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A Week In The Philadelphia Suburbs On A $97,000 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 claims examiner working in insurance who has a $97,000 joint income and spends some of her money this week on a doggie life vest.
Occupation: Claims Examiner
Industry: Insurance
Age: 27
Location: Philadelphia Suburbs
My Salary: $59,000
My Husband's Salary: $38,000
Net Worth: $58,851 ($15,000 in an emergency fund, $9,600 in "adult" savings, $5,000 in fun savings, $750 in my checking account, $26,000 in my old 401(k), $7,000 in my husband, K.'s, 401(k), $24,500 value of our two cars).
Debt: $28,999 ($5,500 left on my federal student loans, $23,000 on my car loan, $499 in medical debt (but we aren't going to pay it)).
My Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,749.52
My Husband's Paycheck (biweekly): $980
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,095 (this includes one parking space, water and trash collection. K. and I have joint finances and we split everything except for fun money; we keep separate accounts for that).
Gas & Electricity: $150 (it's usually less but I budget for this amount).
My Husband's Car: $504
Internet: $65
Netflix: $10
iCloud Storage: $1
Phone: $0 (on my parents' plan).
Amazon Prime: $0 (on my parents' plan).
Emergency Savings: $300
"Adult" Savings: $300
Car Savings: $200 (for when my 2005 Honda Civic dies on us).
Fun Savings: $1,250 (travel, holiday savings, fun money allowance).
Annual Expenses
Headspace: $65
Car Insurance: $1,200 (for both cars).
Renter's Insurance: $75

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, I was expected to get a bachelor's degree. My parents paid for most of it but I took out small federal student loans and paid a bit during my senior year using money from my part-time job. It was really important to my dad to pay for my college education but my parents struggled to do so and were in denial about their financial situation — I was regularly on notice for nonpayment.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
There wasn't much education about finances. My parents just told me to save money and work hard.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working as a camp counselor when I was 15, to have spending money and because my parents thought it was important to have something to do over the summers in high school.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Definitely. Things got progressively worse over the years and my parents never fully recovered from 2008. When I was in college, my parents filed for bankruptcy and I'd get calls from my dad asking if the lights were still on. Our health insurance was regularly canceled and I wouldn't find out until I showed up to therapy. Still, I was consistently told business was looking up and they were adamant that I shouldn't work part-time or take time off school to work.

Do you worry about money now?
If I'm only considering my finances, no. But I really worry about my parents' financial situation. When I was 21, they used their retirement savings to pay the bills so I don't think they can retire now. They are always one unexpected bill away from disaster, and I want to help them.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I moved in with K. at age 22. We could move in with my parents if we (or they) ever needed financial assistance but otherwise our savings are our safety net.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents helped pay for my college and I received a car from them. My dad inherited the car from his mother and I've driven it ever since.

Day One

6:05 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I snuggle with K. for 10 minutes before my next alarm goes off. I get up, walk and feed the dogs, C. and D., sit down with coffee and meditate. I scroll on Pinterest and then shower.
8:30 a.m. — K. is up and off work today. He feeds us leftover breakfast potatoes with a fried egg and an everything bagel. I'm working from home today so I throw on joggers and a T-shirt with my company logo. I check my work schedule and don't have anything until 10. I relax until then, get a cup of Sweet Dreams tea and sit at my desk. I recently made a career change and took a pay cut for the next several months while I'm training. I'll make what I used to make, around $73,000, in the spring.
1 p.m. — Lunch break. I'm only feeling peckish so I snack on cupcakes. I take a bath and read Money Diaries. K. takes my car in for an inspection and oil change. $147.65
5:45 p.m. — Quitting time! K. is cooking dinner so I sit on the porch with the dogs. C. vigilantly watches for squirrels. Dinner is ready: smoked rotisserie duck breast with baked potatoes, onions, peppers and mushrooms. This was going to be my birthday dinner last week but I didn't feel like it then. The flavor of the duck is more overwhelming than the times we've had it before, and we won't be making it again anytime soon. We walk and feed the dogs. Afterward, we pick up my car from the mechanic.
7:30 p.m. — I have more Sweet Dreams tea and K., C. and I snuggle while watching reruns of Supernatural. I fold laundry, set the coffee maker for the morning and pull out frozen Trader Joe's almond croissants to rise overnight.
9:30 p.m. — D. is getting antsy because she's ready to go to sleep on the couch and I'm taking up too much space on it. C. and I go to bed and I scroll on Pinterest before lights out.
Daily Total: $147.65

Day Two

4:45 a.m. — K. loudly drops something while getting ready for work and wakes me up. He gives me a hug before he leaves and I drift back to sleep.
6:15 a.m. — I'm up. D. promptly jumps on our bed and refuses to move. I walk and feed the dogs, meditate, and browse Pinterest while drinking my coffee.
8 a.m. — I bake the croissants and get ready for work. I technically have a skincare routine but have been lazy about it: wash, vitamin C, moisturizer, mineral sunscreen. I'm wearing a blue blouse, gray trousers, black boots and a tan cardigan to the office today. The weather forecast says there's a risk of wildfires and I fret about leaving the dogs locked in the apartment alone all day. I wash the dishes and listen to a Dateline podcast to calm myself down. Keith Morrison's dulcet tones seldom fail to soothe me. I feel a bit better afterwards so I leave and eat my croissants on the drive.
10 a.m. — My first training session of the day starts, on camera/mic as usual.
1 p.m. — Lunchtime, thank god. I am hangry. I get sausage, egg and cheese on an everything bagel ($11.50 with tip) and eat it outside under a tree. I message an old colleague to see how he's doing. On days I'm in the office, K. goes home at lunch to feed the dogs. He sends me photos of them. $11.50
6:30 p.m. — Finally home, I immediately jump into a comfy T-shirt and joggers. K. tried to take D. to the dog park for exercise but she refused. However, he did manage to vacuum and do the dishes while I was gone. K. and I walk the dogs and debate what to do for dinner. We agree on pizza from our favorite place. On the way to get it, we stop by the library and each get a book. $31
7:30 p.m. — Home with pizza, we settle in to watch Burn Notice while we eat. K. and I snuggle and talk before I start researching how to reupholster or make a slipcover for a chair. I can't decide if I can handle the project on my own or if I should pay someone to do it. The cost is prohibitive and I've been dragging my feet on it since 2019.
9:30 p.m. — I get ready for bed. Teeth brushed, coffee maker prepped. I get a notification that the air quality is poor due to fires in Canada. I task K. with saving the dogs if a wildfire starts in our neighborhood during the work day. He reassures me that there isn't much brush nearby and our building is made of stone. Lights out around 10.
Daily Total: $42.50

Day Three

6:15 a.m. — I wake up with my second alarm. I walk C. and D., drink coffee and check my email. I see a notification that a medical bill is overdue and they're going to auto-withdraw the total from my account. I canceled the auto-withdrawal months ago after paying thousands on the bill. It's now less than $500 so it won't hurt my credit if I don't pay it. When I try to sign in, I get a message saying my username and password are wrong. I try to reset my password but get a message saying my mom's maiden name is wrong. It's not. The landlord starts to put the trash cans by the road, causing C. to start barking. I freak out. I finally calm him down and access the account. There are no payment methods on file so it's all good. I meditate in an attempt to relax but it doesn't really work.
7:15 a.m. — I quickly make pasta with onions, peppers, mushrooms and andouille for lunch (thank you, Minute Pasta). While everything heats up, I take a shower with my hair in a shower cap. I get ready for work: black jeans, striped shirt, white sneakers, BB cream, blush, eyebrow gel.
8:30 a.m. — I order a muffin and doughnut from Dunkin' and go pick them up. Chat with my coworkers and get started on an assignment before my first meeting. $3.34
1 p.m. — Lunchtime! Under a tree outside I eat the pasta I made this morning and read my library book, Murder on the Rocks.
6 p.m. — Work is over, thank god. I'm an introvert so training on camera/on mic for six hours every day is draining. I have doubts about this career and the work-life balance doesn't seem as good as I'd hoped it would be. The smoke from the fires in Canada has turned the air hazy and the sun looks apocalyptic.
6:30 p.m. — I'm home and the dogs are thrilled to see me. They shower me with puppy kisses. C. attempts to taste the inside of my mouth. He succeeds. K. and I walk the dogs but the air is too smoky to be outside for long so we skip the dog park. I take another shower and put on pajamas. K. cleaned up the kitchen and living room while I was at work. He heats up our leftover pizza and we watch Hot Fuzz (his favorite). We all manage to fit on the couch for snuggles.
9:15 p.m. — I'm so tired. C. and I go to bed.
Daily Total: $3.34

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — Up at the second alarm. I walk C. and D., then meditate. Coffee and Pinterest. The dogs are feeling snuggly this morning. I check my credit card. We put all our regular bills and purchases on there. I pay $800 and will pay the remaining balance next week after payday. I pay it off in full every month. I get ready for work because I'm in the office today. I'm wearing blue jeans, a white blouse with black polka dots, a blue cardigan (why are offices so frigid?), black boots and blue socks. Same basic makeup as usual.
8:45 a.m. — My commute is off to a great start. "Santeria" by Sublime is on, so I'm dancing at a red light and a woman walking gives me a weird look. I'm undeterred. Once in the office, I have a microwaveable Kodiak cake, blueberry muffin and more coffee. I check my email and prepare for my work presentation later this morning. I feel overly anxious about it, per usual.
1 p.m. — Lunchtime! I order three chicken tacos ($15.92 including tip) and eat them in my car because it's still smoky outside. I spill hot sauce on my blouse and place the blouse against my jeans to clean it with my Tide pen. Once I get the hot sauce off, I realize the blouse is now stained blue from my jeans. I give up dealing with it at this point. $15.92
6:15 p.m. — The smoke has cleared up some. K. texts that he took C. to the dog park. He also did the dishes. I breeze home at this time of day. K. and I walk the dogs and debate what to get for dinner. C. is overstimulated and will not stop trying to play with D. loudly. It's so loud, in fact, that we have to keep separating them. We settle on ordering Indian food after dealing with the dogs. We get biryani, naan, bhaji and curry. C. is still too excited so we go into the other room to calm down. $50.79
8:20 p.m. — Food is here! We eat and C. watches intently. We have Psych reruns on. It's supposed to be pretty warm next weekend so I book a private dog park space on Sniffspot ($33.75). It's fenced in and has a lake so they can swim off-leash. We're really excited. We snuggle on the couch, me on Pinterest and K. on Reddit. $33.75
9:45 p.m. — I go to bed with C. He declines snuggling in bed tonight. Lights out at 10:15.
Daily Total: $100.46

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — TGIF! K. doesn't work today so we snuggle after my first alarm and I get up after the second. Walk and feed the dogs, meditate, then it's time for coffee and Pinterest. K. wakes up shortly after and we all pile on the couch.
8:15 a.m. — I do a quick workout and listen to Dateline. I really don't feel like it but I try to work out on days I WFH. I want to stick with the habit even if the actual workout is lacking today. I shower afterwards and realize C. threw up on his bed. K. throws it in the wash.
9 a.m. — I make decaf coffee, eat leftover biryani and naan, and settle at my desk to start my assignment.
1 p.m. — Lunchtime. I grab a cup of herbal tea. I'm not thrilled about how I did on my assignment and anxiously snack on cupcakes. K. vacuums.
5:30 p.m. — Work is over. I continue to have doubts about the job but it's still too early to know for sure. K. finishes up his video game, then we walk the dogs. Once home, I take a bubble bath with my library book.
7:15 p.m. — K. starts cooking me a breakfast sandwich for dinner (my favorite comfort food). He's eating leftover curry. I finally put stain remover on my blouse and throw it in the wash. I sweep and Swiffer the bedroom, then put the cushions back on C.'s bed and finally put away the clothes I folded on Monday. We eat and watch Burn Notice.
8:45 p.m. — C. and I retreat to bed with my book. Eventually there's a nice break to stop so I switch to Pinterest for an evening scroll before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — Good morning! I take out C. and feed him. Grab coffee. Since K. is up already, the dogs and I jump in bed for our morning cuddles.
8 a.m. — Time to get ready for yoga class. I throw in laundry, get dressed and brush my teeth. The dogs aren't happy and follow me around. I leave with coffee to tide me over on the drive. I prepaid for a class pack so this one is free. I'm pretty new to yoga but I've really enjoyed it.
10 a.m. — Class is great! I run into someone I know and we catch up. After, I go home and hop in the shower, then drink the last of the coffee and eat more leftover biryani. We put in a grocery order for pickup: herbal tea, coffee, rolls, olive oil, soy sauce, corn oil, brown sugar, butter, lunch meat, cheese, onions, a red pepper, mushrooms, rice, wet Swiffer pads and dog treats. $105.27 $105.27
12 p.m. — Off to the mall to run errands. I drop off my wedding ring at Macy's to get the band sized down and replace diamonds that fell out. It's been too big for over two years so it seems like time to do something about it (I'll pay when I pick it up). I return a pair of shorts at Express and try on jeans that I will definitely buy when they're on sale. I browse for workout clothes at Target and Aerie but don't like anything, then stop by Claire's to purchase nose rings. I buy a few styles because I'm not sure what I'll like yet. $24
2:30 p.m. — We take the dogs to my parents' house to play with their dog. Usually they're home and we catch up but this time they're out. We settle on burgers for dinner and pick up corn, lettuce and BBQ sauce as well as our grocery order. $6.68
4:45 p.m. — We put the groceries away and I set the ground beef from the freezer under water to defrost. I snack on cupcakes while K. showers. Once he's out, I take a bath with my book.
5:45 p.m. — I dig up dye stain remover and attempt to save my blouse. I think it's working? K. gets started on the burgers and corn. I take out the trash and recycling and tidy up. We eat dinner and it's delish. I clean the counters and K. cleans the more egregious dishes. I feed the dogs and turn over the laundry. The stain is still clearly there. Time for the dry cleaners to handle it. We settle in to fold laundry and watch Burn Notice with tea.
8 p.m. — We eat microwaveable brownies and watch more Burn Notice, C. comes to snuggle. We throw on Psych while we scroll. Eventually, C. and I go to bed. I do a quick meditation before going to sleep.
Daily Total: $135.95

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and take out the dogs. I feed C., grab coffee and settle on the couch with D. K. is still asleep so no puppy snuggles in bed yet. They aren't happy about it.
7:30 a.m. — I start putting away the dishes until I realize it's loud and might wake up K. I sweep and mop the kitchen instead, then pull out frozen marinades for the week; hopefully we can cook more with some pre-planning. I feel totally shot after work and cooking has fallen through the cracks lately. The weekends are spent catching up on chores and errands so there's no time to recharge. I often feel too tired to engage in my hobbies, like sewing. I have to pull out the sewing machine, remember where I left off on the project, work on it, then pack away the machine again because space is too tight to leave it out. The entire process feels more disheartening than relaxing. I do enjoy cooking but it's exhausting after work, plus it makes dishes, which is a whole other chore to do.
8:30 a.m. — I chop up onions, peppers and mushrooms for dinner tonight and for a work lunch. Turn over the laundry. When K. wakes up, I put away the rest of the dishes, put away the laundry and tidy up the bedroom while listening to Dateline. I pick out my clothes for the upcoming work week. K. and I comparison shop for dog life vests for C. I buy one along with a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne ($52.22). We've been sober for nearly two years now and it's nice to have a bottle for special occasions. This brand, Chatéau de Fleur, is the closest to actual champagne that we've found so I always try to keep a bottle around. $52.22
10 a.m. — I eat the last of the leftover biryani for breakfast and do more chores. I look up directions for how to dye clothes in the washer. My favorite dress has a stain the dry cleaners can't get out. Are you seeing a theme here? As a last-ditch effort to save it, I'm dyeing it black.
11 a.m. — Even though I just washed my hair, it feels gross, so I take a shower to wash it again. When I get out, I text my brother to see how his new job is. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't respond. I'm doubtful he's awake yet.
12 p.m. — I dye the dress. I'm perched on the porch stairs, constantly stirring it in a bucket. I listen to Dateline while I work. K. makes us breakfast sandwiches and I leave the dress soaking while we eat. I give it another stir and K. dumps the bucket of dye in the toilet and rinses the dress out. I clean the toilet and throw the dress in the washer.
1:30 p.m. — We put on our bathing suits. We're taking the dogs for a walk in a wooded area with a creek so they can play in the water because it's hot today.
3 p.m. — The dogs have a great time and lose their minds when we spot a deer! We drive home and give both dogs a bath in the tub. K. and I shower together to rinse off. I fish the dress out of the washer. It is now a dark purple and I can still see the stain. K. and I debate if another round of dye is worth it. A decision is not made.
4 p.m. — We decide to have margaritas so we run to Wawa for ice, juice and two doughnuts. When we get home, K. makes margaritas with Ritual Zero Proof Tequila, Target margarita mix and limes and oranges that have been languishing in our crisper. He also washes the big dishes, while I throw the towels we used to dry the dogs in the washer. This is waaaaay more laundry than we normally do but our washer is on the smaller side. I can't complain about an in-unit washer, though. $9
5 p.m. — I take a bath and go on Pinterest. Afterward, I defrost chicken and discover our large frying pan's nonstick coating is scraped away and the pan has rusted. I knew I should've bought a new one. I make Thai red curry with minute rice and pita bread in our small pan. After dinner, I do the dishes and wipe down the counters. We watch Burn Notice and C. snuggles with us.
9 p.m. — Our couch seems like it's seen better days. An arm is loose, which is pretty structural to the entire thing, so I browse Facebook Marketplace. I find a perfect couch for us: cheap, actual furniture, minor issues that wouldn't bother us but probably will deter other buyers, and super deep so all four of us can fit. We measure our doors and message the seller.
9:45 p.m. — I realize the time and since I really do insist on eight hours of sleep, I go to bed. I do quick meditation and scroll on Pinterest to wind down.
Daily Total: $61.22
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