m. — M. and I have finished our tasks. We decide to test-drive our cars now that the water from the street is receded. Both cars start but M. can hear water sloshing around somewhere. We use my car to drop off the shop vac and profusely thank him for letting us borrow it. We realize we haven't eaten all day. I really want Taco Bell because terrible fast food is comfort food for me. On our way there, we get a call from our insurance adjuster to set up an appointment for Sunday morning. Once we have eaten and showered we spend the rest of the night staring at the mess of our house and comforting our traumatized cat before going to bed early. $25.65
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Daily Total: $25.65

Day Two

6 a.m. — I get ready for work. I have to go in today because I have a new employee starting and so much work to do that can't be done at home. I stop to get coffee and a couple of bottles of water at Wawa (paid for on a pre-loaded Wawa card). I usually fill up water from our fridge to take to work but no fridge equals no water and FL tap water is just not an option.
12 p.m. — I can't concentrate on anything but I'm getting more done than I could have at home. I check in with M. He got some much-needed sleep and is working on cleaning up our backyard. My new employee is super understanding of my situation, but I feel so guilty she is not getting the best orientation to her new job.
5:30 p.m. — I leave work after not eating again all day. Once again, I get fast food with M., this time from Wendy's ($19.24). We stop by Publix afterward to get toilet paper, car and house air fresheners, and water jugs ($44.94). I shower and eat. M. and I watch the last episode of American Horror Story Cult then Schitt's Creek reruns. We get into bed early for a Friday because we have a ton to do tomorrow. $64.18
Daily Total: $64.18

Day Three

8 a.m. — We get up and get ready for another long day. M. meets with the water mitigation company, signs a contract, and pays the deposit ($2,500). Our flood insurance deductible is $5,000 so they will start picking up the tab once we get there. I call our home warranty who still hasn't fixed a problem from pre-hurricane. Somehow, I'm having a more difficult time getting my tiny plumbing issue solved than M. is having with the mitigation company so he follows up with our car insurance while I'm still on hold. Both our cars need to be inspected because salt water is dangerous in cars. He makes an appointment for Monday and calls a tow truck to get his car towed to the dealership. I realize we should have a rental car while both our cars are getting inspected. I get the cheapest option possible for Sunday-Tuesday ($83.57). $2,583.57
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11 a.m. — I go to get our pool water tested. They tell me there is way too much salt in our pool and to drain it a foot, add water, then drain again and repeat this process a few times. I'll bring in more water in a few days to see if it needs more chemicals. While I'm there, I get a new skimmer and filter ($52.62). I get home and make M. and I bagels while he starts on the pool. Cream cheese made the cooler cut so we don't have to eat dry bagels. I start picking up all the towels and small rugs/mats that got wet and put them in a bag. I put those along with our laundry in the car. We drive to a friend's house to stay for the rest of the day doing laundry. $52.62
5:30 p.m. — Our friends buy us pizza and M. goes to the store to get seltzers and a bottle of wine ($54.01). It feels nice to just hang out and not think about the 100 things we still have to do. After five loads of laundry, we pack our clean clothes, towels, and mats up and go home. M. is still hungry on the way home and wants McDonald's. He gets a burger, fries, and McNuggets and I get a cheeseburger happy meal ($12.81). We crash as soon as we get home after unloading and eating. $66.82
Daily Total: $2,703.01

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — We both get up and quickly shower because our adjuster is getting to our house at 8 and I want to put away some of the laundry we did yesterday. The adjuster is on time and explains how we will proceed. We need so many things replaced I didn't expect like doors and kitchen cabinets. I ask what happens if they give us more money than we need, which is apparently a stupid question because he laughs. He tells us to confirm all of our appliances are unfixable and hire a general contractor. The water mitigation company stops by again, this time with dehumidifiers. They mark how high the water went on all the walls in our house in preparation for demoing them next week. The dehumidifiers are set up and so loud, but at least it won't feel like a sauna in our house.
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12 p.m. — We decide to go to a sports bar for lunch to watch football and get out of the house. They seat us in a remote corner and I am very appreciative. It's hard to consider COVID when what seems like a more pressing emergency is happening around you. We hadn't really been eating out before this situation but we are having a hard time staying at home when it is a construction zone at our house. For lunch, I have a salad and M. has a sandwich. We each have a drink ($54.95). We leave at halftime. I continue watching the game at home and M. takes a nap. $54.95
4 p.m. — M. wakes up to watch the Dolphins game and I do some work on my laptop. I switch between working and looking at appliances. I can't believe there is an oven that has an air fryer in it! While the Dolphins game finishes up, I check the beverage fridge in our bar. It seems to be working. I make a few salads with the veggies I managed to save in our Yeti and put them in the beverage fridge for M. When the game is over, M. takes out the trash, checks on the pool, and makes a hurricane staple (a peanut butter sandwich) then we head to the airport to pick up a rental car and drop my car at the dealer for inspection. I get the keys to the rental and the guy just sends me off into a pitch-black parking lot with no directions. It takes a while to find the car and once I get in, I realize it reeks of smoke. At this point, I'm not walking all the way back to get another car so I decide to deal with it. I get to the dealership where M. has dropped off my SUV.
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9 p.m. — It was a terrible idea to not exchange the car. I am going to have to deal with the smoke smell for two days and the rental company could blame me. I'm so stressed out and no one picks up in customer service so I go full-blown Karen in an email to the company. I actually feel better after projecting, so I brush my teeth, do an abbreviated version of my skincare routine, then proceed to immediately pass out while cuddling my distraught cat.
Daily Total: $54.95

Day Five

6 a.m. — The cat is finally acting like himself. He bats me in the face until I get up and feed him and proceeds to attempt to trip me as I get ready. I get into the cigarette mobile and realize about halfway to work I forgot to bring tampons. Of course, I'm on my period during this crisis. I stop by a store on the way in and grab tampons and a Diet Mountain Dew. I get to work right before my new employee gets here. She is training with another person today so I walk over to introduce them. Training and orienting new people is one of my favorite parts of my job, but I am looking forward to a day alone in the office to just get things done. Also working without a mask on sounds glorious. $10.25
12 p.m. — So much for getting work done. I call an appliance repair, AC and heating repair company, and a general contractor to make appointments for this afternoon. Then I talk to our car insurance and they tell me to expect needing a rental for a couple of weeks at least. We still haven't received word if our cars are total losses yet. I call M. and he says he is going to see if he can add rental car coverage to our policy since our policy renews in a couple of days. It's a long shot but worth a try. I eat a Lean Cuisine and do real work.
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2:30 p.m. — I leave work to meet the appliance repair company. I'll work from home for the rest of the day which is next to impossible but my only option. M. called our insurance to add rental insurance for our current claim and as expected we basically got laughed at. The appliance repair company called our appliances all non-repairable. The heat and air repair company did not find any issues with our water heater or AC. It was $100 for the appliance repair and $85 for heat and air. The general contractor comes out but informs us he doesn't have the time to do a job our size. I will have to make more calls tomorrow to continue to search. I go back to answering work emails and working on a potential new project while M. picks up around the house and cleans out the cat's litter. $185
7 p.m. — M. and I get food from a food hall and eat outside. We both get chicken sandwiches and share fries ($23.85). When we get home, I run a Swiffer over the floors we keep tracking dirt on. We really need our porch pressure washed so we stop tracking in so much dirt. I add it to the never-ending list of things to do. M. and I watch Schitt's Creek for some comedic relief while we get ready for bed. $23.85
Daily Total: $219.10

Day Six

6:10 a.m. — Phone alarm goes off followed by the cat's version of an alarm clock. I feed him and get ready for the day. I grab the invoices from yesterday to scan at work and leave. I have the worst headache from driving in a car that smells like cigarettes. I call the rental company because they still haven't responded to my complaint and I need to return the car tonight. They make note of my smoke-free history and give me a discount of $25. I still need a rental car for at least another week and I'm not renting from this company so I call another. It will be $361 for the week. After my call to the rental car company, I call another general contractor who does seem willing to help but wants to see what the adjuster says needs to be fixed. I send the scanned copies of invoices from yesterday over to the adjuster.
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11:30 a.m. — After a few work meetings, I call M. He stayed home today to deal with the people coming into our house. The plumber finally came to fix our shower drain which was a pre-hurricane problem. Our home warranty will cover that. He also fixes the pre-hurricane pool leak ($299). An electrician should be by later today to check our outlets and our car insurance called asking for more information but confirmed they anticipate both cars to be total losses. Luckily we leased our cars so we don't have to wait for a check from our insurance to get new cars. After M. gives me the updates on our house and cars, we express how grateful we are for one another and that if we have to live in a construction zone for a few months at least we have each other. We hang up and I eat a Lean Cuisine while answering emails. Turns out if you distract yourself while eating a microwaveable meal, it's not as terrible. $299
4:30 p.m. — Electrician stops by the house. M. pays him $230 to look at all the outlets and replace the ones that were impacted. He will need to come back once the kitchen cabinets are out because he thinks there are a few corroded wires behind them. I put out a few fires at work then work on the board meeting agenda. I leave work around 6:30 and fill up the rental with gas before dropping it off ($6.28). I walk two feet over to a different rental car counter to pick up my new car. This rental car company seems equally inept so maybe all rental car companies are the worst. It takes 30 minutes to get my car and finally leave ($361). $597.28
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8 p.m. — I stop by Publix to pick up a Pub-Sub for M. I stroll by the sale sign for the chicken tender Pub-Sub and grab a deli salad for myself. I spend the trip to the register celebrating my newly found willpower ($15.47). M. and I eat and watch one of my favorite episodes of Schitt's Creek — the one with open mic night — and get all the feels. We get ready for bed and are asleep by 9:30. $15.47
Daily Total: $911.75

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Cat gets me up seconds before my alarm. I do our normal morning dance and leave for work. It's double star day at Starbucks so I stop and get an obnoxious frappuccino. I have to refill my card. $20
12 p.m. — I spend the whole morning training and attempting to attend meetings. I get a call around lunchtime that the demo crew is coming out tomorrow to take 2 feet of drywall out throughout the house. I get a call an hour later that both cars are officially totaled and they are working with the car company to pay off the leases. M. makes an appointment with the dealer who worked with us a year ago to get new cars. He sends us pricing on the same cars but one year newer and the monthly price is actually less. I'll take the good news.
5:45 p.m. — I leave work. M. and I are very hungry. We go to a local restaurant to get food. I get a steak fajita bowl and M. gets a spicy chicken bowl. We both get oversized sangrias and toast to surviving the most mentally taxing week of our lives. I don't want to go back to our house yet so we get beers. We get home around 9 and get ready for bed. We both go to sleep immediately. $71.59
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Daily Total: $91.59
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