A Week In Conroe, TX, On A Joint $121,000 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.
Want to continue the conversation? Join our Money Diaries Facebook Group to discuss finances, share spending habits and saving advice, ask money- and career-related questions, and get access to exclusive content. It's a judgment-free zone!
Today: a teacher who makes $54,000 per year ($121,000 when combined with her husband) and spends some of her money this week on pajama pants from Gap.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 32
Location: Conroe, TX (north of Houston)
My Salary: $54,000
My Husband's Salary: $67,000
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,674
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,250
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,687 (This includes homeowner's insurance and property taxes.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My college was covered by scholarships, and my husband's parents paid for his undergrad.)
Car Payment: $0 (Both of our cars are paid off.)
Health Insurance: $148 for me, and my husband's employer covers his medical insurance
Dental Insurance: $16 for me, and my husband's employer covers his dental insurance
Electric Bill: $50-100
Gas Bill: $20-50
Water, Sewer & Trash: $150-200
Cable & Internet: $165
Car Insurance: $124
Cell Phone: $53 (I share a plan with my twin sister. My husband's parents inexplicably still pay for his, but he tries to pay them back in other ways.)
Netflix: $12
Retirement: $348.40 to the Teacher Retirement System, a pension that public school employees pay into instead of paying into Social Security. And my husband contributes $415 to his retirement fund.
Savings & Investments: $2,000-2,500, deposited into a brokerage account. (We try to save at least $20,000 a year, but we didn't meet that goal last year because we bought our home.)
Prescriptions: $15
Washington Post Subscription: $3
Additional Expenses
Costco Membership: $60/year
Lawn service: $174 (4x/year)
HOA: $1,025/year
Pest Control: $96 (6x/year)

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up earlier than I want to on a Saturday, but I can't fall back asleep so I get up. I make myself hot tea and my husband, J., makes coffee for himself and my mother-in-law, who is staying with us this week. She is absolutely wonderful, so this isn't the nightmare scenario that it might be for some people. We all have peanut butter toast on Trader Joe's California Sprouted Wheat Bread and spend the morning catching up.
11:30 a.m. — We have half a bag of leftover arugula that I don't want to waste, so I make myself whole wheat fettuccine with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, parmesan, and a big handful of arugula. Wasting food stresses me out, so I feel good about finding a use for it.
1:45 p.m. — J.'s team (Liverpool) is playing Real Madrid in the Champions League final, so we settle in on the couch for some soccer. I'm not a fan myself, so I spend most of the game reading The Washington Post on my phone and chatting with my mother-in-law. Sadly, Liverpool loses, and J. is pretty down about it.
4 p.m. — J. and I get to work making an angel food cake to use for my grandma's Berry Bavarian Crown recipe. We make Stella Parks's version from Serious Eats, which involves a dozen egg whites, but we have extra eggs that need to be used, so it works out pretty much perfectly. After baking, I pull the cake out of the oven, hope that it's the correct shade of blonde, and flip it upside down to cool.
5:30 p.m. — I snack on chips and salsa, and then J. and I get started on dinner. We already made the carnitas for our tacos, so we just crisp them in a skillet, griddle our tortillas, and make salsa verde from cilantro, avocado, jalapeños, tomatillos, and salt blended together. It tastes amazing.
7:30 p.m. — Even though it's still pretty hot outside, we decide to go for a walk around the neighborhood. I've been in pajamas all day, so I throw on a t-shirt and shorts, put my hair in a ponytail, and slap on sunscreen before we head out.
10 p.m. — We finish making the cake, but we're all so full from dinner that we decide to wait until tomorrow to eat it, and make Amaretto Sours instead.
11:30 p.m. — I shower, brush my teeth, apply retinol, and then read for 30 minutes before falling asleep. I find that reading before bed makes it so much easier for me to shut my brain off at night and fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

10:30 a.m. — I wake up later than I usually do, but I guess I'm making up for yesterday. I eat my standard weekend breakfast again (tea and peanut butter toast), and we all relax and chat until lunchtime.
11:30 a.m. — I make the same pasta I made yesterday with the rest of the arugula. Success! I use the rest of it. I share this fact with J., who always makes fun of me for this.
12:30 a.m. — My mother-in-law needs a few things from the store, so I decide to go with her and actually get ready and leave the house today. I curl my hair, apply sunscreen, and then do my typical makeup routine: foundation, concealer, powder, blush, mascara, and brow pencil.
4 p.m. — I practice piano. I took lessons from first grade through the end of high school, but then stopped playing because I never lived anywhere big enough for my piano (which my mom gave me after I graduated). Finally having space for the piano is probably my favorite thing about living in a house instead of an apartment.
6:30 p.m. — J. and I make dinner — leftover roasted eggplant and tomato pasta with a big Italian salad. Meanwhile, we prep black beans and potatoes for tomorrow night's meal and make a big batch of breakfast bars (prunes, pecans, oats, and cinnamon combined in the food processor) for the week.
8 p.m. — It's HQ Trivia time! Ever since I found out about HQ in March, J. and I have been obsessed with it, and we got J.'s mom to download the app so she can play, too. We don't win this game, but J. and I have earned a combined $50 in wins since we started playing. We want to use it for something fun at the end of the year.
11:30 p.m. — We finally dive into the strawberry cake, and it's as good as I remember my grandma's was! Afterwards, I wash my face, brush my teeth, apply retinol on my face, dry shampoo my hair, and read until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — It's a three-day weekend, so I get to sleep in again. I have one of the breakfast bars we made yesterday with my tea and start browsing some Memorial Day sales. I end up buying three pairs of pajama pants and a bra from Gap. I'll probably end up returning at least one pair of pajamas, but I needed extra to get free shipping. $61.44
12 p.m. — We have leftover marinara sauce that we froze a while back, so I make myself whole wheat spaghetti to go with it and sprinkle it liberally with mozzarella.
12:30 p.m. — My mother-in-law wants to get a new belt, so we help her find one at a local strip mall. I do my normal hair and makeup routine before we head out. We go to Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, and TJ Maxx, but no dice. She ends up getting workout clothes at Old Navy, but I don't buy anything. I tend to do most of my shopping online — shopping in person sometimes overwhelms me.
2:30 p.m. — We get home and decide to watch La La Land. The DVD came in the mail a few days ago from Netflix — and yes, we still get the DVDs because some movies aren't available for streaming, and we don't like going to the movie theater. We all agree that the movie was super cute, but maybe not as amazing as we were expecting it to be.
6 p.m. — J. and I make black bean tacos with crispy potatoes for dinner. We top them with cotija cheese, lettuce, and the salsa verde we made.
7:30 p.m. — We all go for another walk around the neighborhood. As we get back, a storm starts blowing in, so we hurry home to try to avoid getting soaked, but then it never ends up raining. We spend the rest of the evening showing my mother-in-law funny videos on YouTube until around 11, when we have strawberry cake. I shower, do my normal nighttime routine, and read until around 12.
Daily Total: $61.44

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — It's the first day of the last week of the school year, so even though I'm tired, I'm excited for summer vacation to begin. I eat a breakfast bar, drink a glass of water, curl my hair, do my usual makeup, get changed, and am out the door by 8:10. I try to sneak out super quietly so as not to wake up my mother-in-law. My students are taking exams today, so I spend the day rereading a great book called Book Love, which is all about helping kids find books they will enjoy and giving them strategies to become better readers.
11:30 a.m. — Eat the same thing I always eat at work: peanut butter and apples on an Ezekiel sprouted grain tortilla.
3 p.m. — I cut out of work a little early, since our weird exam schedule leaves me with a break at the end of the day. My mother-in-law heads back home tomorrow, so I'm eager to get home and spend time with her before she goes. I make myself hot tea and eat cucumber slices with ranch dip (this is my everyday after-work snack) to tide me over until dinner.
4 p.m. — J. has been furiously working on the computer trying to find us flights for our trip to Europe this summer. We were originally planning to go to Toronto and Montreal, but last week J. found a two-week river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest for 70% off, so we made the uncharacteristically impulsive decision to completely change our plans. When J. emerges from the study, he reveals that for some reason it was cheaper for us to fly business class to Amsterdam, so we're going to get to see how the other half lives ($4,200). We'll still be in economy on the way back, but hey, I'll take it! We spend the afternoon excitedly researching the amenities that are included with our flight. We are fairly big cheapskates in our normal lives so that we can afford to travel often and also put a lot of money into savings and investments. $4,200
6:30 p.m. — We eat leftover black bean and potato tacos for dinner.
8 p.m. — We play HQ, but none of us win. Afterward, we rent Spy on Amazon because my mother-in-law has never seen it, and we all love Melissa McCarthy. When the movie is over, we have cake, and I hug my mother-in-law and say goodbye since she'll still be asleep when I leave for work tomorrow. I get ready for bed and read until midnight. $3
Daily Total: $4,203

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I get up and eat a breakfast bar, do my hair and makeup, and I'm at work by 8:15. Today is another exam day, so I work through my end-of-year to-do list to make sure I'm ready for next school year while my students are testing.
11:35 a.m. — Eat my peanut butter and apple wrap and respond to emails during my lunch break.
2 p.m. — I meet with my Language Arts team, and we find out the principal found us money to help buy books for our classroom libraries. This is super exciting, because we've all spent our personal money buying books for our students, and now we won't have to anymore! Then another teacher and I spend time prepping a presentation about finding and sharing culturally diverse novels with our students. We're presenting at a district training event next school year, and we want to be ready.
4:20 p.m. — Time for cucumber, hot tea, and scrolling through Instagram and The Washington Post. The house feels a bit lonely without my mother-in-law here, and I can tell that J. is pretty bummed, so I give him a hug.
6:30 p.m. — J. eats leftover black bean and potato tacos and I have barbecue and macaroni and cheese that was left over from J. and his mom's lunch before he dropped her off at the airport. The place where they went was ranked as one of the top 10 barbecue joints in the world, and I'd say it lives up to the hype, even reheated.
8 p.m. — We play HQ, watch TV, and eat the last of the cake. Then I play piano while J. takes a shower. I'm currently in the process of learning "Winter" by Tori Amos. I shower and get ready for bed before reading.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — It's the last day of school (with students at least — I still have to go in for a little while tomorrow)! I can't believe how fast the year went, but then again, I always feel this way. I eat my breakfast bar, get ready for work, and decide that today is a jeans kind of day.
11:30 a.m. — I eat my apple and peanut butter wrap and get a few things done around my classroom before my students come back. They finish their exams super early, so I put on a movie, but they're way too hyper to pay any attention. I finish putting all my grades in my grade book, and then triple check them.
2 p.m. — The kids are gone, and it's time for our annual end-of-year auction. Businesses donate items that we bid on using bucks that we earn from our fellow teachers for helping each other out. We have to write a reason on the bucks, and I hope no one notices or cares that one of my friends wrote "hooker," her favorite thing to call me, on one. I bid on some things, and end up winning $55 worth of gift cards and three t-shirts. Yay me! I collect my winnings and head home early.
4 p.m. — I try to drink water, but our fridge's dispenser won't work. Several YouTube videos later, we discover that the water has frozen in its reservoir, so I become the crazy person blow-drying my fridge. It works! YouTube home improvement videos have saved us a lot of money.
6:30 p.m. — J. has leftover black bean tacos, and I eat the last of the roasted eggplant pasta for dinner. This turns out to be a mistake — I don't know if I'm just tired of it or if it's because I used mozzarella instead of parmesan tonight, but I can barely eat it. I choke down a little over half before giving in and throwing the rest away. We play HQ, and then I play piano while J. goes for a run.
11 p.m. — I'm starving, so I eat a bag of animal crackers that I snagged from work a couple of weeks ago. They are surprisingly tasty. I shower, get ready for bed, and read until 12.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:25 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm, but I decide to just get up and head to work early so that I can leave as quickly as possible. It's my last day, so I'm pretty keyed up. I eat a breakfast bar, get ready, and get to work just before 8.
10 a.m. — I lock away the last of my things and finish the final few items on my to-do list. I'm not 100% ready for the next school year, but I feel good about the way I'm leaving things. I turn in my keys and head home for the summer. J. is still in bed when I get home, as today is one of his last days off before he starts teaching summer school.
11:30 a.m. — We go to Costco to pick up razor and electric toothbrush refills ($50) and pecans, and then impulse buy habanero chicken sausages after sampling them. We also grab lunch (I have pizza, J. has a hot dog) at the snack bar. $124
12 p.m. — We go to the grocery store and buy strawberries, bananas, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, cabbage, ginger, tomatoes, cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, beans, half and half, peanut butter, sugar, and spaghetti. I always plan our meals and make a list so that we don't overspend. Today is the first time I've been to the grocery store in months, because J. usually does it while I'm at work. He's been working mostly from home this year because Hurricane Harvey destroyed the campus where he teaches, so he does more of the housework than I do. $57
6:30 p.m. — We always eat out on Friday nights, and tonight we go to a Korean place that we first tried a few months ago. We were scared they may not still be in business because it wasn't very crowded when we went, but we check their Yelp page, and they appear to be going strong! We have dumplings and bibimbap with bulgogi and banchan. It's all delicious, and we're both stuffed. $37
8 p.m. — We play HQ, watch Jeopardy!, and then J. plays FIFA while I read, play piano, and watch Lisa Eldridge's latest tutorial. I stay up way too late because hey, it's summer! I end up going to bed around 2 a.m.
Daily Total: $218
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences 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.
Have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we're looking for potential diarists along the following theme:
Your Spending In Your State: We want to run one Money Diary from a different state each week. Want to rep your state? Submit here!
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here: r29.co/mdfaqs

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series