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A Week In Denver, CO, On A $119,400 Joint Income

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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 middle school teacher who has a joint income of $119,400 and spends some of her money this week on wind chimes.
Occupation: Middle School Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 31
Location: Denver, CO
My Salary: $51,400
My Husband's Salary: $68,000
Net Worth: ~$306,000 ($4,500 for an ancient Subaru we share, savings (joint): $185,000, Roth IRA (joint): $14,000, my retirement: $109,000, minus debt.)
Debt: $6,412 left on my husband's student loans
My Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,043
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $4,350
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,600 for a two-bed/two-bath apartment (includes the scam that is pet rent and one carport space)
Student Loans: $425
Electric: ~$45
WiFi: $75
Water: ~$30
Sewer: $28
Trash: $12
Health Insurance: $160 (for both of us through my husband's work)
Hulu: $11.99 (shared with in-laws, they share YouTube TV with us)
Phone: $60 for our portion of a family plan with my in-laws
Donations: $20 to a local food bank, $20 to Elizabeth Smart Fund, $20 to local animal charity
Cinemark Movie Pass: $9.99 (on pause due to COVID)
Billie Razor: $9.99/three months
Teacher Union Dues: $800/year
CO State Parks Pass: $80/year
Renters Insurance: $144/year
Car Insurance: $1,700/year (for both of us)
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. When I was in middle school, my dad told me I'd go to the local community college before transferring to the local state university. I never questioned that plan or considered leaving home for college; I was afraid of big loans and my parents wouldn't pay for them. I paid for my time at community college with my job (retail) and savings, then transferred to the state school. My parents paid for my three semesters there (I graduated early). I paid for my teaching license. I worked two jobs through college, about 65 hours a week. It was...not fun. I was almost always sick with chronic bronchitis and drifted away from most of my friends. I definitely did not have a "typical" college experience and I feel like I missed out on being young and fun. All that said, I am glad to have graduated with help from my family and no debt.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My dad took me to the bank when I got my first job and helped me open a bank account. My dad always emphasized savings and I don't think a day went by that he didn't bring up how poor he grew up, never had enough food, started working at age nine, etc. I once asked him how much money he made and he yelled at me to never ask him again, so I have no idea how much money my parents have.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Beyond babysitting, I got a job at a department store when I was 16. I just wanted to start saving money and to be able to pay for fun things like clothes from Hollister (and less fun things like car insurance). I've been working full-time ever since (which was definitely illegal when I was a minor).
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, and I had no idea how well-off my family was. My dad would rinse foil to reuse it, things like that. I had to quit any sports/hobbies when I'd start to get proficient and need a greater time/financial commitment. We literally never went on vacation because we "couldn't afford it." To be honest, I think we could have; my dad has his own issues with money. I don't hold it against him. Back then I would have thought we were lower-middle class, but we were probably upper-middle since my parents are both retired now.
Do you worry about money now?
Sometimes; I think I've got some of my dad's issues with money and feel like I can't afford things that I can. Overall, I know we are doing pretty well, so I try not to worry. Sometimes I wish I went into a different field where I could make more money, but I'm okay with where I am.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
25. That's when I first moved out (with a roommate and kitties) and started paying rent. This did wonders for my relationship with my parents! It's never been discussed, but I think my parents and in-laws wouldn't let us be homeless.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Beyond what I mentioned above, I received $2,500 when my grandma died in 2018. I opened my first Roth IRA and put it there.

Day One

6 a.m. — Time for work! My energy levels do not match that exclamation mark. I turn on the coffee pot and feed kitty her wet food. My morning routine is pretty quick now that I'm not wearing makeup under my mask. I rinse my face with water and use toner, moisturizer, and SPF (products are The Ordinary and La-Roche Posay for the SPF...I hate this sunscreen but I also spent $21 on it, so I will use it to the last drop). Today is a lazy outfit of a school spirit shirt, jeans, and Keds.
6:30 a.m. — I get to work and don my mask, which I won't take off for several hours. To be honest, I hardly notice it at this point. It's not that bad. Please know that any time I am at work or in public, my mask is on and giving me maskne. I eat a Clif Bar (the chocolate mint kind) and a banana, my usual breakfast.
7:30 a.m. — I teach middle school and we have been in-person all year (some students are remote). This is what you call hybrid learning and it's as terrible as you might expect, trying to connect with the kids in front of you and the blank tiles on the screen at the same time (I literally do not know what some of these kids look like).
12 p.m. — Time for a bathroom break and lunch! Today I'm having a PB&J (strawberry J), Dot's pretzels, and applesauce. Yes, this is a child's lunch and it's great. I scroll through my Instagram feed, mostly cute zoo animals, and check my email. Not to brag, but I'm getting noticed on Linkedin.
2 p.m. — My students leave and I work for a couple of hours before heading home at 4:15. I usually try not to stay after 4:15, especially considering we're on a pay scale freeze and I technically stop getting paid at 3.
4:50 p.m. — Kitty hops off the couch and hunches over weird. Dramatic lip licking and weird meows ensue. You don't need to be Jackson Galaxy to guess what's coming next. She tries to run away, but I grab her and we make it onto a hard surface in time for an epic hairball. A victory by any definition.
5:45 p.m. — I'm trying to make more vegetarian dinners thanks to a David Attenborough documentary I watched a few months ago about climate change. I realize my tiny actions are probably not going to single-handedly save the polar bears, but I'm trying. I roast some Brussels sprouts and bake portobello mushroom burgers with bleu cheese. My husband, L., picked up some cider for himself at the liquor store earlier today. $11.99
7:30 p.m. — TW for pet loss. My mom's beloved dog died yesterday and I'm still so sad. I know she is too. I look around on Etsy for pet memorial gifts and order her some wind chimes with her dog's name to ship directly to her. I write out a sympathy card to drop in the mail tomorrow morning. $39.84
8:15 p.m. — I start my nightly routine. This includes showering, picking out my outfit for tomorrow, flossing and brushing my teeth, and making tomorrow's lunch. I double-cleanse (Neutrogena), apply retinol (The Ordinary), and moisturize (e.l.f.). These products are pretty basic, but like I tell my students when they ask why I don't buy them better candy, I'm balling on a budget. I go to bed around 9.
Daily Total: $51.83

Day Two

6 a.m. — All the same morning fun before leaving for work. Today's outfit is a red blouse, black slacks, and black booties. It snowed overnight, so I drive slow. I still manage to fishtail (Jesus, take the wheel) and make it to work alive.
7 a.m. — I have SIXTEEN emails from a remote student who's only logged in once or twice all year, all sent last night after 9 p.m., begging me to enter his late work so his mom doesn't take his phone away. Dude, calm down. All will be well.
1:30 p.m. — Lunch for today is leftover Brussels and mac 'n cheese. Pretty, pretty, pretty good. Time for meetings and lesson planning! I also text with our realtor about a house in the area I want to see. The market in the Denver metro area is INSANE right now. We recently lost out on a house we put an offer in for when someone went $80,000 over asking. We will visit this new house for a walk-through tomorrow afternoon.
4:45 p.m. — I leave work and stop at a sushi place. I ordered ahead and pick up three rolls for L.and me to split. Subtotal is $27.40 + 20% tip. $32.88
5 p.m. — I go for a super quick walk to see if my little prairie dog pals are in the field near our home. They are already in their tunnels for the night, which I expected. I head home and we eat dinner and watch a few episodes of The X-Files. Some are good, some do not hold up. I do a load of towels in the laundry and a load of clothes. The clothes stay in the dryer, they're used to it.
7 p.m. — I just got my second dose of the vaccine last week (L. hasn't gotten one yet; he works from home full time). Colorado bumped teachers up in line because most of us are teaching in-person this year. I haven't seen my parents since the 2019 holidays, so I buy plane tickets to visit them. My parents are both vaccinated and live in a different state. $132.97
8:15 p.m. — I'm pretty tired and start getting ready for bed before reading for a little while. Currently reading Dear Child by Romy Hausmann, which is good. I have a bunch of library books that I'd put on hold for my Kindle coming in right now and want to finish them all! I just finished Outlawed by Anna North, which was super disappointing. 2.5/5 stars if I'm generous. I fetch kitty for cuddles and we fall asleep.
Daily Total: $165.85

Day Three

6 a.m. — Here we go! All the usual morning stuff, and I put on a floral print dress, denim jacket, and brown booties. Feeling cute today.
12 p.m. — Lunch is leftover green beans and chicken from a few nights ago. I finish Dear Child — what a wild ride. 4.5/5 stars.
3:45 p.m. — I meet our realtor at the house I wanted to see and text L. some pictures of it. We think we're going to pass, but it's always worth checking a place out. I head home.
4:20 p.m. — I unload the dishwasher, vacuum the apartment, and put away last night's laundry. That's productive enough for today.
6 p.m. — Dinner tonight is pasta with pesto sauce and chicken. I make extra for lunch for both of us tomorrow. I'm including whatever alcohol L. bought. I don't really drink much, just wine sometimes. I'm rewatching the most recent season of Younger, which my mom and I watch together. We are Team Charles and you should be too. $13.99
9 p.m. — I talk to L. about wanting to see a therapist and he's supportive of that. I feel like I've really been struggling lately with the fact that I have no friends, haven't seen my parents in over a year, put my heart and soul into my job only to be told I need to do more, and have been super preoccupied with death. This last one is new. I don't think about it every second, but when I'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I have mini panic attacks almost every night about dying. Not how I'd die, but just...being dead, if that makes sense. Like, will I get to chill in a sweet ass castle made of clouds with my grandmas? Will I burn in a lake of fire forever because I took (read: stole) an extra toy from the dentist's toy box in third grade? Or will it just be a void of nothingness? We look around on the Aetna app and it's really confusing and I'm only finding therapists for like, children and rehab centers. Will do more research later.
Daily Total: $13.99

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — I live to see another day. I sleep in 15 minutes on Thursdays, what a treat. That reads as sarcastic, but it's not!
8:30 a.m. — A student gives me a card that says he likes my class. Aww. He has a pile of cards for all of his teachers and I feel like his mom made him do it, since I have to tell him to take out his earbuds and put his phone away every ten minutes and he's always rolling her eyes at me, but it's sweet anyway. I want to believe.
12 p.m. — I have my leftover pasta and grade some stuff. In an attempt to relate to the youths, I print out some Joseph Stalin/communist memes to decorate our bulletin board. We're reading Animal Farm soon. Really feeling like Boxer this year with everything that's been heaped on me. I will work harder!
3 p.m. — I lesson plan and chill alone in Google Meet as I wait to see if any students show up for office hours. Not a one. I am a rock, I am an island.
4:30 p.m. — We need groceries! I stop on the way home and pick up apples, bananas, pears, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, salmon, crackers, chips, Kroger brand sparkling water, yogurt, eggs, bagels, sourdough bread, cheddar cheese, black beans, taquitos, pasta sauce, coffee creamer, ice cream, milk, and tomato soup. The pears were in the wrong section and, of course, I trusted the sign and didn't check the little stickers. The cashier charges me what I thought I was getting when I ask her to take them off. Now I get to try $4/lb pears! Wild! $56.44
5:15 p.m. — I will stagger to my doorstep before I make two trips for groceries. Bad call. One of my grocery bags splits and I curse loudly in the parking lot as cans of tomato soup begin to roll away. Alexa, play "Candle in the Wind."
6 p.m. — It's times like these that I just cannot imagine having kids. I always feel so drained at the end of the day and all I want to do is space out on my phone. I don't think you can do that if you have a kid to take care of, check homework for, make dinner for, etc. Am I too lazy for kids? Plus, the world kinda sucks and I genuinely wonder what sort of future my kid would have. Will I be able to help with college? Will they be able to buy a house? What's going to happen with the climate? Things to ponder. For dinner tonight, I make burrito bowls with brown rice, black beans, cheese, salsa, and avocado. L. went to the liquor store for beer earlier in the day. $11.99
7 p.m. — L. asks if I want to watch a movie and tells me I can pick. I pick one of the greatest movies of all time, known for its incredible acting, compelling plot, and Trisha Yearwood soundtrack. That's right, we're watching Con Air.
9 p.m. — I've been super lazy about journaling lately, so I write a bit before getting ready for bed. Lights out.
Daily Total: $68.43

Day Five

8 a.m. — We are remote on Fridays, so I sleep in a bit. I get dressed, clean the kitchen, and scramble an egg with spinach, cheddar, and sriracha to put on an English muffin. It's the little things.
10 a.m. — I do office hours with my kids and afterward, L. and I meet our realtor to check out another house. It's near the top of our budget and we decide to put in an offer, but I'm sure we won't get it. We just can't compete with the people showing up with suitcases of money for all-cash offers. But we'll see what happens!
11 a.m. — I get back home, log in for an online meeting, and work for a few more hours until my haircut this afternoon.
4 p.m. — Now that I've gotten my second dose of the vaccine, I get my first haircut in almost 16 months! I take three inches off. I tip extra since I haven't had this expense in so long ($45 + $20 tip). $65
7 p.m. — Did I buy a bunch of food yesterday? Yes. Am I ordering Indian food tonight? Also yes. I place an order for chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, and garlic naan at a local restaurant. I drive to pick it up and the total is $35.97 + 20% tip. $43.16
7:45 p.m. — L. is annoyed that we don't have any soda, so I go back out to the grocery store and buy three packs. We watch a nature documentary as we eat and I remind our cat how good she has it compared to these big cats struggling to find food. Later I get ready for tomorrow, read a depressing book for a while (The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah), and head to bed. $10.99
Daily Total: $119.15

Day Six

8:15 a.m. — Kitty climbs on my back and sneezes on my arm. Good morning. I dish out her wet food before taking a quick shower. I throw some towels in the wash.
10 a.m. — I switch over the towels and load our sheets into the wash. L. and I decide to go to one of the nearby state parks for a couple of hours. It's a really open space and pretty big, so we don't see too many other people on the trails.
1:30 p.m. — I grill some salmon and roast some green beans. I make too many green beans and skip another side. We'll probably have these leftovers for dinner tonight.
2:30 p.m. — There is little more glorious than an afternoon nap brought on by Target-brand Benadryl. I wake up after a couple of hours and finish When No One is Watching. 4/5 stars. I was pretty hooked throughout, but the end felt very rushed and some of the villains almost seemed cartoony with their badness/dialogue.
5:30 p.m. — We go for a late-afternoon walk and swing by the liquor store before dinner. We have our lunch leftovers with brown rice. $11.99
10:30 p.m. — I don't usually read two books at once, but I needed a break from The Four Winds. I finish it up now. 4.5/5 stars, don't let me ever be a character in a Kristin Hannah book, I couldn't handle the tragedy.
Daily Total: $11.99

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I wake up, clean the kitchen, and make breakfast sandwiches for L. and me. We watch an episode of a nature show as we eat.
12:30 p.m. — Our realtor texts to say that we did not get the house we'd just put an offer in on. Honestly, I'm not as disappointed as last time; this is what I suspected. We decide to go for a hike and pick up Chipotle on the way home. $18.73
3:30 p.m. — I call my parents, which I try to do every week. I debate on mentioning that I want to start therapy, but ultimately, decide against it. My dad was super unsupportive when I was diagnosed with OCD several years ago (he doesn't think it's a real thing or that what I was experiencing didn't count) and my mom can't keep a secret from him. I really do miss them, though, and cry a little after I hang up.
6 p.m. — I make grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner. Never underestimate the power of this meal.
9 p.m. — After getting all of my ducks in a row for tomorrow, I start a new book, Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane. Probably not the best idea to start an intense thriller right before bed, but I'm hooked and read until 10.
Daily Total: $18.73
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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