A Week In Northern Indiana On A $90,000 Salary

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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 Human Resources Specialist working in Education who makes $90,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Taco Bell.
Occupation: Human Resources Specialist
Industry: Education
Age: 32
Location: Northern Indiana
Salary: $90,000
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,750
Gender Identity: Cis woman
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,050 (plus an extra $300 we contribute towards our principal each month, split with my husband from our joint account. We each contribute 50% of our paychecks (he makes around $60,000) to our joint account each month to cover the mortgage, utilities, groceries, eating out together, etc.)
Loans: $0 (received a scholarship for college. My car was purchased new in 2011 with a 0% loan and paid off in 2014.)
Gas & Electric: $175 (joint)
Cell Phones: $85 (joint)
Water/Sewage/Garbage: $67 (joint)
Internet: $55 (joint)
Netflix & Hulu: $15 (joint. Currently have a free trial of Prime & use a friend's HBO GO.)
Costco: $60/year (joint)
Charitable Donations: $155 (ACLU, ASPCA, Mercy Corps, Amnesty, local food bank, my alma mater)
NY Times: $7.99
Car Insurance: $42
Health & Dental: $145 (taken from paycheck)
FSA: $40 (taken from paycheck)
Roth 403b: $1,583.33 (taken from paycheck, currently have $145,000 in this account)
Employer Retirement Plan: $625 (matched by employer, currently have $151,000 in this plan which can be transferred to a 403b or other account should I leave this employer)
Short-term Savings: $500 (Currently have $2,300 in this account)
Long-term Savings: $650 (Currently have $66,000 in this account. My husband maintains his own, separate savings accounts.)

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I cuddle with my husband for a few minutes before begrudgingly dragging myself out of bed to shower and get ready for work. I don't wear makeup or put literally any effort into my appearance and instead use that time to sleep in as late as possible. Despite not being the sort of thin, attractive person who can get away with this, I DGAF. I would say this is 50% f*** the patriarchy and 50% I'm too depressed and too tired to care about my appearance. I've struggled with bouts of depression for most of my life. The past few months have actually been pretty good, but for some reason this past week I've really been struggling. Grab my breakfast and lunch and am out the door by 8:05 for our 20-25 minute commute. My husband works for the same employer I do, so I ride with him most days.
9:15 a.m. — Eat the English muffin with peanut butter and a banana I brought from home while approving HR system transactions. I am not what most people think of as a traditional HR employee and my role is more focused on reporting and processing HR transactions versus working directly with employees. I definitely do some of that, but it's not the main focus of my job.
1 p.m. — Heat up an Amy's frozen enchilada meal for lunch while reading questions and responses on Ask Metafilter. It's a great resource if you are looking for advice, but it's also interesting to just read.
2 p.m. — A student drops off a fancy swiss chocolate bar as a holiday gift and thank you for helping out this semester and now my day is made. :-) Bundle up for a half-hour walk outside with my husband. We try to take a walk on our lunch most days to get some exercise and fresh air.
5:30 p.m. — Get home and am excited to get a hilarious Christmas card in the mail from my best friend who lives across the country. I also find it funny that most of my oldest friends can't remember my husband's last name. I kept my last name when we got married and he goes by FirstName MiddleName on Facebook so 90% of the time when we get something in the mail from one of them for both of us, it's addressed to “MyFirstName MyLastName and HusbandFirstName HusbandMiddleName.” I eat a Luna protein bar on the couch while reading the news on my phone and make plans with a friend to go to her house for dinner. I do a "Yoga with Adrienne" video and it feels SO good. I've been feeling a lot of random aches and pains lately and yoga is just what I need. Read a little of Free, Melania (the new unauthorized Melania Trump biography by Kate Bennett) before heading to my friend's place.
7 p.m. — We eat grilled cheese sandwiches and browse around TV channels for a while before settling on Iliza Schlesinger's newest special. It is... meh? A lot of people love her and I definitely laughed in spots but her brand of humor really doesn't do it for me.
9:30 p.m. — Get home, take my meds (I have chronic kidney disease so I take several meds to manage related issues of anemia, hyperparathyroidism, gout, and high blood pressure, as well as a birth control pill), floss/brush/rinse, and then get in bed to finish Free, Melania and start All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg before going to sleep. While I'm sure it was written in a positive light partly so that Bennett can remain in her good graces as a member of her press corps, I'm left with much more respect for Melania than I had before. Especially in contrast to A Warning by the anonymous Trump White House official, which just confirmed that the West Wing is as much of a garbage fire as we all expect it to be, Free, Melania made me realize our country would be better off being run by the First Lady than by her husband. To be fair though, there are very few people who wouldn't make a better president than the one we've got.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Alarm, ugh, cuddle, shower. Feeling really tired this morning. Pack my lunch and am out the door by 8:05 to drive myself to work as my husband has a different schedule today.
9:15 a.m. — Eat oatmeal with peanut butter I brought from home while knocking out some easy items on my daily work todo list. I'm very Type A in how I stay organized at work and there is no better feeling than checking an item off my list. I also take an algae oil supplement with my breakfast every morning since I don't regularly eat any omega 3-containing foods (I don't eat fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, or walnuts because they give me heartburn).
11:20 a.m. — I read Michelle Goldberg's NYT op-ed "Democracy Grief is Real" and holy shit, does it hit home. I alternate between feeling despair about the state of our democracy and guilt about how Trump's demagoguery can be affecting me so much when I am in such a privileged position with thinking surely things can't really that bad, can they? Are we being gaslit or are we catastrophizing? Is this really the beginning (or maybe middle) of the end or just an errant blip in our history? The dichotomy of my thinking parallels the dichotomy of our country. It's easy for me to say I am on the right side of history and objective facts are in my favor but that is literally what the other side thinks as well. There's the real world and then there's the bizarro world and this is all like a dystopian version of the "Bizarro Jerry" Seinfeld episode.
1 p.m. — I use my lunchtime to walk on the treadmill at the student gym and watch Sorry for Your Loss on Facebook Watch. I'm a sucker for honest, emotional dramas and love Elizabeth Olsen so this show is a win-win for me. TBH it's hard to make it through the half-hour walk. I've been dealing with a lot of sciatica and hip pain lately. I know my “ignore it and hope it goes away” approach is not helping matters, but I feel like I spend enough time going to doctor's appointments and spent several months in physical therapy over the last two years so I'm kind of done. Sigh.
2:15 p.m. — I finally get hungry for lunch so I heat up a leftover Sweet Earth Awesome burger. They are quite awesome, actually. IMO better than a Beyond Burger and on par with an Impossible Burger for a fraction of the price (thanks Costco!). I eat it on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and mayo along with a Chobani flip while I work on coding an automated employee detail report. I also eat two homemade cookies my coworker gave me this morning. My boss raves about Home Chef so I look into it, but most of the meals I see are 1,500-1,900 mg of sodium per serving which isn't any better than the frozen stuff I usually eat (and much more expensive!).
5 p.m. — Every day right before I leave work, I make a list of three things I'm thankful for that day. Today it's: the weekend, my husband, and “I am okay.” I stop by the library on the way home to pick up IT: Chapter 2 on blu-ray, All the Light We Cannot See (a Money Diaries recommendation!), and Convenience Store Woman. When I get home I wrap a few Christmas presents and do some reading. I take a break to check email on my phone and get a work email from a faculty member I work with fairly often who addresses me by the wrong name in a response to an email I sent. It annoys me to no end when people do this — my name is right there!
6:30 p.m. — I pick up Taco Bell for my husband and myself for dinner (charged to our joint account) and we eat it while watching IT: Chapter 2 and drinking a few glasses of wine. I get a taco salad and he gets some burritos and cinnamon twists. We had been looking forward to seeing IT for a while but are both a bit underwhelmed. It was way too long and the special effects were all a bit much. $17.66
Daily Total: $17.66

Day Three

7:50 a.m. — Sleep in a whole 20 minutes on a Saturday. Lay in bed looking up a friend from college and a teacher from high school on Facebook. It made me super sad to find out one of the most respected teachers in my high school was a Trump supporter who constantly shared rants about “illegal aliens." Sigh. Read news on my phone and cuddle with my husband for a bit before starting some laundry.
9:30 a.m. — I heat up another leftover veggie burger and eat it on a tortilla with tomatoes and chipotle mayo. This is definitely r/shittyfoodporn material! My husband is gone most of the day at a running event upstate so I spend the morning reading. I finish All Grown Up, which I highly recommend if you enjoy relatable protagonists with hot mess lives like I do!
12 p.m. — I eat some Pop Tarts and Pop Chips with a Diet Squirt (super healthy “pop”-themed lunch today!) while watching Transit (Amazon prime movie). I recognize an actor from Dark (German Netflix series) which reminds me of how much I can't wait until season three. If you like non-hokey time travel and intense drama, definitely check it out. Transit is good. but the lack of a clear time period kind of distracts me.
5 p.m. — My husband gets home and we head to my boss' house for a holiday party. We bring a bottle of wine (leftover from who knows when). It's a fun time and I feel like I bond with some coworkers I haven't meshed super well with previously. I drink wine and graze on snacks all night and we are home by 11.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — I lay in bed reading news for awhile. Cuddle with my husband and he agrees to go pick us up a breakfast pizza if I call it in (charged to our joint account). We both hate talking on the phone so ordering food is always a mini-debate. We eat it while watching a few episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Most weeks, we get groceries on Sunday morning but neither of us is feeling it today and we can survive another week without them. $11.48
11 a.m. — I try on some clothes I ordered from Target last week. I keep one out of the four items and prepare the return of the other three. My husband and I begrudgingly do some cleaning.
1:p.m. — We watch The Souvenir (Amazon Prime movie) while eating some cheese and crackers. I really like the style and flow of it and the terrible boyfriend character reminds me of a past relationship, sadly.
3:30 p.m. — Make some whole wheat and oat blueberry muffins to eat for breakfast this week. We found some frozen wild blueberries a while ago at Costco and I love using them in muffins since they are much smaller than fresh ones. I do a blood pressure check (120/71, all good) and a "Yoga with Adrienne" video. I start a new book, Want Not by Jonathan Miles, but it doesn't really grab me yet.
6:30 p.m. — We eat veggie chili my husband made while watching last night's SNL and more Mrs. Maisel then head to be early.
Daily Total: $11.48

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Same morning routine: cuddle, shower, grab lunch. Feeling really depressed on this Monday morning. I have an internal debate about going back to therapy but I feel like I've spent so much time and money on therapy over the years (and tried like all the antidepressants) and I don't have the energy to get back into it. I remind myself that my mood constantly ebbs and flows and this low period will pass.
9 a.m. — Eat two of the blueberry muffins while catching up on emails and taking care of easy to-dos.
11:30 a.m. — It's pay day! I take a break from working to update my personal and joint budget spreadsheets. I log all our expenses by category and check balances in all our accounts weekly. We don't plan on having children so most of our saving is focused on one, maxing out retirement contributions and two, saving for travel. This past year, my husband and I took a cruise to South and Central America and also spent a week in Maui. I also spent a week in Florida with friends and met up with another friend in San Francisco for four days. This is where all my money (and generous vacation time goes)! Next up is a trip to Costa Rica in the spring. With my health issues, I try to travel as much as I can since I know one day I'll be unable to do so.
1:30 p.m. — I eat a Lean Cuisine and yogurt for lunch while trying to create a new salary report my boss requested. It's frustrating because it's not doing what I want and I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels with this one. Bundle up and take a walk outside with my husband.
5:30 p.m. — I get home from work and ride my stationary bike while watching Mythomaniac on Netflix. It's a French show about a woman who lies to her family about having cancer. Like I said, I love a hot mess protagonist! I soak in the tub while reading. Not sure why an entire chapter graphically detailing a character hitting a deer and then taking it home and butchering it is really necessary, but whatever. A friend texts that she's getting carry-out sushi and asks if I want any, but I decline because I still have leftover veggie burgers to eat. I try to limit eating out to the weekends but that doesn't always happen.
7 p.m. — I heat up another veggie burger and some frozen peas and carrots while watching more Mythomaniac. PSA: Frozen vegetables are often frozen at their peak freshness so usually contain more nutrients than fresh at a fraction of the cost. I mostly use them out of laziness and because I have a hard time using up fresh stuff before it goes bad. And I hate grocery shopping so the less often I can do it, the better.
8:30 p.m. — Watch an episode of The Wire with my husband while snacking on a Luna Bar and some nuts then read in bed for a bit before falling asleep. Annoyed that an eczema flare-up on my hands keeps getting worse despite me cutting out anything with fragrance or irritants and lotioning like crazy. Grumble.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Alarm really hurts this morning because I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I laid in bed for an hour stressing about work stuff before finally moving to the couch to watch Mythomaniac and lull myself back to sleep. I consider calling in sick to keep sleeping but decide to suck it up and get ready for work.
9:15 a.m. — Eat two blueberry muffins while processing HR system transactions.
12:30 p.m. — Bundle up for a walk with my husband — it's freezing today!
1 p.m. — Eat my last leftover veggie burger (finally!) and yogurt while watching a training video. Order some fancy charging cables off Amazon for my husband's Christmas stocking (charged to my personal account). $29.95
3 p.m. — Get a call from my PCP's office that my referral to a PCOS specialist got approved! They were out of network so they weren't sure if insurance would approve it, but I'm so happy they did. I had to go off combination birth control earlier this year because I learned that migraines with aura are a contraindication due to the risk of stroke. Since switching to a progestin-only pill, my hair has been falling out (and it was already thinning before so it's really bad now) and my mood has tanked. Looking forward to seeing what my options are to get my hormones under control. I also get two emails to pay additional co-pays from a PCP and a nephrologist appointment earlier this month (charged to my FSA account).
5 p.m. — Get home from work and snack on crackers and cheese while browsing for a yoga video for sciatica. And what do you know, "Yoga with Adrienne" has one! After yoga, I work on a holiday project. I'm DIY'ing a personalized Clue board game for a family dirty Santa gift (the suspects are family members, locations are places we tend to go as a family, etc.). I did this with a Guess Who game a few years ago and it was a big hit. It's turning out super cute! :-)
7:45 p.m. — Eat an Amy's broccoli and cheddar bake frozen meal and some fruit cocktail while reading news and watching The Wire with my husband. Then read more of Want Not (I'm starting to get into it now) before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Wake up feeling anxious this morning. There's a big work project (overly complicated multi-year hiring plan template) that's hanging over my head and I find it incredibly daunting every time I try to make progress on it. I have a meeting with my boss today so I will ask for a little more guidance on it. I have a dental checkup this morning (no cost to me under dental insurance), so I'm in late to work. My husband goes to the same dentist I do and had his appointment yesterday and we were just discussing how weird it is that all of the hygienists here are blonde and under 35 and you rarely see the same one more than once. It's like that Seinfeld episode where Elaine thinks the diner is discriminating by only hiring waitresses with big boobs.
9:30 a.m. — Eat the last two blueberry muffins while investigating why a scheduled report didn't run this morning. Feels weird to eat after having my teeth cleaned this morning.
12:30 p.m. — Walk on the treadmill at the student gym and finish the episode of Mythomaniac I fell asleep to the other night. Sciatica feels better, I think.
1:45 p.m. — Eat my standard lunch from home (lean cuisine and yogurt) while picking back up the employee detail report I started earlier in the week.
3 p.m. — One of my coworkers gifts me a handmade ornament and I LOVE it! It makes my week. :-) I have such a great group of coworkers and feel really lucky to get to work with such an easygoing, intelligent bunch.
4:55 p.m. — I finish the employee detail report with five minutes to spare! I schedule it to run weekly starting tomorrow so I'll check in the morning to make sure it exports as planned. Listen to NPR on the way home and my blood boils listening to impeachment statements from the lying, spineless sycophant Republicans in the House. What a f*cking disgrace. Get home and find that the friends we went to Maui with sent us a gift box of Maui Gold pineapples for Christmas!!! Squee! Also, get a $660 bill from my insurance saying the labs my nephrologist ordered last month weren't covered. WTF. Aargh. Will have to call and see what I can find out tomorrow. Snack on pineapple (dear god, it's amazing!!!) while finishing up the DIY board game. Super stoked with how it turned out!
7:30 p.m. — My husband gets home from running errands (including filling his car up — charged to joint account) and I make dinner — whole wheat pasta with red sauce & TVP. We eat while watching Shameless then yada yada yada, we call it a night. $22.59
Daily Total: $22.59
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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