A Week In Minneapolis, MN, On A Joint $101,000 Income

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Today: a freelance journalist working in media who makes approximately $15,000 per year ($101,000 combined with her husband) and spends some of her money this week on a cheese plate.
Occupation: Freelance Journalist
Industry: Media
Age: 31
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Salary: $15,000 (This is an estimate — I started freelancing full-time in February.)
Paycheck Amount: I get paid per assignment, so this can range from $50 to $1,500.
My Husband’s Salary: $86,000
My Husband’s Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $1,813.91
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Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $0 (We bought our two-bedroom townhome as a short sale in 2012 and paid it off within 18 months.)
Student Loans: $0 (I got scholarships and help from my parents. My husband had family assistance.)
Medical Insurance: $216.30 (deducted from husband's paycheck pre-tax)
Dental Insurance: $12.61 (deducted from husband's paycheck pre-tax)
HOA Fee: $250
Car Payments: $0 (We purchased our cars with savings.)
Internet: $67
Netflix: $11
Electricity: $100-$160
Talkspace: $196 (online therapy)
Husband's Gym Membership: $15
Public Radio Membership: $5
Patreon: $5
Server Fees: $60
Cell Phone: $60 (We reimburse my parents for our share of the family plan.)
Retirement Savings: $1,645.89 (deducted from husband's paycheck pre-tax)
Husband's Metro Transit Pass: $83 (deducted from my husband's paycheck pre-tax)
Annual Expenses
Property Taxes: $1,854
Car Insurance: $943 (for two cars)
Car Registration Fees: $773 (for two cars)
Credit Card Fee: $59
Public Television Membership: $60
Newspaper Subscription: $172
Condo Insurance: $196 (covers the interior of our townhome and possessions)

Day One

3 a.m. — I've been tossing and turning for a couple hours. I move to the couch so I can listen to an episode of Sleep With Me without disturbing my husband.
5:40 a.m. — Wake up and crawl back into bed with my husband.
6:30 a.m. — The alarm goes off. I cuddle with my husband for awhile and eventually accept that I will need to get out of bed. Even when you work at home, Mondays feel like Mondays.
7:35 a.m. — I eat a jar of overnight oats with plain yogurt, raspberries, and maple syrup that I prepped yesterday. I get dressed, since staying in my pajamas past 8 is bad for my morale.
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8 a.m. — I edit an article I wrote last week and submit it. Since I don't have any other journalism projects pending, I work on my personal blog. I don't earn much direct income from my blog, but I do get perks like free hotel stays, event invites, meals, and products, and some of those lead to story ideas that I can pitch.
9:30 a.m. — Take a snack break: chocolate chia pudding I made yesterday (chia seeds, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, soy milk, vanilla, and maple syrup) and an apple.
10:30 a.m. — I get an email from our CSA farmer with a sneak peek at the contents of our weekly share — since it's the last of the season, we're getting twice as much produce as usual. (We paid a lump sum of $225 at the beginning of the season. I get a substantial discount because I do some copywriting work for my farmer as in-kind payment.) I make a meal plan for the next few days and go grocery shopping. If I don't get out of the house once a day, it just gets depressing. At Aldi, I get spinach and garlic ($2.58), but the store is under construction, so the selection is much more limited than usual. Next up is Target, where I buy a lemon, blue cheese dressing, and chicken stock ($4.77), plus a birthday card for my husband, toothpaste, and toilet bowl cleaner ($9.73). $17.08
12:15 p.m. — For lunch, I sauté kale from last week's CSA share and top it with a couple of fried eggs. I also have an apple and a square of dark chocolate. Since it's raining, I take a walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes while listening to Nancy and knitting.
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1:30 p.m. — I get an email from an editor declining a pitch I sent last week but offering me a different story assignment.
2:15 p.m. — Lunch was not nearly as filling as I'd hoped it would be. I eat some cottage cheese and rice cakes.
4:45 p.m. — This has been a frustrating day. The feast-or-famine aspect of freelancing is something that I struggle with — it's hard to stay positive when things are slow. I'm trying to land more steady copywriting and content marketing work with nonprofit and corporate clients.
5:45 p.m. — For dinner, I make halushki with cabbage and onion from last week's CSA share. My husband gets home from work and reports that he bought a bag of Cheetos from a vending machine. (Since we have joint finances, he is humoring me and tracking his spending for this Money Diary.) $1.40
7:45 p.m. — I want soft serve, so we head to McDonald's. I get a vanilla cone and my husband gets a small order of fries. $3.31
8 p.m. — I text with my boyfriend to catch up on our days. After several years of monogamy, my husband and I opened our marriage a few years ago, and it's proven to be the right decision for us. I have a long-term boyfriend and my husband has a close friend with benefits. I feel fortunate to have two incredible men in my life who love me and have supported me through some very rough patches.
8:30 p.m. — My husband and I go to a Wombats concert that I bought tickets for a few weeks ago. We get there during the opening set, and my husband buys a Surly Furious for himself (the unofficial craft beer of Minneapolis) and grabs me a pair of earplugs. Concert venues here are required to provide them for free, and usually you just request them from the bartender. $8.44
11 p.m. — The concert was so much fun, but I am so exhausted. We pay for parking on the way out of the ramp. Once we get home, I take a shower, read for awhile, and go to bed just after midnight. $5.25
Daily Total: $35.48

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — I wake up and try to fall back asleep, but it's a lost cause, so I cuddle my husband for bit and then get up and start working on my blog.
8 a.m. — I take a break to eat a jar of overnight oats. My husband is taking the morning off, so I make him a cheese omelet for breakfast. I make a mug of peppermint tea, get dressed, and get back to working on my blog.
10 a.m. — Morning snack time: more chocolate chia pudding and another apple. I love Minnesota apples — Honeycrisps get all the hype, but my favorites are Zestars, Regents, Snow Sweets, and Chestnut Crabs.
11 a.m. — I go to Barnes & Noble to do some newsstand research. I have a story idea outside my usual niche, so I want to see what magazines I should pitch. I don't find a good fit, but I do get some ideas for other pitches. One of my articles is in the latest issue of a magazine, so I buy a copy. I pick up our CSA share on the way home. $5.37
12:15 p.m. — For lunch, I eat leftover halushki, an apple, and a square of dark chocolate. I put away the CSA produce: honey, maple syrup, raspberry jam, popcorn (still on the cob), Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, sweet dumpling squash, buttercup squash, a pumpkin for pie, beets, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes, parsnips, fennel, apples, and onions. Since it's been so wet, most of the produce is muddy and needs to be washed.
1 p.m. — Live video session with my online therapist. Usually we just do written messages, but since she'll be unavailable for the next couple of weeks, we wanted to chat in real time to go over my treatment plan during her absence. After some frustrating technical difficulties, we decide to try again this evening. I finish putting away the CSA produce and walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill while knitting and listening to What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law.
3 p.m. — I take a break from sending out story pitches to various editors and eat a bowl of oatmeal with ground flax and brown sugar. I get the final details on the story my editor assigned me yesterday and set up a phone interview for tomorrow.
5 p.m. — I run five miles on the treadmill because it's still raining. This fall has thoroughly convinced me that I could never live in the Pacific Northwest. I take a shower after my run and put on my pajamas.
6:30 p.m. — I start making dinner just as my husband gets home: quinoa topped with sweet potato, spinach, and walnuts. While I'm cooking, my husband goes to Target to buy cinnamon sticks to make cinnamon-infused simple syrup. $4.27
7:30 p.m. — Nightly texting session with my boyfriend. We commiserate about the lousy weather.
8:10 p.m. — The rescheduled video session with my therapist is productive and glitch-free. I spend the rest of the evening hanging out with my husband. We watch an episode of The Magic School Bus on Netflix. He is on board with the concept of the bus transforming into a floppy disk, but feels the way the students and Ms. Frizzle travel from the computer to the printer is “unrealistic.” I eat a protein bar before bed.
10:30 p.m. — The only positive about all this rain is that it sounds very soothing as I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $9.64

Day Three

3:20 a.m. — Can't sleep, so I listen to a podcast on the couch.
6:25 a.m. — I get back into bed to cuddle with my husband. I stay in bed after he gets up because I am exhausted and my head is pounding. Since he has an event after work, he drives instead of taking the bus and light rail and pays for parking. $5
8 a.m. — Pitch a story idea and the editor responds immediately with a yes. Yay!
8:30 a.m. — I eat breakfast: oatmeal with ground flax, chia seeds, coconut, and coconut sugar.
9 a.m. — I create a profile on a marketing platform so that I can apply for content writing gigs. I enjoy journalism work, but it can be sporadic (see: this week so far), and the pay isn't great. If I want freelancing to be sustainable long-term, I need to spend more time on higher-paying content writing gigs.
10:15 a.m. — I finally get dressed. My husband texts to report that he got “fancy scrambled eggs with sausage plus orange juice” at Al's Breakfast, a beloved diner near the University of Minnesota. $15.96
11 a.m. — I finish setting up a profile on another marketing platform and eat an apple. Then I walk to a nearby Caribou Coffee and order a hot crafted press with pumpkin. I have $1.44 left on a gift card, so I only have to pay $2.10. I prepare for my phone interview this afternoon and send yet another pitch. My mom texts me a photo of the 15-foot waves on Lake Superior — they're getting gale-force winds. $2.10
12:15 p.m. — I walk home and eat lunch: leftover quinoa with spinach and sweet potato, an apple, and a square of dark chocolate. The rain has died down to a light drizzle, so I go for a walk in a nearby park. Even though it's dreary, it's nice to get outside.
1:30 p.m. — The phone interview goes well, but there's so much information that I need to figure out what direction this article should take — it's for a publication that I write for frequently, so the editor gives me a lot of creative freedom. In the meantime, I get to work on my other story and research some more pitch ideas.
3:15 p.m. — I hear back from another editor with a yes on a pitch. It's a story I've wanted to write for a long time, and this is the fourth publication I've pitched it to — freelancing is not for the easily discouraged. I take a break to eat cottage cheese and rice cakes.
5:15 p.m. — I listen to Stuff You Missed in History Class and 99 Percent Invisible while making dinner: steamed edamame, baked sweet dumpling squash, and beet risotto. My husband is at his event, so I listen to Planet Money while I eat.
8 p.m. — I spend 45 minutes doing yoga by candlelight — between running and my horrible posture when I'm typing, I need it physically, and it really helps calm me down too. I take a shower and then spend the rest of the evening texting with my boyfriend. For a bedtime snack, I have a cup of peppermint tea with a few Maria cookies.
10:30 p.m. — My husband gets home from his event just as I'm falling asleep.
Daily Total: $23.06

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — I wake up to the alarm. I turn it off and cuddle with my husband for half an hour before getting up.
7:45 a.m. — My usual breakfast of overnight oats. I chat with my husband about the event he attended last night, a meet-up for electric vehicle owners with a presentation by our electric utility about discount rate programs. It doesn't sound like we'll meet the criteria for any of them based on our usage and specific make of car.
9:45 a.m. — I spend the morning working on articles and take a break to have an apple, chocolate chia pudding, and a mug of Tim Hortons apple cinnamon tea.
12 p.m. — For lunch, I have leftover beet risotto, carrots with some hummus I made last weekend, an apple, and a square of dark chocolate. I walk to the library to work there for a couple of hours and stop at a gas station on the way for a cup of coffee. Adding a shot of Cinnabon-flavored creamer was definitely the wrong call. $1.49
3 p.m. — I walk back home, make a bowl of popcorn, and work on my blog. Then I eat some jelly beans in the hopes that the sugar high will spur creativity. It doesn't, but I decide that coconut-flavored jelly beans are underrated.
5 p.m. — I bundle up for a five-mile run — the first two miles are miserable, but then I warm up enough so that the wind feels invigorating. My husband gets home at the same time I do after picking up a birthday card for his mom on the way home. $6.44
7:15 p.m. — I finally sit down to dinner after taking a shower and dealing with a few chores. We have salad and pasta with topped with fresh tomatoes and thyme, oregano, and chives from my herb garden.
8 p.m. — I text with my boyfriend for awhile and then spend the rest of the evening hanging out with my husband. I eat a protein bar before bed.
Daily Total: $7.93

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I didn't sleep very well last night, so I get out of bed later than usual. I eat a jar of overnight oats and settle in front of my laptop with a mug of peppermint tea.
9:30 a.m. — I get ready and eat an apple and the final serving of chocolate chia pudding. I spend the rest of the morning writing, and finish and submit an article. My husband texts me to report that he used a $2 off coupon to buy a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich on an asiago parmesan bagel at Bruegger's. $3.12
12 p.m. — No leftovers today, so I have kind of a random lunch: carrots and radishes with hummus, a bowl of oatmeal, cottage cheese, and an apple. After lunch, I go for a walk in the park — it's chilly but the sun is finally out, which makes me very happy.
1 p.m. — I drive over to my boyfriend's house. Usually we hang out on Saturdays, but since tomorrow is my husband's birthday, I rescheduled for today. My boyfriend works from home on Fridays, so we hang out on the couch with our laptops. I finish and submit article #2 and do some research for article #3 and my blog. Once we've wrapped up our work for the day, we hang out.
5 p.m. — On the way home, I stop at the grocery store to pick up more cinnamon sticks ($8.64) and at Target to get eggs and a frozen pizza ($8.19). $16.83
5:30 p.m. — I get an email from an editor accepting a pitch I sent last week — it's looking like the work lull is coming to an end. My husband gets home and tells me that he bought cookies from a vending machine and that they weren't very good. $1.50
7 p.m. — We have frozen pizza for dinner since I want to focus on a baking project: pumpkin pie for my husband's birthday tomorrow. Even though I only need a bottom crust, I make enough for a double-crusted pie so that I can make decorations for the top. Then I bake the leftover crust sprinkled with cinnamon sugar — homemade pie crust is one of my all-time favorites.
10 p.m. — I head to bed after eating a great deal of pie crust, cleaning up the kitchen, showering, and texting my boyfriend goodnight. My husband stays up late watching TV.
Daily Total: $21.45

Day Six

2 a.m. — I wake up with a very sore throat and suck on some Ricola lozenges. I have a hard time getting back to sleep and end up spending the rest of the night on the couch listening to podcasts and intermittently dozing. Eventually, I crawl into bed to cuddle with my husband.
8 a.m. — I make my husband pumpkin spice waffles for his birthday while he whips up pumpkin spice whipped cream. He likes the waffles, but they're not doing it for me, so I have a bowl of oatmeal. I start in on the laundry and make a meal plan and grocery list.
10 a.m. — Usually I go for a seven-mile run on Saturdays, but I feel pretty tired and sick, so I only do three miles. It's a gorgeous fall day — sunny and crisp. After my run, I take a shower and work on the laundry.
11:15 a.m. — Since it's his birthday, my husband gets a pass on errands. (He hates grocery shopping, so this is actually a pretty nice bonus birthday present.) The shelves at Aldi are half empty due to the renovation, and they're out of stock on a lot of the things I had planned to buy there. I stock up on the items they do have: plain yogurt, garbanzo beans, arborio rice, cilantro, and apples ($19.71). At Target, I get rice cakes, mushrooms, barley, a wedge of parmesan, canned pumpkin, a lime, blue cheese crumbles, cottage cheese, and butter ($23.74), plus dental floss, dishwasher soap pods, rinse aid, and toilet paper ($35.74). $79.19
12:45 p.m. — For lunch I have a bagel with cream cheese, carrots, radishes, an apple, and a square of dark chocolate. I call my parents while I fold laundry.
2 p.m. — We drive to Lake Maria State Park and buy a daily permit so that we can admire the fall leaves. It's clouded over and the wind is brisk, but the yellow and orange maples make it worth the drive. $7
5:15 p.m. — Back at home, my husband makes more pumpkin spice whipped cream (with a different recipe that I like much better than the one this morning). Our version of pregaming is eating pumpkin pie.
6:30 p.m. — We go to Keg & Case, a food hall in St. Paul. After wandering around for a bit, my husband gets a brisket sandwich ($12.95), and then we split a cheese plate at the wine bar ($21 with tip). $33.95
9 p.m. — We had planned to go to a taproom or cocktail bar, but my husband isn't feeling it. Instead, we decide to swing by the fancy grocery store for snacks and hang out at home. We get pretzels, spicy trail mix, olives, and sparkling water. My boyfriend texts to say goodnight. $13.10
11:45 p.m. — Spending the rest of the night in was the right call — it was a really lovely and low-key evening. I take a shower and a dose of nighttime cold medicine before bed.
Daily Total: $133.24

Day Seven

8:45 a.m. — I wake up with a sore throat, congested sinuses, and a nasty cough, but seriously, that was the best night of sleep I've gotten in months. Cold medicine is amazing.
10:15 a.m. — I eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and spend the morning finishing the laundry.
11:30 a.m. — I realize that I forgot to get frozen raspberries yesterday, so I make a quick Target run ($2.65). I also get a daisy plant and peppermint tea to give to my mother-in-law for her birthday ($12.51). $15.16
12:30 p.m. — Even though I had a late breakfast, I'm already hungry for lunch. I have a bagel with cream cheese, leftover squash, an apple, and a square of dark chocolate. My sister texts me to ask if I still want to hang out this afternoon as planned, but since I'm feeling pretty under the weather, I cancel and take a nap.
2 p.m. — I eat a piece of pumpkin pie and go back to bed.
4 p.m. — I finally wake up — my in-laws stopped by for a visit while I was asleep, but my husband figured I needed the rest and didn't wake me up. I text with my boyfriend while making my overnight oats and chocolate chia pudding for the upcoming week.
6:30 p.m. — I make roasted Brussels sprouts and gnocchi with a pumpkin and mushroom sauce for dinner while listening to Reply All. My husband and I split the last piece of pumpkin pie for dessert. Usually I go for a three-mile run on Sunday evenings, but that's not going to happen today. Instead, I spend the rest of the night reading the paper.
10 p.m. — I shower, text my boyfriend goodnight, take a dose of nighttime cold medicine, and go to bed.
Daily Total: $15.16
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