Money Diaries logo

A Week In Portland, OR, On A Joint $388,000 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 civil engineer on maternity leave who has a joint income of $388,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on La Croix.
Occupation: Part-time civil engineer, part-time real estate investor (currently on maternity leave)
Industry: Municipal Infrastructure, Real Estate
Age: 34
Location: Portland, OR
My Salary: Currently $0 while I'm on unpaid maternity leave, usually ~$68,000 for part-time
My Husband's Salary: ~$320,000 (he is a surgeon who gets paid per surgery so this changes year to year)
Net Worth: ~$1,096,900 (Cash: $30,800, stocks/bonds: $65,100, my 401K(k): $47,600, my Roth IRA: $47,600, my husband's 401(k): $705,700, my husband's Roth IRA: $177,300, crypto: $7,500, my husband's HSA: $39,800, my HSA: $1,500, minus debt. We do not count the equity in our primary residence or rental properties because we try to keep our equity leveraged via HELOC's in order to purchase additional investments and grow our real estate portfolio faster. We also don't count cash that we keep for operating rental properties. Our finances are all jointly held.)
Debt: $26,000 solar panel loan (We don't count our primary residence mortgage towards personal debt, but we have $260,000 left and our home value is $550,000.)
My Paycheck Amount: Currently $0 while on maternity leave
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $12,000
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,950 for our primary residence
Solar Loan: $140 (some winter months we do end up needing to buy $10-$20 of power from our local power utility)
Water/Sewer/Garbage: $200
Childcare: $480
Gym: $10
Streaming Services: $54
Internet & Phone: $235
529 Plans: $600 (for our twins)
Donations: $0 (I'm adding this line item to make it clear that we do have this category. However, we are really private about this, so I'm not going to share the amount. Causes near and dear to us include Girls on the Run, Friends of Trees, and any organization that helps our unhoused neighbors.)
Amazon Prime: $120 annually
Costco Membership: $50 annually
Calm App: $90 annually
Insurance Policies: $7,120 annually
Professional Membership Dues: $585 annually
Advertisement
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?
There was absolutely an expectation that I would go to college, but as much as that came from my parents, it came from me. I knew that I wanted to be an engineer from the time I was about 10 years old. Since you can't be an engineer without college, I knew I'd be going. I did a BS in Environmental Engineering and a master's in Civil and Environmental Engineering. I recognize that I have a huge amount of privilege regarding college. My parents took out loans to help pay for my schooling (to the tune of approximately $180,000 when you count the loans, the high interest, and the tax burden they incurred to pull out of their retirement accounts to pay for the loans). I have a huge amount of guilt and gratitude in regards to all that they sacrificed to put me through school. Suffice to say, me going to school was a big deal for them, so much so that they gave what they didn't really have to give for me to be able to get my dream job. My husband and I hope to buy them a house to retire in so that we can return their generosity. For the remainder of the payment for school, I had federal loans totaling approximately $120,000 (principal and interest). My education was really expensive because I went to a spend-y private school for the first two years before transferring to an excellent state school. I will definitely tell my kids not to repeat my mistakes. I learned that community colleges and state schools are just as good as private schools. What makes an education great is how hard the student is willing to work to learn, not what school the student selects.
Advertisement
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Again, I recognize my privilege in saying yes to this question. My dad taught me about finances. He was the first person to sit down with me and create a monthly budget. He also taught me about how to invest in retirement plans. He gave me a $5/week allowance for chores when I was little and taught me how to save and only purchase when I was certain I was buying something that would bring me true joy. My first purchase was a horse (I paid $500 and my parents paid the remaining $700 plus $300 for gear). I did 4H with him and would save my money if I wanted something special for him (like a silver plaque with our names engraved on it that we had mounted onto my saddle).
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was a summer job selling running shoes at a specialty running shoe store when I was 15. It was a great summer job for me. I lived with the store's owner because the store was in a city about 90 minutes away from the small town I lived in. After he took rent from my paycheck, I'd get what was left. I was able to work with several other high school and college runners, and we would train together before or after work for our upcoming fall cross country seasons.
Advertisement
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. As I got older, I had discussions with my parents and realized we actually never had much and money was quite tight for them. I had no idea when I was a kid. I always felt like I had everything because my parents utilized secondhand stores for all of our consumer goods so I never lacked clothing or sporting gear. They also spent a lot of time with us and treated our activities like they were the most important thing ever. I was showered in love as a child (again, huge privilege) and was blissfully unaware of how tight money was. My parents are my heroes and I hope I can be half as good to my twins.
Do you worry about money now?
I am privileged to not have to worry about money, although I do think about it a lot. It is a piece of my life that requires constant maintenance. Especially during transition periods (like maternity leave, which I'm currently on).
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
After college, I became financially responsible for myself. When I first got an engineering job, it was right after the recession. It was low-paying and I had a mountain of student debt. I didn't make wise financial decisions in college so I had to completely pivot and get my act together. I had zero safety net at first, but now that I've had almost a decade of working and have married a super frugal guy who is also a great saver, earner, and investor, we have a good safety net. We not only have a cash safety net, but some other valuable safety nets like robust life and umbrella insurance policies, a living trust, and a prenup. It's a huge priority for us to make sure we are both safe financially and that our twins will be safe and educated. We also come from incredible families and we know they would do whatever they could to help if we lost everything.
Advertisement
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
This is a major yes, and I am very grateful. I was given $180,000 in financial assistance from my parents for college. The impact of that investment can't be understated (especially given that they sacrificed money that should have been for their retirement). My grandparents also gave each of their college-age grandchildren $50 a month for groceries while obtaining bachelor's degrees. When they passed away, I had just finished school. They left each grandchild $7,500, which just so happened to be the balance on my student loan with the highest interest. I immediately paid that loan off with my inheritance. Finally, I purchased a two-bed condo when I was 27. It was a major cosmetic fixer. I fixed it up on weekends and after workdays and rented out the spare bedroom for $400 a month while I was living there. When I was 30 and married my husband, I kept it for almost a year and had it entirely rented out for $1,250/month. After a $3,400 investment to fix the place up, and a few years of ownership/market appreciation, I sold it for $36,000 more than I bought it for. That was a great chunk of equity to throw down on my student loans.

Day One

5:45 a.m. — I wake up because the twins have woken up. My husband works today so his alarm would have gone off in 15 minutes anyway. We do a diaper change and while he showers, I make him two pieces of avocado toast with a fried egg (so Millennial) and one for myself. Then I make him lunch: a sandwich on gluten-free bread, chips, grapes, trail mix, and gluten-free cookies. He used to eat lunch at work for free, but now I pack it because he had to cut out gluten. I eat a Costco muffin with my coffee and feed the babies.
Advertisement
8 a.m. — The babies go down for their first of three naps and I tackle some chores.
12:45 p.m. — I eat grapes, a few string cheeses, a salad, and a veggie tagine with couscous. I also drink about a gallon of water. It's amazing how much a breastfeeding woman can consume. Then I throw a chicken and rice soup in the crockpot for dinner tonight.

4 p.m. — My husband gets home. We take a walk with the babies, feed them some baby food (broccoli and apple), bathe them, and get them to bed. This whole routine takes about two hours. Then we eat some of the soup and a really delicious salad. I also eat two grilled cheese sandwiches and a Costco muffin.

7:30 p.m. — I go lay down in bed, call my mom, and watch a YouTube video by Ecofriend Lia. I really admire her commitment to living as sustainably as possible. Then I write in my one-sentence journal, read a bit of City of Thorns, and go to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5 a.m. — The babies are awake. My husband and I spend the next few hours feeding, diapering, and playing with them. We eat Costco muffins and coffee. Then, we are off to the babies' six-month checkups.
12:40 p.m. — I have leftover soup for lunch, plus two string cheeses and a stroopwafel. Meanwhile, my husband is off to physical therapy. Prompted by his appointment, I call to schedule my physical therapy. We both ran in college and thus the need to give our bodies some extra TLC now that we're older. I have the left knee of an 80-year-old ex-football player, and I'm trying to strengthen it and postpone surgery as long as possible. I do my PT exercises after calling to schedule my appointment. Our PT is fully covered by insurance.
Advertisement
2:45 p.m. — It's very wintery outside today, which reminds me that our babies need some new hats. I hop onto Poshmark and use credits to buy some new beanies and a few jammies. All but shipping ($6.46) is covered with credits. We buy all of our clothing, baby gear, furniture, kitchen gadgets, workout gear, etc. used or look for it for free. We've met a super rad community of people on Freecycle and Buy Nothing! $6.46
6:30 p.m. — We are really lazy tonight so we opt for pizza ($19.67). I go to bed really early to journal and read the last few chapters of a book I'm reading about managing short-term rentals. $19.67
Daily Total: $26.13

Day Three

4 a.m. — I'm up a little early this morning. The babies had a bit of a rough night and needed Tylenol twice to take the edge off of their post-vaccination achiness. I don't mind. I soak in some snuggles and feed them. Breakfast this morning is avocado toast and bacon for the hubby and fried egg with a Costco muffin for me. We each drink two coffees. In his lunch, I pack grapes, chips and guac, two sandwiches, an apple, trail mix, and gluten-free cookies.
8 a.m. — I have a sitter until 4 today so that I can get some work done and do some appointments. I get a sitter two days a month and try to cram in most of my outside appointments on that day. Today, however, instead of directly hitting the ground and getting productive, I take a nap ($247.20, ~ $240 for her plus the Venmo charge). $247.20

11:30 a.m. — I wake up, make a few decisions about insurance with the hubby over text, start some laundry, and eat a salad, two slices of leftover pizza, and an apple. Then I get into my big project for the day: cleaning my desk and setting up utilities at a new property.

1 p.m. — I have bi-weekly therapy. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2017, and in 2019, after failing to manage it, I fell apart and had to take a 20-month-long break from almost every responsibility I held in life, including work. I went through several therapists to find this one that I've been seeing since August of 2020. She has been a lifesaver, especially in this postpartum period. She has empowered me to take responsibility for my behavioral and mental health, and I'd seriously give my right arm to make sure everyone had a resource like her! Our sessions cost $115, and every penny is well spent! $115

6:15 p.m. — The babies just went to sleep so I decide to bake gluten-free lemon bars. Then I clean the kitchen and start to cook thin-sliced sirloin steak, fire-roasted veggies, and baked potatoes. I also make a chimichurri sauce I've been really excited to try! You make it with a mortar and pestle instead of a food processor (which is great, because we don't have one). It turns out so good! In between all of this, I call my mom and keep the laundry rolling. My husband isn't usually a lemon bar person but I tried a new recipe and he loves these.

Daily Total: $362.20
Advertisement

Day Four

6 a.m. — The twins wake up and I feed them both. Then it's coffee time. We eat the last two Costco muffins for breakfast. He's off today and we want to make good use of our time so we have a quick meeting to plan our day.
10:15 a.m. — I have physical therapy. I've been doing it for two months and am just starting to see some exciting strength gains! When I get home, my husband and I take the babies out for a walk. It's a bit chilly, but we bundle them up and put them in carriers so they can be next to our body heat. My husband and I try to walk like this every day. The babies get a great nap this way and we get to spend some quality time together. This is our favorite thing. I could talk to him for the rest of my life and it would never be enough. He's a fascinating person! When we get home, it's more leftover pizza (his gluten-free, mine with all the gluten-y goodness) and grapes for lunch.
3:30 p.m. — We are both hungry so we make what we were going to make for dinner (chicken Caesar salad) early.
4:30 p.m. — The babies eat a jar of carrots, get their baths, and go to sleep. It takes about an hour and a half start to finish. Afterward, we're hungry again, so we both eat a frozen red curry. Then we bust out the cribbage board and play a game. I come one peg away from getting skunked!
Advertisement
7:30 p.m. — Time for some relaxation. My husband puts on one of his shows and I have a bath bomb I got as a gift that I've been meaning to use for almost a year. I light a few candles and settle in with this amazing lavender bath bomb. I get out, make a call to my mom, and then it's lights out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

3:30 a.m. — It seems like the babies are awake for the day. This is an unusually early morning! We try as best as we can to get them back to sleep for a few hours, but by 5 it's apparent that it's not going to happen. We eat gluten-free waffles for breakfast and I pack my hubby a PB&J, chips and guac, gluten-free Oreos, trail mix, and an apple for lunch. I start folding laundry and pull up some fun/newly posted YouTube videos from Ecofriend Lia, Kyra Ann, and Jessica Rose Williams. These girls are seriously amazing and their videos fill me with ideas and motivation when coffee can't.
10:30 a.m. — I eat a really early lunch. Three pieces of toast topped with hummus, balsamic vinegar, scrambled egg, sliced kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Then I call my dad.
5:30 p.m. — We realize that we've had frozen chicken wings and fries in our freezer for a long time and decide to make that. Dessert is frozen fruit smoothies with oat milk, collagen, chia seeds, and plant-based protein powder. While we eat, we get on a call with a contractor about a project at one of our properties. Some surprises come up so we go through a list of potential cutbacks to get us closer to our budget.
Advertisement
8:30 p.m. — I watch a YouTube video by The Broken Wallet (highly highly highly recommend this channel and her corresponding blog) while my husband settles in for a few of his shows. Then I do a few meditations on the Calm app, which I pay yearly for every January. I haven't listened in a few days so this is a bit of a binge. I finish up the Gratitude Master Class that I'm re-listening to for like the fourth time because it is just that good. Then lights out.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

10 a.m. — Breakfast this morning is gluten-free waffles and coffees. Today is hair washing day for me and I have to do it quickly since we are about to leave to go see some (fully vaccinated and very careful) friends. I wash my hair once a week with castile soap. I've been using castile soap for five or six years now and it functions as my shampoo, body wash, and sometimes my laundry soap. I'm only on my fifth container of it in that long of a time — it has saved us so much money! I condition with coconut oil every other week or so and use garbanzo bean flower as dry shampoo.
11:45 a.m. — We leave to see our friends and along the way stop at Starbucks to use a gift card. I am a sucker for a grande green tea frappuccino with two extra scoops of matcha! I hate to do caffeine twice because I'm breastfeeding, but sometimes a mom just has to do what she has to do. At our friends' place, we eat egg bites, spanakopita, and meatballs. So delicious. They send us home with a playmat that they don't need for their kiddos anymore. We have been the constant recipients of amazing goodies from our friends since the twins have been born! It pays to be the caboose and have your kids last. Jokes aside, we're so thankful that so many people have shared their old baby goodies with us. It's a huge privilege to have a community and we don't take that lightly.
Advertisement
6:30 p.m. — We get the twins in bed and feel extremely lazy again so we get two orders of pad see ew with tofu from our nearby (and incredibly delicious) Thai place ($26 with tip). $26
Daily Total: $26

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — The four of us are awake. We do coffees and cereal for breakfast. It's my mom's birthday today so I order an e-gift card from Portland Leather Goods to be sent to her ($150). Then I text her happy birthday and let her know that I plan to call her this afternoon. $150
11 a.m. — Lunch today is leftover Thai food. We also make our weekly grocery order. We get milk, heavy cream, La Croix, veggies, lemons, gluten-free bread, eggs, breakfast muffins, yogurt, and a few odds and ends like sandwich bags. $75.94
2 p.m. — One of my best friends comes over for a walk and to meet the babies! She has some really exciting things going on in her life right now and I'm so happy for her! She puts a ton of goodness out into the world and I love to see it come back to her. While we walk, my husband gasses up the car ($45.55) and goes to the gym. $45.55
4:30 p.m. — We are eating out a lot this week. My husband goes to pick up Chipotle ($15.90) for us after our weekly grocery haul, go figure. Then I call my parents and wish my mom a happy birthday! $15.90
Advertisement
Daily Total: $287.39
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series

Advertisement