A Week In Milwaukee, WI, On A Joint $84,000 Salary

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Today: a digital content producer who makes $23/hour (and about $84,000 per year combined with her husband) and spends some of her money this week on graham crackers.
Occupation: Digital Content Producer
Industry: Media
Age: 30
Location: Milwaukee, WI
My Income: $23/hour
My Paycheck Amount (Weekly): $389 (I work part-time.)
My Husband's Salary: $60,000
My Husband's Paycheck (Monthly): $3,700
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $845
Car Loan Payment: $331
Student Loan Payment: $0 for now. (My undergrad is paid off, my grad is still in progress, my husband's undergrad is in deferment, and med school was funded.)
Netflix: $0 (We use my husband's brother's account, and he used our HBO account.)
HBO: $16
Hulu/Spotify: $5 (Student deal!)
401(k): $14 per pay period (I never changed the percentage after going part-time)
Car Insurance: $116
Dental Insurance: $8 per pay period
Health Insurance: I'm on my husband's plan.
Gas/Electric: $100
Water: $40
Internet: $42
Annual Expenses
Cell Phones: $240 (We're on my husband's parents' family plan, and we pay them once a year in a lump sum.)
General Financial Info
Savings: $10,000
401(k)/IRA: $65,200
Other Investments: $47,000

Day One

7 a.m. — I wake up to a bunch of text messages from family and friends wishing me a happy birthday. I had wanted to wake up before now, but I've been struggling with insomnia. Since it's my birthday, and I have nowhere to be, I stay in bed.
8 a.m. — My insomnia is so bad I can't even sleep in anymore, so I get up and make myself breakfast: scrambled eggs and toast. My husband texts me to wish me happy birthday. He was on call overnight at the hospital, and I'm sad to begin my 30s alone. He tells me to check the “wine closet” in the basement, which is actually just a storage closet that I shoved a case of wine inside once. I check, and there's a Mylar balloon printed with “30.” I almost cry, because 30-year-olds are sentimental.
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9 a.m. — I have a whole day of indulgence planned, starting with claiming my free birthday drink at Starbucks. I live in the suburbs, but there's still a Starbucks within walking distance, so I walk there and enjoy the sunny day. On my walk, my mother-in-law calls to say happy birthday and to let me know she's left a gift for me to pick up at my favorite independent bookshop downtown. I order a coffee Frappuccino (with whipped cream—YOLO) and drink it outside while reading a library book.
10:30 a.m. — Next on the agenda is spending a LOFT coupon I got in the mail for, you guessed it, my birthday. I walk home and then drive to the mall. Everything is 40% off, which is great because I still can't really justify using the coupon otherwise. My brother calls me while I'm in the fitting room. He's currently in rehab, so I take the call because I'll have no way of calling him back. It's so good to hear from him, and I'm heartened that he remembered my birthday. My brother and I are close, and the fitting room is nearly empty, so we talk for a while. I leave the store with a cute work-appropriate shirt. $18.69
11:30 a.m. — I wander the mall and start to feel depressed by the displays of mass-produced crap and thin crowds. The smell of Cinnabon makes me nostalgic for a time when the mall seemed like a magical refuge. I decide to hit up Crate & Barrel to replace a bowl I broke while doing dishes a few weeks ago (because dishwashing is only fun and exciting if it involves precarious balancing), but they don't have the one I need.
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12 p.m. — Next on my birthday agenda is a solo movie, also at the mall. I actually love going to the movies alone. I'm seeing Crazy Rich Asians. I used a Fandango gift card I found lying around the house to purchase a ticket ($10.68). After the “convenience fee,” using Fandango isn't really worth it, but since it was a gift card, it's free anyway! I have an entire box of gift cards in various states of disuse. Now that there's only a small amount left on the Fandango card, I meditate on the travesty of gift cards as a mode of payment.
2:30 p.m. — The movie was amazing, and just the kind of “me time” vehicle I needed. I return home to find my husband, H., taking a post-call nap. I read my library book for a while, and then curl my hair.
5 p.m. — We head downtown for my birthday dinner. Every year in lieu of a gift, H. treats me to an embarrassingly expensive meal at a fancy restaurant. This year I selected Third Coast Provisions, an upscale seafood place downtown. In their basement is a restaurant-within-a-restaurant called Oak & Oyster, which has amazing happy hour deals, so we begin in the basement with their weekly cocktail special and $1 oysters. I eat them all myself while H. gags. My favorite are the West Coast ones, but that might just be because they're bigger. $22
6:30 p.m. — I don't always get drinks and apps when I go out to eat, but on my birthday, it's balls to the walls. We each get another cocktail (mine has snow pea and celery infused tequila in it!) and an appetizer that's essentially hunks of lobster floating in melted butter. For my entrée, I get halibut. The plate arrives with a decorative dribbling of sauces, which is exactly why I come to places like this. No room for dessert, sadly. $142
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8 p.m. — After dinner. we swing by Boswell Books to pick up my gift from my in-laws. Turns out it's a gift card! But I take back what I said about gift cards, because this one will go to good use. I love Boswell Books more than words can say. It's genuinely one of my top five favorite things about Milwaukee.
9 p.m. — H. is tired from being on call last night, and I'm tired from my insomnia. This is 30.
Daily Total: $182.69

Day Two

7 a.m. — On Fridays, I work a full eight-hour shift, and today I'm heading in early so I can leave early. I take a different route to work today because I want to stop and get donuts for the office at Cranky Al's. They're all out of my favorite variety, but I get Nutella-filled donuts in recompense. I hear on the radio that several legs of our highway interchange system are closed this morning due to flooding and accidents, so I'm glad I went a different way today! $17
8 a.m. — No one is in the office for the first hour I'm there, so I work in peace and enjoy my donut. I get an email about my student loan disbursement and ignore it. I don't want to think about that right now!
9:30 a.m. — My coworkers all signed a card for me yesterday, which means they knew about my birthday even before I brought the donuts in! I sometimes don't feel like a “real” member of the team since I only work part-time, so the card is a nice gesture.
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12 p.m. — I eat a boring healthy lunch: carrots, celery, and tomatoes dipped in hummus, cantaloupe, wasabi and soy sauce-flavored almonds, and a toasted pita pocket.
3 p.m. — I meet with my boss to talk about my budget. She gives me the go-ahead to pay a freelance developer to run a technical audit on our website, which has been running slow for quite a while. I'm super excited to receive his recommendations and to get to work improving the back end!
4 p.m. — I'm out the door early because we're heading out of town tonight for family time.
7 p.m. — I have plans with my mom to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, so I drag H. along and we meet at a theater near my mom's. I purchase the tickets with another Fandango gift card. Movie tickets are so ridiculously expensive these days. Before the movie, my mom treats us to dinner at a nearby Noodles & Co. because we don't have time for a lengthier meal. I try one of their new “zoodles” meals, with which I am quite unimpressed.
9:30 p.m. — Predictably, the movie is a glorious, feel-good camp fest, and my mom and I love it. H. claims he didn't like it, but I definitely caught him laughing a lot.
10 p.m. — Mom treats us to a slice of pie at Bakers Square to celebrate my birthday. H. and I split a slice of apple à la mode. Then we say goodnight to my mom and head east to sleep at my in-laws' place a half hour away. We stay up late watching the Game Show Network because of the dual novelty of a cable subscription and an in-bedroom TV, and because I'm worried about insomnia again.
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Daily Total: $17

Day Three

8 a.m. — I sleep in; no insomnia! We have a wedding to go to tonight, with a busy day beforehand, so I need to style my hair now. I watch a few YouTube tutorials and pick a French braid style I think I can easily replicate. I'm getting my hair chopped off in a month, so I want to have fun with these styles while I still can.
10 a.m. — We meet my grandma for brunch at a place near her house. She treats us (I also get a mimosa) and she gives me a birthday gift. After we eat, H. and I walk to a nearby grocery store to buy a wedding card for tonight, and a card for my grandma to bring to a christening tomorrow. $10.65
10:15 a.m. — We also stop in at Starbucks to get a Cold Foam Cold Brew ($3.95). I use a gift card (I'm on a roll!), which now has less than a dollar left on it. Will I ever spend the remainder?
12:30 p.m. — We hang with my grandma for a while and catch up, and then head out to meet my mom and grandpa for lunch. Food is the last thing either of us wants right now, so we split a salad. I haven't seen my grandpa and his wife in years because they live out of state, so we have a lot to catch up on. My grandpa pays, telling us to save our money for the wedding tonight. “I hope it's not a cash bar!” I joke. After lunch, my grandpa's wife's son invites us all over to his house to kill time before we have to get to the wedding. He lets us change into our wedding garb there, which is nice.
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5 p.m. — The wedding is at a really cool rustic event space. The ceremony is short and sweet, and we catch up with H.'s cousins and other family members during the cocktail hour. I get the bride's signature cocktail (vodka soda) and H. gets the groom's (bourbon and Coke). He tips the bartenders, which I don't really agree with because, as a married lady, I know gratuity is always included ($2). We slip our card ($100) into a bird cage of other wedding cards and then sit down for dinner. $102
9:30 p.m. — We are only able to dance for a few songs before it's time to head out. H. has work early tomorrow morning, and we have to drive all the way back to Milwaukee. I see photos on social media later that give me FOMO, but at least I manage to grab a cookie from the candy buffet on our way out.
Daily Total: $112.65

Day Four

10 a.m. — I'm meeting an old friend for coffee this morning in Oak Creek. She lives in Kenosha, so for the past four years or so, we've met at a Starbucks halfway between us every few months to catch up. We work in the same industry and are both fiction writers and homeowners, so we have a lot to chat about. I order an iced coffee with “light ice” and immediately regret not getting more ice. $3
12:30 p.m. — After coffee, it's time to head to my dad's place downtown. He is taking me out on his boat today to celebrate my birthday. First, my gift: a ticket to an upcoming Cubs vs. Brewers game, which several other family members are attending, and a new pair of running shoes.
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2 p.m. — My dad grills salmon on the boat grill, and we eat it with some salads he bought at the deli, followed by a caramel brownie. His boat is even stocked with La Croix. Mercifully, he doesn't sing. (I just saw Mamma Mia.)
4 p.m. — We cruise around the harbor, past Irish Fest, and I learn how to be "first mate" on the new boat. It's the first time we're taking this boat out, just the two of us, because he just traded up this season. The old boat was a lot smaller, and I had been helping with it since I was a kid. His dock neighbors help out when we return, because my dad had told them I was nervous.
5 p.m. — He convinces me to grab a drink with him at Bradford Beach's tiki bar after we tie up the boat. It's the end of the season, and I'm taking any excuse I can get to visit the beach. I'll be back next weekend for my birthday party, and being here is making me excited for that. There are a lot of butts on display, which I notice as I sip my vodka lemonade. My dad pays, even though the drink is an exorbitant $9.
6 p.m. — I have my writing group tonight, an informal summer workshop made up of my school cohort. The four of us meet every Sunday evening and take turns giving feedback on each other's stories. Tonight's discussion is very productive, because the writer brought a brand new story, so we get to talk through the process more than usual. It's our last meeting of the summer :(.
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7:30 p.m. — Grocery trip. I grab sweet potatoes, cotton candy grapes (SCORE!), avocados, 12 cans of beans, bananas, salsa, pretzels, hummus, breadcrumbs, coffee, a rotisserie chicken, tortillas, eggs, bread, graham crackers, and La Croix ($62.34). I love that the Amazon Alexa app thought I wanted to add “Look croix” to my shopping list. I've had a case of half-cup Rubbermaid containers in my Amazon cart for a few weeks, but I notice they're being sold at the grocery store for the same per-unit price, so I buy them here instead ($3.74). Nothing thrills me, at age 30, like using just the right size container in my brown bag lunch. $66.08
8 p.m. — Next is food prep. I slice up a new cantaloupe, make a cucumber and tomato salad, spiralize zucchini, and brew a batch of coffee to chill overnight. Then I do the dishes and break a wine glass, because I still haven't learned my lesson. I read in bed until H. returns from a long day at work.
Daily Total: $69.08

Day Five

6 a.m. — My sleep is still not back to normal, and I wake feeling groggy and depressed. Usually I write in the morning before work, but today I'm not feeling it. Instead, I throw in a load of laundry, whip up a batch of breakfast bites, and read my library book for a while.
9 a.m. — Work is busy. I pay the developer and I'm thankful it's not my credit card being charged!
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12 p.m. — Someone brings donuts for an intern's birthday, so after my boring lunch (tomato and cucumber salad, cantaloupe, almonds, and rotisserie chicken), I grab a donut.
3 p.m. — One of my favorite things to do at work is look over the data from last year and use it to plan for this year, especially as one season fades into the next. I spend the afternoon brainstorming content ideas based on what did well at the end of last summer.
6 p.m. — I change into workout clothes when I get home and do my Jillian Michaels DVD. I've been doing the 30 Day Shred on and off (mostly off) for almost a decade now! I feel like I know Jillian, and I often mouth the words along to the DVD. “Relax the neck! The neck is not invited to this party!”
7 p.m. — I chat with my mom on the phone while H. cooks dinner. Then we eat together (rice and beans with sautéed garden veggies and avocado). I do the dishes, and then we watch Sharp Objects together while I fold our laundry.
9:30 p.m. — I'm in bed with my library book.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6 a.m. — I have Tuesdays off, so I immediately settle into my writing. Right now, I'm revising a novel manuscript I finished last summer and trying to get it into publishable shape (fingers crossed!) before school starts up again. I eat a few breakfast bites and drink homemade iced coffee while I work.
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12 p.m. — The morning gets away from me, and suddenly I'm starving. I finish off the cotton candy grapes and eat leftover beans and rice. I look online for that replacement Crate & Barrel bowl and discover that it's not being made anymore.
3 p.m. — I check my Fitbit and realize that somehow I managed to get this far into the day without even hitting 500 steps! The section I've been editing is done for now, so I send it off to my critique partner and then lace up my new running shoes for a session with Jillian.
4 p.m. — The DVD kicked my butt, and after a shower, I'm starving. I sneak a couple graham crackers, do chores while catching up on Bachelor in Paradise (I know…), and then head to the library. I have two books due and another on hold, and today's the last day for all three. Still high from my workout, I leave the library with a smile on my face, wondering what we ever did to deserve libraries.
6:30 p.m. — We have plans for a board game night with friends tonight, but H. is stuck at work. I read more of my library book while I wait, then order birthday gifts for my brother and nephew on Amazon. I hate using Amazon, but they live out of state and I waited until the last minute to get them gifts. I finish the order en route to my friend's apartment so I don't miss the two-day shipping window! $44.74
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7 p.m. — Our friends order Ian's Pizza for dinner. I Venmo them for our share, which somehow ends up being $28, and we play Dominion. I actually really don't enjoy playing board games, or anything competitive, but somehow I've surrounded myself with friends who love them, so here I am. $28
11 p.m. — Late to bed, but I'm still worried about insomnia, so I stay up with my book.
Daily Total: $72.74

Day Seven

6 a.m. — My sleep schedule is back on track, so I wake early to get some writing time in. I usually try for about two hours each morning on work days. I eat breakfast bites at home, then head to the new Stone Creek Coffee that opened on the east side earlier this summer.
7 a.m. — The meter hasn't started running yet, so I park for free. Stone Creek gives you a free drink if you buy a bag of beans, plus I have a loyalty punch card for beans, so I purchase a bag and get a free cappuccino. This new location has a really nice patio, but unfortunately it's cold outside, so I set up shop indoors and work until it's time to go to the office. $17
9 a.m. — That cappuccino wasn't enough, so I pour myself an office coffee, sneaking a splash of half and half someone left in the fridge (shh). I only work half days on Wednesdays, which is always really stressful. Today is no exception — I have a surprise brainstorming meeting and get pulled into a frustrating conference call with a client, which means I have to stay late to get my work done. Luckily, this means I can bill for the extra time! Good thing I brought cantaloupe and almonds to work this morning, just in case. This job should really be done by a full-timer, but I'm extremely grateful for the time to write, even if it means my time at the office is hectic.
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2 p.m. — I head to my dad's condo, which I facetiously refer to as my office. It's unoccupied during the week, which makes it the ideal place to get writing done. It's also my home base downtown, since I live in the ‘burbs. I eat leftover salmon and veggies from our boat day and pick up where I left off this morning on my manuscript.
4 p.m. — I notice a bottle of lemonade in my dad's fridge is expiring today, which I take as a sign from above that I should fix myself an early happy hour drink. I purchased the lemonade over 4th of July weekend, so I don't feel guilty finishing it. I mix in vodka (still raiding the parental unit's liquor cabinet at age 30!) and take my drink down to the building's sun deck.
5 p.m. — I revise for about an hour, briefly distracted by some window washers' high-altitude bickering, then move to a lounge chair and read for a while. I know I've been living my best life this summer, and I'm trying to enjoy it to the fullest while I still can, because I know I'm in for a rude awakening when school starts back up.
6 p.m. — I drive home. Lately I've been really into a podcast called The History of the English Language, so I listen to about half an episode in the car. When I get home, I chat with H. before he has to leave for his fantasy football draft. We discuss plans for my birthday party this weekend, and I message Facebook event guests to encourage firmer RSVPs for dinner reservations. (I sometimes joke that I have a birthmonth, not just a birthday, but it's starting to seem too true…)
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7 p.m. — H. leaves, and I harvest tomatoes from the garden. I've been avoiding it because I'm afraid of encountering spiders, and the tomatoes have gotten out of control! I nearly fill an entire serving bowl with tomatoes.
7:05 p.m. — Nope. Nope. Nope. I was right to be afraid.
7:30 p.m. — Leftover beans and rice for dinner, and I add some rotisserie chicken and avocado.
8 p.m. — I'm finishing a cross stitch for my nephew, who's about to turn one. I stitch while I catch up on Bachelor in Paradise, and then read my book until H. returns.
Daily Total: $17
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