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A Week In Richmond, VA, 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: an IT support worker who has a joint income of $97,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an electric fly swatter.
Occupation: IT Support
Industry: Finance
Age: 25
Location: Richmond, VA
My Salary: $54,000
Husband's Salary: $43,000
Net Worth: ~$13,800 (401(k): $18,510, Roth IRA: $1,322, Savings: $8,000, Checking Account: $6,000 minus student loans: -$20,000) We have a joint account where we have our direct deposits set up, and that is also the account that our bills are paid from. My husband also uses a credit card for daily purchases and we pay it off throughout the month.
Debt: $20,000 in my husband's student loans
My Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,688
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,077
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,100, for a two-bedroom apartment with a backyard.
Student Loans: $300 (we pay a bit more than the minimum)
Spotify: $15 (family plan)
Hulu: $6 (His family uses ours)
Netflix: $12 (My family uses ours)
Prime Video (PBS Masterpiece): $5.99
Phones: $90
Car Insurance: $105
Life Insurance/Rental Insurance: $37
Internet: $35
Electricity: $112
YMCA Membership: $30
Charity: $55 (a few different ones)
Tithe: $540
Savings: $1,500
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 were the first in their family to attend and graduate from college and there was definitely an expectation that I would go as well, preferably to an HBCU. When I graduated high school, I was planning on going to college, but quickly realized there was just no way financially. My parents would not/could not cosign loans and I had scholarships, but not enough. Honestly, I was just kind of all over the place, and going to college right away would have been a terrible idea for me. I wound up doing an internship/job training program and was hired by my company after the internship finished. I just completed my associates which was mostly covered by my employer. I paid for the remainder in cash. I'd like to continue on to a BS, but I don't want to take out any loans and I don't particularly want to continue studying Information Systems. We're also considering the possibility of me staying home/working part-time after kids, so I'd want to take that into account.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were divorced when I was very young and I grew up mostly with my mom. We did not talk about money, but I always knew that we did not have enough, especially after the 2008 crisis. We had a lot of housing issues and were on SNAP from 2008 onwards. My mom was generally underemployed. She was and is, objectively, not great with money. My dad remarried and is much more stable. In recent years, he's moved into the upper-middle class. He was pretty frugal when I was growing up as well. I would say that nowadays, I definitely get a lot of the benefits of a middle class/upper middle class family, but not quite to the level of my two youngest siblings.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My mom really wanted me to focus on school and sports growing up, so I didn't get my first job until I was 18. I wanted to be able to help out with bills and eventually support myself, so I got a job as a hostess in a restaurant.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Almost all the time. We often lost power/water due to non-payment, so it was kind of an everyday fear. In retrospect, if it had come to that, I could have gone to live with my dad, but it was still my top fear.
Do you worry about money now?
Not so much. After high school, we moved closer to my dad's family, and then I moved myself to a state with a lower cost of living. It's a lot easier to support yourself on less where I live now compared to where I grew up in California. Like, truly, I would never move back. Now that my husband, B., and I are married, we have a joint account that both of our paychecks go into, and we go over our budget and expenses together every month. Within the first few months of being married, we were able to pay off my car. Overall, everything feels a lot more stable, and I have been really surprised at how much getting married helped with that.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
19, when I moved out. Nowadays, I'd say my husband/dad.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Wake up and take my temperature. My husband, B., is about to switch to a new job where he'll work from home with me, but for this last week, he still has to go into the office every day. Poor soul. Breakfast is French press coffee with half and half. I had a revelation right after high school that most people do not get stomach aches when they eat breakfast in the morning. Also, breakfast food is the worst food group and that is a hill that I am willing to die on. At 8, I sign into work. Because I'm in a support role, we have to be available for remote support on a normal schedule. On the one hand, it's kind of awful and makes me feel like a child, but on the other hand, I've come to appreciate the clearly defined boundary between work time and free time.
1 p.m. — Lunchtime! I feed my sourdough starter, which I'm still getting the hang of. I'm pretty decent at bread, but sourdough is an adventure. Since I'm running behind on time, I make stovetop popcorn with browned butter for lunch, which is delicious and cannot be compared to microwave popcorn in any way.
5 p.m. — I throw some chicken breasts in the Instant Pot and finish up with work. I'm going to the gym, then grocery shopping once B. gets home from work. The gym is technically within biking distance, but it's a little further to the grocery store and I don't know if I'll be up for that. We're a one-car household for another year or two, which is nice on the wallet, but slightly inconvenient at times.
7 p.m. — Finished with the gym and the grocery store. Groceries: all-purpose flour, bread flour, bamboo skewers, fresh dill, rosemary and thyme, one small Greek yogurt, kefir, a whole chicken, green peppers, whole bean coffee, pasta sauce, ground beef, Halos, kielbasa, Port City Optimal Wit Beer, and two pears, which are for B. since I can't handle the texture. $69.32
8 p.m. — Flautas for dinner! After dinner, B. does the dishes, while I take a shower. Then I prep the chicken for dinner tomorrow night with our friends and their baby. B.'s whole office got COVID last month (and they did not close!!!!) so we have antibodies. We didn't get too sick, so it's hard to stay mad at them, but it feels like they could have done more to prevent it.
10:30 p.m. — The kitchen is clean and put to bed. I go to bed so that I can wake up early and try to make bagels. B. will join once he finishes up some work.
Daily Total: $69.32

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Okay, so waking up early was a lie.
7 a.m. — I think this still counts as early. I take my temperature, kiss B., and roll out of bed. I shape my bagels, then pack leftovers for B.'s lunch. I don't do this every day, but I know he really, really appreciates it when I do. Also, packing leftovers is literally the easiest thing in the world and it makes me seem like I try really hard. I read up on bagel techniques while I wait for them to rise and decide to set the oven a little higher than what the recipe called for.
8 a.m. — Sign into work.
9 a.m. — The bagels have defeated me again, so I fall into despair and my French press coffee.
10:15 a.m. — Finish a very long call with a nice Canadian man who tells me about his wife's small business while I fix his computer. I am not by nature a small talk kind of person, but he's very insistent so I don't refuse. After the call, I get my first 15-minute break, so I tear off a piece of a failure bagel and it is delicious but very ugly. I make some tea as well, then water my plant. I am not a good plant mom, so I have an app that tells me when I should check on the plant to water it. It would be so much easier if they could just bark or cry or something. Back online at 10:30.
10:58 a.m. — I kill a fly. The second one in 24 hours. I send B. a link to a very neat electric fly zapper. He agrees that it's very neat so I order the fly zapper and some sunscreen from Amazon. $44.58
2 p.m. — Finally lunchtime after a stupidly long call where the user wandered in and out just enough for me to stay on the line. I start off lunch with a slow shuffle/jog and realize that this is the most beautiful day of the week, so far, and I've been cooped up inside. Inspired by the weather, I shuffle through an extra mile and I don't even have to stop. Let me tell you, this feels like a victory. After my run, I stretch and eat three Halos before signing back into work. I also grab some mesquite chips. Right before signing in, I pull out the chicken that's been marinating.
5 p.m. — Log off work and preheat the oven. I'm using this time to review some car insurance quotes for my mom before we see our friends, N. and E., this evening. E. works in insurance so I'd like to ask his opinion.
10:38 p.m. — We have a good time with our friends and the baby is the best baby. We stop for gas on the way home. B. has to get a COVID test on his way to work tomorrow, so there's no wiggle room in the morning. $21.83
Daily Total: $66.41

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — I make myself some coffee. I did not have a chance to take my temperature this morning, but it should be okay. I tried the birth control pill briefly, but kind of hated the side effects, and B. felt guilty that I was the only one who had to deal with them. I did some research on other options and wound up reading Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, which literally taught me more about my body than all of my years of education (at a fairly liberal and sex-positive school!!!!). We do a kind of lazy version of it and just assume no day is safe until we can see the temperature shift. It's not for everyone, but we're in a decent spot to have kids anyway, so if it happens a little early, there's no harm.
1 p.m. — B.'s brother, G., texts us to ask if he can come over tonight. Until this month, we all lived together. Now we're about half a mile apart, which is not bad at all. Living together was not too bad, all things considered, especially with the extra money saved, but it's been a big help to all of our relationships to be friends/siblings and not roommates.
2 p.m. — Finally able to take my lunch break. I make a quesadilla with some leftover shredded chicken.
5 p.m. — Call my mom to finish setting up her car insurance. Later on, G. comes over to hang out with B. I make myself another quesadilla and listen to dumb TV while I try to work on some writing. The guys play Minecraft for an hour or so, and then all three of us play Overcooked together until it's time for G. to walk home. $65.56
Daily Total: $65.56

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wake up briefly to take my temperature, then immediately fall back asleep.
8:40 a.m. — Wake up for real. B. is awake now, so we chat and cuddle for an hour or so. My mom and brother are vaccinated now, so they're coming over tomorrow evening. We're waging a slow war to convince all of our family to move closer to us and this is part of that attack. We're spending today doing some last-minute cleaning since we won't have time tomorrow morning. To start, I post an ad for our giant (now unnecessary) space heaters on our local freecycle page and they're claimed within a few minutes. I get started on chores, first stopping at Wawa for coffee, then the recycling center to get rid of some giant boxes that won't fit in our curbside bin. $1.99
11 a.m. — Stop by a local paper store for some cards ($18.13). Next, I stop into the store right next door and pick out some shower bombs for my mom ($24.99). Finally, I hit the grocery store, right around the corner. Groceries: shredded cheese, half and half, eggs, tortilla chips, cream cheese, a wedge of Grayson (semi-local, very good cheese), heavy cream, bacon, refried beans, chicken broth, ground Italian sausage, ground beef, chicken breasts and thighs (I portion them out, so we only buy them every other week), and strawberries ($121.26). $164.38
3 p.m. — B. is done with his weekend bike ride, so we go to Goodwill together to find him some new shirts and to drop off a chair we don't have room for anymore. He finds two shirts and a pair of pants. I find a beautiful wooden sconce. We are both very pleased with ourselves. $21.50
8 p.m. — We make buffalo chicken dip and bean dip for dinner and my old roommate/current neighbor comes over to hang out in our backyard. We recently got a hand-me-down fire pit and we're testing it out tonight. Overall, we declare the firepit a success and go to bed smelling like smoke.
Daily Total: $187.87

Day Five

8:50 a.m. — Head over to church, which is about a five-minute drive. We moved to this neighborhood at least partially because of how close it is. We could walk, but that would require better planning and waking up at least an hour earlier.
10:45 a.m. — Order online and pick up a cup of coffee from a coffee shop around the corner from church before heading home. $3.16
1 p.m. — My mom is here! My brother shows up about an hour later. We give them the grand tour and remind them how much more house they can get for their money down here. My brother is slowly being convinced.
5 p.m. — For dinner, I make Zuppa Toscana, crostini made from the sourdough I made on Friday, and salad. I've never had Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, but my mom says that mine is just as good (which is definitely a lie, but my mom loves me). B. and I were talking this morning about how different things are for us versus how we grew up. We went to Olive Garden once a year and it was a BIG DEAL. His family never went to sit-down restaurants at all as a kid because it was too expensive. I don't think either of us really expected to ever be financially comfortable and that's a weird thing to reckon with since you never know how long it'll last. My brother heads home after dinner and my mom decides to stay the night and drive back in the morning.
9:30 p.m. — B. goes to bed early since he's working a one-day gig that starts at 4 a.m. tomorrow. My mom and I chat for a bit before I go to bed as well.
Daily Total: $3.16

Day Six

9 a.m. — B. woke me up at 3 a.m. then my mom woke me up again at 6. When I wake up for good, I make myself some coffee and debate walking to a nice place for lunch. The rain quickly changes my mind, and I settle in for a morning of unpacking the guest room.
1 p.m. — Break for lunch of bean dip and tortilla chips.
9 p.m. — B. gets home and we eat some strawberries and salad for dinner and hang out for a bit before bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — This is my chill day at work and B.'s first day at his new job. I help him read through the setup materials, and we have some coffee together before the day gets going.
8 a.m. — G. is graduating college this weekend, so we're hosting a small, family event. Thankfully, all of B.'s siblings have been able to get vaccinated, so we'll have the whole gang. I place an order on Amazon for some supplies — some paper tablecloths, fancy sodas, bamboo utensils, crepe, and a banner for pictures. $63.89
3 p.m. — Have some homemade bread and cheese for lunch. I also make a test batch of confetti/funfetti cupcakes for this weekend. I happen to have all of the ingredients and they turn out just like the box mix!
5 p.m. — Start dinner. Tonight we're having stuffed bell peppers with cheesy beef and rice. I roast some sweet potatoes as well. B.'s sister calls while I'm cooking and we chat about her new job and how nice it is to work in more mixed-gender environments. Not that I would know, lol. But the guys on my team are pretty good overall. After dinner, G. comes over to taste test the cupcakes as he is very picky. He approves and we workshop frosting ideas. The fly zapper arrived today and we hear its first victim, which is weirdly satisfying.
10:30 p.m. — Bedtime!
Daily Total: $63.89
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