A Week In Hyattsville, MD, On A Joint $164,000 Income

Photo: Getty Images.
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: an attorney who makes $144,000 per year ($164,000 when combined with her husband) and spends some of her money this week on gallons of milk.
We checked in with the OP regarding Hurricane Florence, and she said, "The hurricane never really turned north, so all we got in our area was some rain. I think when I finished my Money Diary it was still mid-week and they thought we would get storms, but by the time the weekend came, the forecast had completely flipped. So now we just have a bunch of extra batteries and canned beans on hand!" If you'd like to help those affected by Hurricane Florence, here's a list of resources.
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Occupation: Attorney
Industry: Legal
Age: 31
Location: Hyattsville, MD
My Salary: $144,000
My Husband's Income: $20,000, plus he watches our three kids (ages six, three, and two months)
My Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $3,186.44
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $837.62 for 10 months out of the year, plus about $1,500 over the course of the year from when he teaches on the weekends (freelance, so it varies).
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,110 for our three-bedroom house, and we also put about $100 extra toward the principal.
Student Loan Payment: $971 for mine (almost done!), and $0 for my husband — we paid his off years ago.
Car Loan Payment: $475
Water: $65
Electric: $180
HOA: $95
Internet: $40 (temporary deal)
Cell Phones: $100
401(k): $1,200 (10% of my gross pay), plus a 5% employer match
Health Insurance Premium: $399, including dental and vision
Life Insurance: $57
Church Tithe: $1,050, which also supports immigration legal aid
College Savings: $375
Savings: $500, to beef up our emergency fund
Childcare: $0! (My husband's work provides childcare, and when he teaches outside of that, I watch the kids. It's so amazing, especially considering childcare costs in our area.)
Amazon Prime: $10
Amazon FreeTime: $3
Netflix: $11

Day One

3:15 a.m. — Baby wakes up for a post-midnight snack. He is lucky he's cute.
5 a.m. — I wake up to make coffee and pump milk for the baby during the day. I'm still half asleep, so instead of responding to the emails that have been sitting in my inbox like I should, I turn on Netflix and watch a show about restaurant start-ups trying to get funding. Good for them!
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5:45 a.m. — I get dressed, pack lunch boxes for myself, my husband, P., and the kids. P. and I take turns intercepting them as they wake up and trying to get them dressed and ready on time. We are chronically running about 10 minutes late, but as long as he's the one dropping the kids off, I feel like teachers give us a pass. Do moms get judged more for that stuff, or is it just me?
7:15 a.m. — I walk to the nearby subway station and head to work. It is so hot and muggy, I'm not even sure why I bother doing my hair before leaving the house.
8:30 a.m. — I'm at work, wondering if they managed to make it to school on time today. Best not to ask. At the beginning of each week, I bring in large quantities of food to keep in the communal fridge, and then pick from that throughout the week, so I pull out carrots and hummus for breakfast while I check emails.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime! I am an early luncher and I basically go for my sandwich as soon as it's socially acceptable. I eat my turkey sandwich with cheese slices and pump milk again before getting back to work.
5:15 p.m. — I try to leave right at 5 to be home with my family as much as possible, but I do feel pressure to not be that person who's running out the door as soon as their workday is technically done. So I'm usually running a little bit behind in getting to the subway.
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6:15 p.m. — Weeknight chaos. We make chicken tacos with red cabbage and yogurt sauce. Last night I marinated chicken, and today my husband grills it and I chop it all up so we can put the leftovers in the fridge to use for future dinners. It's a good meal to get on the table quickly and doesn't require individually cutting up the kids' food for them when we're trying to stay on track for bedtime. I feed the baby and put him down to nap while we go through our evening routine with the older kids. As I type it up, this all sounds somewhat orderly to me, but just assume that, whatever activity I say we're doing, there is always at least one child wandering off, spilling food, or having a meltdown. I assume this is good training for becoming a professional cat herder.
7:30 p.m. — My three-year-old, T., is in bed and my six-year-old, S., is expertly procrastinating while I empty lunchboxes and do the dishes. S. should be in bed by 8, but these days we almost never make it. I keep giving him reminders to stay focused on his bedtime routine, and he's finally down by 8:40 p.m.
8:45 p.m. — I prep lunches and milk bottles for tomorrow while listening to podcasts. It's my escape. P. pops down for conversation while he folds laundry. It's easy to fall into a routine where we feel more like parenthood teammates than husband and wife, but we try to keep relating to each other as regular adults and not just parents, with varying degrees of success. Then I shower and go to bed just after 10. Sweet sleep!
11 p.m. — Baby's ready to play! I bribe him with a feeding session instead and he's back to bed after about 20 minutes. Now that I'm awake anyway, I surf Amazon and decide to finally take the plunge and buy a PJ Masks costume that's been sitting in my cart for a while for S. to wear for Halloween. $21.27
Daily Total: $21.27

Day Two

4 a.m. — Baby is hungry and requests food, so I oblige.
5:15 a.m. — I am working from home today, but I still wake up somewhat early to get everyone else packed up so I can pump right before they leave and the baby has fresh bottles of milk. Coffee helps here. I also make egg sandwiches for the others for the road, instead of their usual Cheerios breakfast. Once they're out the door, I get as much cleaning around the house done as possible, and then I'm logged into work by 8:30 a.m.
12 p.m. — Since I'm at home, I can raid our fridge for lunch. I heat up some leftover chicken and eat that with salad. I also quickly put some turkey meat in a brine for dinner, and then pump while reviewing documents.
4 p.m. — Husband returns home with the kids, but they leave me alone while I'm still finishing up my work day.
5:15 p.m. — I log off and rejoin the family. Husband grills the turkey while I play with the baby, and the older kids pretend to be at the beach using a couple of blankets in our living room.
5:45 p.m. — We eat our turkey and salad dinner, and then everyone under the legal drinking age gets a bath. Husband orders a birthday gift for his stepfather, which we have shipped straight to their house. $46.32
9 p.m. — Just as the kids fall asleep, the baby wakes back up and wants second dinner. After feeding him, I catch up on emails and bills, and I notice that P. has purchased a set of waterproof bedsheets for T. (just in case) and an emergency radio/flashlight, inspired by the forecasts for Hurricane Florence, I think. Probably a wise choice. $44.36
9:40 p.m. — Kids are all asleep. Everyone above the legal drinking age gets a glass of wine.
Daily Total: $90.68

Day Three

3 a.m. — Baby is up again. That was actually a pretty good stretch of sleep!
6:20 a.m. — The kids are awake, so I am awake. I make coffee and breakfast (bagels with cream cheese and grapefruit) and get the kids dressed while P. gets ready to teach.
7:45 a.m. — P. leaves to teach and I have the kids. I let the older two watch a Raffi concert on YouTube while I take a short nap with the baby on the couch. I feel worlds better when I wake up. The rest of the morning mostly involves taking care of the baby while making sure the older kids don't hurt each other, interspersed with switching around loads of laundry and cringing when T. smushes her cream cheesy face in the clean laundry pile.
1 p.m. — P. returns and we have leftover chicken and salad for lunch. Afterwards, we try to get the kids to nap, but they mostly just sing to themselves from their respective beds. During the naps, I make a big grocery run (four gallons of milk, Greek yogurt, creamer, sparkling water, wine, turkey cold cuts, apples, kale, candy corn, pork chops, barbecue sauce, freezer bags, eggs, ice cream, hummus, bread, and baby wipes). $135.74
3:15 p.m. — On the way home, I fill up the minivan's gas tank. $48.47
3:30 p.m. — I get into cooking mode and make meatballs, peanut butter/oat/flaxseed bites, sliced carrots, and mashed peas to store in the fridge for easy grab-and-go meals to pair with salads during the week. I also freeze some of the meat I bought at the store to use in slow cooker recipes later on. I tend to buy whatever meat has a very good sale and freeze what we won't use immediately. When the older kids wake up, I pull out toys T. recently received for her birthday and let them play with each other while I finish up.
5:45 p.m. — We sit down to dinner and then bathe all the kids before bedtime. The PJ Masks costume has arrived and as S. immediately puts it on, I realize I'm probably going to see him wearing it every day between now and Halloween, and probably after. Money well spent, I guess! Afterwards, I wash dishes and fold laundry while listening to podcasts, and then feed the baby before going to sleep.
Daily Total: $184.21

Day Four

2 a.m. — Nighttime feeding. Zzzzz.
5:30 a.m. — Baby wakes up to eat and I just stay awake after he goes back down. I make eggs and toast for breakfast and start in on my daily coffee while picking up the living room and vacuuming.
10 a.m. — Family is awake, fed, and dressed, and we head off to church. Our church has a lot of other families with small kids, and it's good to see friends who are in the same sleepless life stage as we are. We might be the loudest family there today, but not terribly so, I tell myself.
1:20 p.m. — Return home from church, and give the kids a quick salad lunch before putting them down for naps. We are lucky that our kids have so far been pretty good with eating salad, although sometimes they try to lick all the vinegar off first and then ask for more. During nap time, I vacuum out our minivan and clean up dishes.
3:30 p.m. — I get S. ready and take him to swim class. He floats, jumps, and kicks his way through a happy half hour. On the way back, we pick up class photos at CVS that his teacher asked me to print up for her bulletin board. $4.20
6 p.m. — Dinner is leftover turkey, roasted sweet potatoes, and mashed peas. After the kids have eaten, we open FaceTime to let them catch up with their grandparents, who all live several hours away.
8:15 p.m. — After the kids are down, I finish meal, clothing, and baby supply prep for tomorrow. While I'm doing that, I chat with a couple friends from law school on the phone and we compare notes on baby teething strategies. I also call my parents and start planning out our family visits for the holidays.
Daily Total: $4.20

Day Five

2 a.m. — The baby is starting his Monday off early with a pre-breakfast breakfast.
5:20 a.m. — I snooze my alarm a couple times but eventually get up to pump some milk for the baby before getting dressed and getting the kids ready. I toast a couple mini bagels for the kids. What a nice treat, right? WRONG. S., last month's connoisseur of all things crunchy, now acts like I toasted the bagels just to ruin breakfast for him. Is it bedtime yet?
7:15 a.m. — Miraculously, everyone is ready and off to work/school, and I walk to the subway. Even though I complain about the heat in the summer, I do like that my commute involves about three and a half miles of walking (round trip), because otherwise I'm not sure how I would get any exercise right now. Hopefully when the kids are a bit older I'll figure out a real exercise regimen, but it just feels impossible to find the time right now.
8:30 a.m. — I'm at work, and my hummus and carrots from last week still look edible, so I have that for breakfast while I dive into my inbox backlog.
12:10 p.m. — I eat lunch (kale, Italian dressing, and chevre) while I take a break to pump. I brought in a week's worth of salad ingredients today, so I don't need to bring in a separate lunch every day for the rest of the week.
12:45 p.m. — Back to work, interrupted by brief moments of looking at photos of the kids on my phone and feeling nostalgic about things that happened only a month ago.
6:05 p.m. — I arrive home and bring in the Amazon package of baby wipes and ground coffee delivered to our doorstep. We love the subscribe-and-save option, although you need to keep an eye on the prices, because sometimes things are cheaper at Target or the grocery store. $24.26
6:10 p.m. — The older kids have already had dinner, so I focus on getting the dishwasher started and packing lunches, and then I feed the baby while my husband oversees bath time. After T. has gone to bed, I heat up chicken for myself for dinner and then pull out the cookie dough I prepped over the weekend. S. helps me roll out the cookie balls and bake them. He practices drawing letters in one of his activity books, and then it's off to bed for him, too.
9:30 p.m. — I shower and get my clothes and bag ready for tomorrow, and then it's off to sleep.
Daily Total: $24.26

Day Six

1 a.m. — Baby feeding.
5:30 a.m. — I sleep in even later today (whoops) but manage to pump a little while S. gets himself dressed for school. The kids have mini bagels with cream cheese (not toasted!) for breakfast while P. and I pack the car with lunches and baby supplies, and then everyone is off for the day.
8:30 a.m. — I arrive at work, grab hummus and carrots, and start my day.
11:45 a.m. — I eat a little early to give myself time to pump before a meeting: same salad ingredients as yesterday.
6:20 p.m. — I arrive home and start washing dishes while P. FaceTimes his parents with the kids. Everyone else has tacos with the leftover chicken for dinner, and I pick from their plates.
7 p.m. — Emergency! S. slips and falls down a half-flight of stairs. My heart jumps into my throat and P. and I both come running. S. passes the initial vitals check and I cuddle him with a pack of ice while he cries inconsolably. As we see a big bump start forming on his forehead, we decide to take him to Urgent Care to make sure there's no concussion or other serious injury. I am so incredibly grateful that our insurance lets us immediately take him to a doctor without giving the cost a second thought. Everyone should be able to do the same. P. takes him while I put the other two down to sleep. $35
8:45 p.m. — Everyone is back home, S. is fine, and he particularly brightens up when he sees that I made him popcorn for his pre-bedtime routine. After putting him down, I finish the dishes and laundry, and pack lunches and breast pump parts for tomorrow.
11 p.m. — Bed.
11:45 p.m. — Feed baby. Bed.
Daily Total: $35

Day Seven

2 a.m. — Baby up, fed, back to sleep.
3:30 a.m. — Baby up again? What is going on, Baby?
5 a.m. — I am up to pump, then pack bags and get the kids dressed. S. says he is feeling fine but has a noticeable bump on his head. I make coffee for P. and myself, bagels with cream cheese for the kids, and grab a Clif bar and a banana for P. as we run out the door.
8:30 a.m. — I arrive at work, grab my carrots and hummus, and settle in for a day of reading/writing/meetings.
10 a.m. — I find a colleague and contribute cash to a goodbye party for a coworker. $10
12 p.m. — I grab lettuce and salad dressing for lunch but get caught in a hallway conversation with one of my bosses that puts me about 15 minutes behind schedule for pumping. Then, while I'm pumping, building maintenance needs to come in to do some sort of work on the heating system, so I have to stop early and quickly cover up just as they let themselves into my office. Just one of those days.
2 p.m. — Even though it seems Hurricane Florence won't impact us too badly now, P. runs to Home Depot to buy downspouts, in light of all the rain we've gotten recently. $32.73
5:30 p.m. — I can't seem to wrap things up on time, so I leave a little late. When I get home, P. has already fed the kids macaroni and cheese, and honestly I am a little jealous. I cut up strawberries for their dessert and munch on turkey cold cuts while washing dishes for tomorrow as P. gets the kids ready for bed.
6:30 p.m. — I feed the baby during T.'s bedtime routine, and then once the younger two are in bed, P. and I try to move our couch and loveseat out of our basement in anticipation of buying a new couch. A sectional! However, we can't seem to figure out how we got those darn things in the house to begin with, and after it gets dark, we decide to try again over the weekend so we don't let the house fill with bugs attracted to the indoor lights. We've had people express interest in taking the old couches, but it looks like getting them out the door will be a bigger project than we thought.
8:30 p.m. — I prep S. for bed, make lunches for tomorrow (turkey sandwiches, snap peas, and clementines), and take out the trash and recycling. P. makes one more grocery run, just in case Hurricane Florence takes an unexpected northern turn (butter, four gallons of milk, hummus, scones, cheddar cheese, cheese sticks, toilet paper, pita chips, Tabasco, corn starch, flaxseed, various canned beans, turkey cold cuts, bar soap, lemons, clementines, and batteries for flashlights and my breast pump), while I feed the baby. Before the baby was born, we used gift cards that people gave us to stock up on diapers, so we haven't needed to buy more for a while now. $99.19
10:30 p.m. — Shower and bed.
Daily Total: $141.92
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.
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