A Week In Appleton, WI, On A Joint $162,830 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a controller working in finance who makes $94,330 per year ($162,830 when combined with her husband) and spends some of her money this week on ravioli.
Occupation: Controller
Industry: Finance
Age: 37
Location: Appleton, WI
My Salary: $94,330 + variable bonus depending on company performance
My Husband's Salary: $68,500
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,570
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,679
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,305 including property taxes and insurance. We live in a three-bedroom/two-bathroom ranch with our two cats.
Student Loans: $0 (I graduated loan-free, and my husband's loans have been paid off for years.)
Phone: $161 (Husband's company gives us $40/month to offset part of this.)
Cable: $160 (Including TV and internet.)
Utilities: $214
Car Payments: $1,094
Car Insurance: $112 (Includes an umbrella policy, paid semiannually.)
Health Insurance: $150 out of my husband's paycheck
HSA: $587 including fees. We currently have about $4,700 in our account.
Mattress: $100 (Tempur-Pedic at 0% interest)
Tithing: $50
Netflix: $14
Savings: $225, including $75 earmarked for charitable giving. We currently have about $14,000 in various accounts.
"Fun" Money: $300 ($150 each month for personal hobbies and gifts. Everything else is shared.)
401(k): $1,445 (I'm at 12% with an 8% company match, and my husband is at 10% with a 7% company match. My current balance is $177,000, and his is about $80,000.)
Annual Expenses
Costco: $126
Amazon Prime: $100
Auto Registrations: $165
Season Tickets: $750

Day One

5:45 a.m. — It's Memorial Day, so there's no alarm to wake up to, but the cats don't seem to have gotten that message. Unsolicited yowling goes on for a while, but I eventually fall back asleep. My husband, B., has likely been up for a while — he has an internal alarm clock that cannot be ignored — but the cats still prefer to torture me.
7:30 a.m. — Up for the day. I snack on a leftover croissant from yesterday's breakfast while B. has a frozen breakfast sandwich. (He nicely waited until I was awake to use the microwave.) I then make some tea and throw together fried rice using leftovers from last night's dinner. I'm not a big fan of traditional breakfast foods and really struggle with breakfast in general, so I tend to eat weird things in the morning. I eat my rice as B. goes to get a propane tank refill and some grill cleaner — we're cooking out later, and although we grill year-round (yes, even in winter in the snow), he still likes doing a “spring cleaning” each year ($59.86). He also gets gas while he's out ($29.89). $89.75
9:40 a.m. — I shower and get ready for the day. Even though it's a holiday, I plan to get in a couple hours of work this morning. Working in operations finance means I don't have a crazy January-to-April tax-type schedule, but instead I have a monthly financial close cycle. I'd compare it to 12 sprints each year versus one marathon. We're heading into the final week of the month, so I figure it's in my best interest to get a bit of a head start. I've noticed that as I've moved up the management chain, more and more of my time is spent in meetings. That doesn't mean all the other work doesn't need to get done — I just have to be more creative about it. B. is still entertaining himself with the grill, so I don't feel too bad about sitting in the office for an hour or two.
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11:50 a.m. — Since it's supposed to rain this afternoon, B. grills up the burgers we bought on Saturday for lunch. I do most of the cooking at home, but there are two things I have no interest in — grilling and baking — so B. takes the lead when those occasions present themselves. Add a brioche bun and some pickles, and it's a meal. B. recently rediscovered his love of Bugles, so he has a bag of those as well.
3:30 p.m. — I spend most of the afternoon reading (when B. chooses the TV show) and then watching reruns of Greek, which I found via some digging on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Scott Michael Foster (when I get to choose the show). Both cats have dental appointments tomorrow, so we have to feed them early before removing food entirely by 6 p.m. They are thrilled now, but that emotion will soon be replaced as their schedule is thrown off. Neither cat likes the car ride, and one hates the vet entirely while the other is a total weirdo who likes the attention. I always get nervous when either of them go out. We've had bad experiences with teeth cleaning in the past, so I'm hoping it all goes well. B. will be dropping them off and picking them up this time, so I get to avoid the kitty car chorus.
6 p.m. — We watch Jeopardy! together each night as we eat dinner. Yeah, I know: “nerd alert!” Today it's a leftover burger for B. and leftover fried rice for me. It's fun to discover the completely random information we know (How in the world did you know that? How did you NOT know that?). James has been fun to watch, but kind of takes the fun out of the competitive side of the game when he absolutely steamrolls the other two players. I like to blind guess the final question and have actually gotten it right a few times recently!
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7 p.m. — I do the dishes and scoop the litter boxes. Our older cat usually gets a special treat each night (to encourage water consumption), but we have to skip that due to their fasting requirements today. Kitty is bummed…
9 p.m. — Take my vitamins and meds, brush my teeth, console the whiny cats, and head to bed.
Daily Total: $89.75

Day Two

5 a.m. — Alarm goes off, and I'm up and in the shower. The cats, once again, are not amused with this no-food situation. We have automatic feeders that go off every morning just before 5 to keep them out of our hair as we get ready for work. We turned them off last night, so now the cats are distraught. Oh well! They'll find out why soon enough. I get dressed, throw together my breakfast and lunch, give the kitties an extra cuddle, and wish B. good luck wrangling them to the vet.
6:10 a.m. — I have an incredibly easy commute, with a short 10-minute jaunt along the lake. I'm a morning person and like getting to the office early to knock out a whole bunch of things each day before I start getting sidetracked. I heat up a breakfast biscuit sandwich and eat it while I'm working.
7:30 a.m. — B. calls to confirm the cats have been escorted to the vet. They're apparently the only dental patients of the day, so we should hear any news relatively early on. I ask B. to let me know when he hears something. Like I said…I'm really nervous about teeth cleanings.
11 a.m. — During a break between meetings, I text B. asking if he's heard anything. He says no. No news is good news, right?
12 p.m. — Eat my lunch at my desk. I know, I know, this is something you're not supposed to do. Today I have hummus with carrots and naan, along with some cheese. I also had a Mamma Chia pouch earlier.
1 p.m. — Finally, the all-clear call about both cats! They are fine, no extractions, and they're waking up from the anesthesia. B. will go pick them up around 3.
3:20 p.m. — B. calls while on the way home from the vet. I can hear sad kitty meows in the background. I shut my computer down and head home to meet them. Total damage for two dental exams and cleanings ends up being $793.50. This prompts B. to do some research on pet insurance. The results are inconclusive, and we'll revisit it later. $793.50
3:30 p.m. — I hang out with my two drugged-up cats for a while before dinner. I'll log back on and finish up some work later this evening. I snack on some Fritos while paging through the latest Costco ad.
4:30 p.m. — B. mows the lawn (it's in our marriage contract that I'm required to do no outdoor work) for the third time in the past week. He eats some leftover beef bulgogi and then heads off to his massage appointment. He has a spa day about once a month, and we buy discounted gift cards from Costco. He pays the tip from his own fun money.
5:30 p.m. — My dinner tonight is mango chicken stir-fry. It's pretty tasty, although it makes a mess of my stovetop. Then again, that may speak more to the competencies of the chef…
6 p.m. — Jeopardy!...but alone tonight. Coincidentally enough, I successfully blind guess the final question today, with no witnesses, of course — shout out to SpongeBob!
7:30 p.m. — Clean up in the kitchen and give both cats a special fish treat. Tuna beats salmon in the taste test tonight.
8:15 p.m. — B. returns home from the spa after his 90-minute massage and a bonus spicy-smelling citrus lotion add-on. Not sure I'm a fan – strong scents tend to give me a headache, so we'll see how it goes.
9 p.m. — Meds, litter boxes, teeth, bed. The cats are still kind of loopy, so I'm hoping they settle into bed with us and sleep it off.
Daily Total: $793.50

Day Three

5 a.m. — Final day of the kitty-schedule havoc. I split a can of wet food between them, since they're not supposed to eat dry food until tonight. They are supremely uninterested in the food, so I fold pretty easily and give them each a scoop of dry food, too. I figure if it hurts to eat it, they'll stop, right? I hop in the shower, get dressed, and head out to work.
6:15 a.m. — Breakfast today is some fried rice from Costco. I pick out the red peppers because they're slimy and gross. Also, why does the short week after a holiday always feel so strange? I'm not a big coffee drinker, but I make myself a cup today.
11 a.m. — I'm hungry, so I snack on some cheese. Representing well for my fellow Wisconsinites.
12 p.m. — Leftover chicken stir-fry for lunch, along with a Mamma Chia pouch.
4:15 p.m. — I've got a meeting for an organization I'm part of tonight, so I don't have to worry about my own dinner. I'll pop home to feed the cats, though. B. plans to go shooting tonight, so who knows when he'll get home. He recently bought a new handgun (for entertainment, not protection), and he seems to be having a good time. He pays for all that hobby stuff with his fun money. He has a pre-made flatbread pizza to heat up for his dinner later. Tomorrow's our garbage day, so I gather the trash in the house and toss it in our larger bin outside. I'll grab the rest (litter locker and kitchen) when I get home later. Both B. and I are very Type A, so we thrive on schedules, lists, and order. I can't imagine how either of us would survive with someone who was a “fly by the seat of their pants” sort…on the other hand, I'm a terrible procrastinator while he's a “there's no time like the present” crazy person, so we probably still balance each other out in other ways.
5:10 p.m. — With the kitties fed and temporarily content, I head out to my meeting. We each pay $7 at the door, and the chapter covers the balance of the meal costs. I panic when we order and go with the perennial kid favorite of chicken tenders. I do get broccoli instead of fries, though, so I feel a little less childish. $7
8:15 p.m. — As is typical, the meeting goes significantly over its planned end time. I put the group's bill on my credit card (woo, points!), and our treasurer writes me a check. I also pick up some dessert to take home to B. $8.38
8:30 p.m. — Back home, I have dessert with B., and we talk about our days and decompress a bit. I give the cat his nightly treat, and everyone seems to be relieved that things are back to normal. I start to watch the final episode of Fosse/Verdon that I recorded last night, but I'm about five minutes in when B. notices the patio door is crooked. I totally don't see it, but these are the things he zeroes in on and obsesses over. Since he's not the procrastinator in this duo, he immediately gets his tools out and starts taking the door apart (wifely sigh).
9 p.m. — Fosse/Verdon being postponed to a later time, I finish my trash collection from earlier, take the recycling out (they pick it up every other week, and I can never remember which week we're on!), and head to do my nightly bedtime prep — meds, teeth, you know the drill.
Daily Total: $15.38

Day Four

5 a.m. — Cats are back to auto-feeding in the morning, praise be! Standard morning routine and off to work.
6:15 a.m. — Breakfast today is a Don Miguel breakfast burrito (yes, from Costco). They're SO MUCH BETTER than the other brands you get at grocery stores — times like these I'm jealous of the West Coast, because it seems like all the various flavors they make are available all over out there, while I'm stuck with the sausage, egg, and cheese version.
11 a.m. — I remember that my nephews are running in a fundraising race this weekend and post a donation link. I was going to wait until I got confirmation that my company was going to match, but I want to get it done, so I log onto the sponsoring foundation's website and do my part. $50
12:15 p.m. — I was on such a roll I almost forgot lunch. Ha. Today is a teriyaki chicken rice bowl. (Costco — man, I feel like a walking ad!)
2:30 p.m. — Tomorrow starts another financial month-end close cycle, so I try to get my house (and my desk) in as much order as I can before I leave for the day. There's something great psychologically about coming into a clean office.
4:20 p.m. — Log off and head home. It's a beautiful day — this is my favorite time of year: sun, decent weather, baby animals — what's not to like? There are lots of boats on the lake, and I even spot a few pelicans. At home I discover that the holiday messed up the garbage-collection schedule, so our bin is still sitting, full, at the end of the driveway. Oops. It will just stay there until they come by tomorrow. Luckily, we're not the only idiots on the block who did that.
5 p.m. — Kitties get fed and I get started on dinner — tonight we're having baked fish (cooked en papillote, with some lemon and snow peas in mine). Surprisingly, that's not what was originally on the docket, but B. decided to request an eleventh-hour swap last night. (We menu plan each Friday for the coming week but always build in some “Plan B” wiggle room.) I also throw the laundry in the washer — when B. gets home, he'll add the clothes he's wearing and turn it on.
6 p.m. — Jeopardy! habit back in action. Then I banish B. to his workshop in the basement so I can finish Fosse/Verdon in peace. It almost works, until the dryer stops and he brings the laundry upstairs to be folded right at the penultimate moment (spoiler alert: Bob dies…). He's always had perfect timing like that. I pause and finish up the laundry. I prefer to do the folding because when B. does it, my stuff ends up all over the place. It's like that “dishwasher loading” concept or whatever. Anyway, I finally finish up the show. If Michelle Williams doesn't get all the awards, the system is obviously rigged. She was fantastic.
8 p.m. — Le chat gets his nightly treat, and I find a random Klondike bar in the freezer so I get a treat, too. As I enter some spending into our money-management program (we use Moneydance), I notice that B. did some impulse shopping on Amazon earlier today and some stroopwafels ended up in his cart ($25.58). I clean out litter boxes and then clean up in the kitchen. There's not enough to run the dishwasher, so I just flip the cutesy magnet to the pig rolling in the mud. $25.58
9 p.m. — Meds, teeth, bed. I don't watch TV in bed, but B. does most nights. He tends to fall asleep no matter what's on, and I eventually hunt the remote down and turn it off. Last night it was some Alaskan gold-hunter/logger/moonshining railroad knife-builder thing (I kid…but seriously, how many of those shows can there possibly be?). Tonight it's baseball. We're deep in Brewers/Packers/Bucks country, so sports are a serious business. This weekend there's the annual Packers charity softball game at the local Class A baseball stadium. Basketball was hot and heavy until last week. It's so engrained in our local culture that it's inescapable, even if you're completely uninvested and uninterested. It's also our #1 stumbling block to cutting the cable cord.
Daily Total: $75.58

Day Five

5 a.m. — I'm sorry, being a person with a standard routine makes this part of the diary pretty boring, since I don't have any 24-step skin-care or makeup processes. Honestly, I do very little in that arena. I'm incredibly low-maintenance (and not in a When Harry Met Sally… high-maintenance-but-I-think-I'm-low-maintenance kind of way). I don't even own a hair dryer. I've been using the same hair and face products since high school. I wear only a bit of pressed power to even out my skin tone — once again, the same brand since high school. I have very fair skin, so I do my best to stay out of the sun completely, but if circumstances require it, I wear a big hat and the highest SPF I can find. It works fine for the most part.
6 a.m. — Since garbage collection was pushed back a day, I forget the bin is at the end of the driveway and very nearly plow right into it. Happy Friday! I'm tempted to swing by Starbucks and get a cold brew, but I resist. I instead opt for my breakfast sandwich and some tea.
12:15 p.m. — I'm starving — it's been a crazy morning! I stop for some veggies and hummus along with cheese and then dive back in. That stereotypical introvert “accountant” picture that most people have in their head is totally false. I'd say about 70% of my job is engaging and collaborating with people across the business to dig into data and aid in decision-making. Communication skills, and the ability to make financial information accessible and understandable to non-financial folks, is my job in a nutshell.
3:45 p.m. — I'd say I'm sneaking out early, but I'm salaried and am the senior-most finance person in the building, so that would be overly dramatic. It's another beautiful day — a little warm (80+) and windy — but still not shabby. Annoyingly, I get stuck behind a car with speed-control issues. Most of my drive (95%) is on a winding, two-lane country road surrounded by farm fields. If you get stuck behind an idiot driver (or, more commonly, a piece of farm equipment), you have to just wait it out. I don't care if you drive five miles below the speed limit — just do it consistently so I can set my cruise control and focus on jamming out to my music. Ugh.
4 p.m. — Say hey to the cats and update our money files as I wait for B. to get home — he gets gas on his way ($29.73). We both got paid today, so we're rolling in dough. I transfer the second half of the month's “fun money” and set up some other online payments. B. recently got a raise (and a title change!), so it's exciting to see the higher paycheck amounts. Throughout our entire relationship, I've been the higher earner. It doesn't bother me, but I know it bothers B. sometimes. I feel like I SHOULD be making more than he does — I've got a four-year degree in a sought-after professional discipline with almost two decades of experience, and am solidly in middle management. He has a two-year technical degree in a broad subject area and bounced around a bit in his career development. $29.73
5 p.m. — We're off to our normal Friday night haunt. It's our version of the Cheers bar. They have reasonably priced and adventurous drinks, so we're there probably three out of four Fridays a month. As DINKs (and semi-yuppies — suburban yuppies? Suppies? Oh lord, please don't let that catch on), we prioritize travel and experiences, so that's where a good deal of our discretionary income goes. All the usuals are there, and they greet B. with the universal bro-approved fist bump. I try a sip of the special after B. orders it, and it's not for me, so I go back to my usual drink of choice. We share some snacks, do some socializing, and then call it quits. We go out early and go home early ($80.60). We stop at a local deli/café on the way home since B.'s been craving their lobster roll. I get some chicken salad and an obscenely large brownie ($38.74). $119.34
7 p.m. — We eat dinner as we watch Lip Sync Battle. We don't agree on a lot of shows, but we both love this one. This episode is Jason Schwartzman versus Big Bird. I'm not going to lie — I saw that title and was like “wtf,” but it was AWESOME. Big Bird legitimately kicked Jason's butt, and it was something I never knew I needed to see. We menu plan for the upcoming week and do our weekly “who's got the better credit score?” face-off on Credit Karma. B. wins again. It's ironic, given that when we met his credit was in the toilet, and when we bought our house (12 years ago today! Happy House-iversary!), we bought it in my name because adding him actually hurt us.
9:15 p.m. — We keep to the same basic routine even on non-school nights…meds, litter boxes, teeth, bed.
Daily Total: $149.07

Day Six

7 a.m. — I sleep in a bit on Saturdays. B. still gets up relatively early (internal alarm clock and all that), but he goes out to the living room until I get up. When the alarm goes off, I get up, shower, and finalize our shopping list. We keep a notebook in the kitchen where we jot down what we need throughout the week. When we menu plan on Friday, we add those grocery items and whatever else comes to mind.
7:40 a.m. — We usually go out for breakfast on Saturdays, but since we have the Starbucks star challenge, we do our shopping and then stop there on our way back home. We do the majority of our shopping at Walmart. Our list is short this week — we had a monster list last week, as we seem to run out of everything at the same time. We get mouthwash, cheese (three kinds — I seriously feel like a walking WI stereotype), bacon, tortillas, bread, spinach, fruit preserves, ranch dressing, and some mini drumstick cones ($51.33). I also get some Reese's peanut butter cups for my candy bowl at work ($12.14). It's a top-secret accounting trick — lure people into your office with treats, and you can usually get them to stick around and tell you things. $63.47
8:15 a.m. — The line at Starbucks is shockingly short. We use the Starbucks app for all our purchases and are Gold status members until like 2054. Our balance is a bit low, so we load another $100 — we reload about once a month. I rarely go to Starbucks myself, as there's no location convenient between the house and work, but B. stops once or twice a week on his way to work, and we usually go together on the weekend. $100
8:30 a.m. — Unload the groceries, eat breakfast, and watch the rain. We had some loud thunderstorms come through overnight, and it looks like there are two more lines of them that will hit today. That kind of sucks for the charity baseball game this afternoon, but hopefully it will clear out by then.
11 a.m. — My dad and stepmother are coming up for lunch this afternoon. They live about an hour and a half away, and we try and meet up about once a month, alternating who has to do the driving. We'll be out of town for Father's Day, so this is our early celebration lunch. My dad is the master of dad jokes, so the card I got him is full of bad puns that I know he'll love. It's also one of those cards that play music, so that will be fun for all of us in the restaurant. We've picked a gastropub with a menu full of interesting options. One non-negotiable is the candied bacon. B. and my dad have burgers, my stepmother has the salmon special, and I have butternut squash ravioli. It's fabulous, as always. We treat, since we invited them out ($140 including tip). This has been the most interesting part of growing up — the changes in our relationships with our parents. My mom passed away about six years ago, and I continue to miss the opportunity to have seen that relationship evolve as well. $140
1:30 p.m. — After lunch my dad and stepmother stop back at our house so we can coordinate flights for our upcoming family trip. We're meeting everyone else in Montreal, but the four of us will fly together out of the local airport. B. and I book our flights ($1,492.05), and then he helps them get theirs set so we ensure we're on the same plane. We booked the rental car and the Airbnb a couple weeks ago, and everyone else will pay us their portion when we meet up. $1,492.05
2:30 p.m. — We say goodbye to my dad and stepmother. B. decides it's a good time to wash his car, so I spend some time cleaning up in the house and cuddling with the cats.
4 p.m. — After doing some ridiculous six-step wash and detailing thing on his own car, B. decides to mow the lawn and then wash MY car. He is going to be so sore tomorrow. I spend my afternoon watching Always Be My Maybe and Definitely, Maybe (a “Maybe” double feature?) on Netflix.
6 p.m. — I have leftover chicken salad for dinner, and B. snacks on some leftovers from today's lunch that we brought home. Then he heads to bed early because he's pooped. I watch one of my all-time favorite movies, How to Make an American Quilt. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen it at this point. It's so ’90s, though — she makes a mix tape, everyone's smoking. Fabulous cast, if you can ignore Winona Ryder's expressionless acting.
8 p.m. — Kitty gets his treat, and I check on B. to make sure he's still alive.
9 p.m. — Meds, litter boxes, teeth, bed.
Daily Total: $1,795.52

Day Seven

6:15 a.m. — Even though Sunday is my day without an alarm (except when we're going to church), apparently my body disregarded that fact and my brain has turned on too much to just lie there. I get up, make some tea, and decide to knock out some work items while I'm motivated.
8:30 a.m. — Put a pause on work and eat my leftovers from yesterday's lunch for breakfast. B. has a breakfast sandwich. I cuddle with the cat while B. watches something with Billy Bob Thornton. (I'm not really paying attention; I'm reading Emily Giffin.)
10:30 a.m. — Disentangle myself from the cat and go take a shower, spending a little extra time shaving (having shed the “winter coat” a few weeks ago). Get dressed and throw the sheets into the washer. B. has migrated to his workshop, so I take control of the TV and watch My Week with Marilyn. Seems like I'm on a Michelle Williams kick.
1 p.m. — B. emerges from the basement to watch the race, so I go back to my chick lit. (We do have multiple TVs in the house, but I figure it's a slippery slope if I leave and go somewhere else every time he watches something I'm not interested in. I don't want a marriage with two people who just happen to live in the same house and say “hi” once a day. I enjoy reading, and it's something I can do while he does something else he enjoys, without us interrupting each other.) He eats the final burger from Monday for lunch while I make some tortilla-crusted tilapia. He then submits to his cookie craving and walks over to the grocery store down the street. $12.49
2:30 p.m. — B. goes back to his workshop — I think he's working on a diamond painting — and I spend some time surfing on Netflix and Prime without really finding anything solid. I watch bits and pieces of a few of my favorites.
5 p.m. — Dinnertime for kitties, but I'm not hungry yet.
6 p.m. — B. emerges with bacon-wrapped scallops from the chest freezer in the basement. He's discovered that cooking them on the grill rather than in the oven is “the bomb.” I eat some leftover chicken salad on one of the extra buns from our burgers on Monday. We both have a mini drumstick (fudge for me, caramel for B.), and then I continue my Emily Giffin book marathon while B. goes back to his show. (He's watching Goliath — I looked up and noticed the title this time. They sure say “fuck” a whole lot.)
8 p.m. — Both cats get a treat on Sundays, because we're cool pet parents.
9 p.m. — Meds, litter boxes, dishwasher, brush my teeth, and get ready to jump into another week.
Daily Total: $12.49
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