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A Week In Baltimore, MD, On A $205,000 Joint Income

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 government administrator who has a joint income of $205,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a candle.
Occupation: Administrator
Industry: Government
Age: 33
Location: Baltimore, MD
My Salary: $85,000
My Husband's Salary: $120,000
Net Worth: ~$219,000 not including my husband, D.'s, personal accounts. (Our finances are not entirely merged but not separated either. Our house is worth approximately $450,000 (and we owe $307,000), I have about $20,000 invested in my pension, $5,000 in personal savings, $6,000 in a personal checking account (that does collect some interest) and about $10,000 in a Roth IRA. My husband and I have about $35,000 in joint savings. Some of that money is getting moved into a money market account to be used for an emergency fund. My husband has additional savings in both a savings account and a retirement account. He works for an investment firm that gives him retirement account money for existing, so it's not an insignificant amount. He has stock options as well but we cashed them out in February 2020 to use for our down payment.)
Debt: $307,000 left on the mortgage.
My Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,965.57
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,026.63 mortgage payment split with D., so my half is $1,013.32.
Spotify: $13.77 (D. pays for Netflix and we get Disney+ for free through Verizon).
Cell Phone: $0, D. covers this for me since I pay for all of our insurance.
Dental, Pharmacy, and Health Insurance: $300 taken out of my paycheck.
Water: $120
Gas/Electric: $100
Savings: $300
Donations: D. gives monthly to our church in exchange for health insurance. We do other ad hoc donations throughout the year. I'm currently saving to give a bigger sum to pay back some scholarships I received in college.

Annual Expenses
Car Insurance: $2,000
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?
Both of my parents have grad school degrees so yes, college was expected. I went to undergrad at an expensive private university, which my parents paid for in combination with financial aid and scholarships. After graduating, I worked for about two years before moving to a new state and starting a graduate program. I had saved up almost all of the money I needed but my parents did give me a $25,000 loan. I've been paying back that loan since I graduated with 0% interest. My dad's least favorite thing in the world is knowing that people are spending more money than they should, so it would have driven him slightly mad to know I was taking on student loans. They were in a position to offer the loan and I took it. My brother and sister received similar loan offers; my sister took my dad up on it (she never finished that program) and my brother didn't since he went part-time and his work paid for most of his graduate degree.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Both of my parents worked in finance so money was frequently talked about. However, it wasn't really their money they were talking about, it was mostly my dad's job he talked about and my mom understood. My mom was a stay-at-home mom during my childhood, largely because my brother and I were sick so frequently that it would have been difficult for both my parents to work and hold a job. I go to my dad for advice about finances and I know they have plenty saved for the rest of their lives, but I've had to do a lot of the initial learning myself to be able to ask my dad the right questions. He doesn't necessarily offer much education, just guidance.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked through middle school, high school, and college summers as a pet sitter and a babysitter. My first real job was working for my college's history department making photocopies. I had all of these jobs so I could have spending money but I generally wasn't the most social person so this mostly went into savings.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about money growing up. I really didn't go without anything, but I wasn't interested in wanting certain things. I specifically didn't care about appearances (which is helpful for controlling spending). I don't remember ever getting told that I couldn't do something because of cost. I took up a slightly obscure hobby in high school and I was able to go to lessons for that and cost was never an issue.
Do you worry about money now?
I do, but to be honest, I worry about most things (I'm on a waiting list for a therapist). As a government employee, I'm aware that I'm underpaid for what I do. I knew that going in but since COVID started, the perks (excellent work-life balance) have dried up substantially. I'm expected to be on call almost all the time now. Because of this, I'm working on either getting a promotion at my current job or leaving in the next year. I'm also worried that if D. and I have children, it wouldn't make sense for me to keep working given the cost of childcare in my area (if you can even find it), which is really sad. I don't know if we're having kids (I had three hospitalizations for an ectopic pregnancy gone very wrong) but that doesn't mean I don't want my life back from my job.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I went to graduate school when I was 25. D. and I are lucky to have a lot of savings so we are each other's safety net. If it were an emergency for both of us, I think we'd go to my parents, but that's not a safety net that I would like to rely on since they've been so kind to D. and me already.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. My parents paid for my undergraduate degree and gave me a $25,000 loan for my graduate degree. They also gave me their old car when I left for graduate school. When I got married to D., they paid for our wedding. When we bought our house, they gave us $20,000 for the down payment so that we could avoid paying private mortgage insurance.

Day One

7:35 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I am not happy about it. I get up, get dressed, and get ready for my commute downstairs to my office. I get my laptop open by 8 and start trying to get some work done. I work on a specific government program so all of my work is related to that. Luckily, it's a pretty big program so my day-to-day work can vary widely. I currently work from home full-time and will go back to the office once a week in a few months.
11 a.m. — I pause work for a moment to look at dog things. We're getting a puppy soon and we need a crate. I find one on sale from Wayfair that looks like it might match our bedroom furniture. I check in with my husband, D., and he likes it too. I go ahead and buy it with the joint credit card. $61.77
12 p.m. — Take a work break and eat a peanut butter sandwich. D. also comes up for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
3 p.m. — I move some money around, which I've been meaning to do. I've noticed that my Capital One Money Market account (I use it as an emergency account) is getting a terrible interest rate at 0.8%, so I close that account and transfer it to my joint savings. I then open a different money market account at a local bank that currently has a 4.05% interest rate.
5 p.m. — Work is finally done! I start working on dinner (ground beef stir fry with vegetables) while D. catches up with an old colleague.
6 p.m. — We eat dinner and then chill out for the rest of the night. We've been watching the really old episodes of The Great British Baking Show that never made it onto Netflix via our Roku. Our cat actually decides to join us (he normally finds another room to sleep in).
8:30 p.m. — I head upstairs to take a shower and then throw my hair in a microfiber towel for the last episode of this Bake Off season. I actually do a skincare routine (The Ordinary's Argireline Solution followed by their Vitamin C Suspension). I then go to bed.
Daily Total: $61.77

Day Two

7:35 a.m. — I snooze my alarm and then get up. D. is at the office today so it's just the cat and me working from home. I throw on clothes and get my laptop open. For some reason, I thought I had no meetings today, but that was clearly a lie I told myself.
9:20 a.m. — I ran out of face soap last night so I order some, along with The Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution and a TONYMOLY Plump-Kin Retinol Eye Cream from Ulta. Early in COVID, I ordered an overnight moisturizer I really loved that they've since stopped making (Olay Overnight Gel Mask with Firming) but only recently learned it had retinol in it. So I've been trying to find a retinol to get into my routine. I log onto my credit card's website to get extra bonus points when purchasing from Ulta. I probably place an Ulta order once a quarter, so this should last me a while. $52.90
12 p.m. — Stop for a lunch break. I also check our credit card bill, which for this past month is a doozy. Between new tires for my car (after about eight years of service so I can't really complain) and a visit to D.'s family, it's been a spending month. I pay off the tires ($526.16) while D. pays off the rest from the joint account. Since these things have already been paid for on the credit card outside of the week, I am not including them in my expenditures.
4:30 p.m. — I get off my laptop to go for a walk. I've been trying to have better boundaries at work lately. D. is coming home as I'm leaving.
5:30 p.m. — Back from my walk. I give my parents a quick call and then heat up leftovers for dinner. We've got fish, pizza, and butter chicken.
7 p.m. — D. has a meeting so I go and take a shower. After that, I chill on the couch playing on my phone. After D.'s meeting, we watch an episode of The Great British Baking Show.
9:45 p.m. — I head upstairs to bed. I brush my teeth and put on some moisturizer.
Daily Total: $52.90

Day Three

7:35 a.m. — Another day of work. I throw some clothes on and then get my laptop open.
11:30 a.m. — Credit Karma sends me a vague email about my credit score so I go double-check it. It's still good. I double-check our home equity and we have about $150,000 worth!
12:05 p.m. — D. and I text back and forth and agree to run to Trader Joe's after work before the weather is bad. I go to Trader Joe's website to see if they have anything new I want to add to our list.
6 p.m. — D. gets home and we head to Trader Joe's.
7 p.m. — And this is why you shouldn't go to the supermarket on an empty stomach, kids! We get way too much ($170.33 total/$85.17 for my share). We then order Chinese food on the way home, because why not ($32.09 for my share). $117.26
9:30 p.m. — We eat our dinner then watch The Great British Baking Show until we go to sleep.
Daily Total: $117.26

Day Four

7:35 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I can hear D. already on a work call. I throw clothes on and head downstairs. I have an early meeting and don't want to dawdle.
8:22 a.m. — I get the Wordle in two! I'm usually the worst one in our group chat so this is a win for me.
10:50 a.m. — I scroll through some news quickly and notice the post office is giving out free COVID tests again. I go ahead and order some.
1 p.m. — Lunch after a string of back-to-back meetings. Back to work after a peanut butter sandwich.
3 p.m. — I am burning out today. COVID-19 has been hard for government work. We've had to change a lot of how our program functions because of it and it's been really hard to be in crisis mode for almost three years. I know many government employees get bashed for not doing much but I haven't found that to be the case. We're just a bunch of burned out, underpaid people trying our best to keep the state running. I've been looking for a new job for about six months now, but I'm being picky because I like the work that I do. I like being able to implement new programs that make people's lives better. But I just don't have anything else to give. I also feel a need to stay because I'm so close to vesting in my pension (it takes 10 years to vest in and I have about three years to go).
6:30 p.m. — Signing off from work after a virtual happy hour. The new beer I chose to drink was slightly stronger than I'm used to but was still delicious. D. and I reheat Chinese food for dinner, I shower, and then we watch a newer season of The Great British Baking Show.
9:45 p.m. — Time for bed! I brush my teeth, take my microfiber towel off my head and comb my hair, put moisturizer on, and then sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:35 a.m. — It's Friday and I'm moving slowly. I throw on my favorite sweatshirt and some sweatpants and head downstairs to get to work.
11:55 a.m. — I'm actually getting some things done! I schedule a few meetings and get some process documentation organized.
12:30 p.m. — We normally order lunch out on Fridays but D. has a half day off and is meeting someone for a volunteer project at a coffee shop, so he promises to bring back something for me.
3 p.m. — D. brings me a hot chocolate as a treat (he paid on his own card). He's the best. I get a couple more tasks done and wrap up right at 4:30. I then give my parents a quick call.
5 p.m. — I start making dinner. I throw a piece of pork in the oven D. starts making mashed potatoes to go with it.
6:30 p.m. — Pork is finally out of the oven! D. and I eat and then we veg out on the couch after a long week. I eventually go take a shower and then head to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — I sleep in a little bit. I get out of bed at 10:30 and throw on jeans and a sweatshirt. We go to a local coffee shop. I get a mocha and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich ($24.80 for my share, this includes tip). We hang out for a while to finish our drinks. I also play Pokémon Go while I'm there (I'm trying to catch 200 Pokémon today). $24.80
11 a.m. — I realize that I need a backup gift for a few upcoming birthdays. I buy a locally made candle at the coffee shop. People like candles so this should work out. I currently have about 95 Pokemon. $19.08
11:30 a.m. — We head home after coffee and realize that we could use a run to Lowe's. We get back in the car and drive up there to get some drawer pulls, new shower curtain rings and outlet covers, but also walk out with caulk, a ceiling fan and a Swiffer duster. I have 160 Pokémon now. $78.41
1:30 p.m. — Home and time for chores. I try out my duster and it is awesome. We have wooden valances on some of our windows and the duster is long enough to clean them without getting a ladder. I take this thing all over my house and get all of the dust. I then start a load of dirty cleaning towels/rags with my now very dirty duster head.
4:45 p.m. — I finally catch 200 Pokémon.
5 p.m. — I realize we have not done anything for dinner. We pull some premade pizza dough from Trader Joe's out of the fridge and D. puts a pizza together. Because we made dinner at home, it is an ice cream night. General ice cream night rules are Sundays and Wednesdays are ice cream nights. Saturdays are only ice cream nights if we make dinner (even if it's leftovers). If we go out or get takeout for dinner, no ice cream. We eat a local flavor that is blackberry crumble-inspired. I eventually take a shower, we watch some more Great British Baking Show, and I go to bed right around 10.
Daily Total: $122.29

Day Seven

8:55 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I start getting ready for church. I throw on gray pants and a sweater with boots, and D. and I are out the door.
9:45 a.m. — We pull into the parking garage for church and D. does his weekly tradition of calling the non-emergency police line to report the cars illegally parked by the garage entrance. We then head in.
11:45 a.m. — We leave church and head to a coffee shop. We don't normally stay at church this late but they had an education hour program that we decided to stay for. I get a chocolate latte and a lunch special and D. gets a vanilla latte and their breakfast special ($19.87 for my share). It's a long wait so I take the deck of cards out of my purse and we play a game. $19.87
1:30 p.m. — We finally get home. I change into a mishmash of dirty-ish clothes and do some cleaning. I also give my parents another call. D. starts and I finish another load of laundry. We also put new sheets on both our bed and our guest bed, since we have a friend coming to visit next week. We do more general cleaning/organizing.
5 p.m. — We eventually heat up some leftover pork for dinner. It's not as tasty the second time. D. does the dishes and I pet the cat while playing on my phone.
7:30 p.m. — It's ice cream night again, this time it's coffee Oreo. After ice cream, I take a shower and D. and I veg out on the couch.
9:45 p.m. — After a few more episodes of The Great British Baking Show, I go up to bed and D. and I do questions. Every Sunday, we check in with each other and ask how we were as a partner and whether there is anything we could have done differently or better. It really helps us to check in with each other. I then go to sleep and get ready for another week of work.
Daily Total: $19.87
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