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A Week In Coastal Virginia On A $88,000 Salary

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 Navy officer who makes $88,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a toddler bike.
Occupation: Navy Officer
Industry: US Military
Age: 31
Location: Coastal Virginia
My Salary: $88,000 (Both my husband and I receive housing allowances for being in the military which are enveloped into our salaries. Health and life insurance for myself and my family is completely free for me.)
My Husband's Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: -$36,500 (HYSA: $23,000, TSP: $9,000, home value: $440,000 ($220,000 my half), shared investments: $44,000 ($22,000 my half), shared antique vehicle that is really our rainy day fund: $65,000 ($32,500 my half) minus debt. My husband and I have completely separate accounts except for the shared investment fund account. We split our monthly expenses pretty evenly, I pay a little more due to my salary being higher.)
Debt: Student loans: ~$188,000, mortgage: $310,000 ($155,000 my half; we co-own the home but used my VA loan eligibility benefit.)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,700
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,800 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home
Student Loans: $250 (but they have been on pause for almost two years now)
Car Lease: $370
Daycare: $1,300 (husband pays me $500 each month for this)
Phone Bill: $144
Internet: Husband pays ($80)
Electricity: ~=$180-$300
Water/Sewage/Trash: Husband pays ($70)
Streaming Services: Husband pays ($60)
IPSY: $14
Car Insurance: Husband pays ($214)
Home Insurance: Husband pays ($35)
Savings/Investments: $250-$500
HelloFresh: $65/week
Annual Expenses
Grove Collaborative: $25
SiriusXM: $22
Amazon Prime: Husband pays ($149)
Children's Dental Insurance: $22 (added to my existing insurance that is paid for via military insurance)
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?
There wasn't a strict expectation for me to attend college, but I knew I always would because of the careers I wanted to pursue. My undergrad degree was almost completely covered by grants and academic scholarships. My parents were hit really hard by the 2007 recession, so after my dad lost his job I was able to get a significant amount in grants. I took out a federal student loan my senior year so that I could study abroad for an internship overseas. Unfortunately, my financial aid dried up by the time I went to pursue my master's degree so I had to take out federal student loans to pay for that too. Without a master's degree, I probably wouldn't be where I am today professionally, but I also wouldn't be in significant debt. I am lucky to be in a program that will forgive my loan debt after ten years of service.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We had conversations about how to balance a checkbook, how to save, and what credit card debt was like, but it was all very basic. My parents weren't too savvy with finances and they never invested until much later in life. My parents both worked modest-salary jobs and my mom was always frugal which helped, especially when my dad lost his job. We were always able to do a small family vacation every other year, I was able to go to summer camp, and I had new clothes at the start of the school year. My mom shielded me from the real worries she had that our home could be foreclosed. I'm lucky to have had the advice of my grandparents as I was growing up because they taught my parents and me how to invest and mind our spending.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working at a fabric store when I was 14. I wanted money to spend at the mall with my friends. I worked all through high school. I loved the feeling of having money and being able to spend it.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. My mom shielded me from a lot of what was going on, but I didn't understand why I couldn't afford "good jeans." I really worried about the kind of job I was going to get after college, which partially motivated me to join the military service like my dad did because it has job security.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I am in a field that has very good job security even if I got out of the military. I know I could be making probably double what I do now if I were to do my profession as a civilian. I think about the needs my older son has and the benefit of the insurance I have in the military now. I am sure I am going to have to pay a lot to have quality insurance for my son if and when I get out of the military.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I probably became fully financially responsible at age 24 when I moved in with my now-husband and joined the military. We have a financial safety net in a few different things like our investments and the antique car. We could also rely on my parents if we ever needed to.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I have not directly, but after my grandmother died my parents set up a trust fund for both of my children so that they will have money for college or anything else they decide to do when they are older.

Day One

2 a.m. — My first son, D., wakes up and is waiting at his door for some cuddles. I oblige and he falls back asleep. I trudge back to my own bed. Second son, F., wakes up at 4:45 screaming so I scoop him up and we watch some YouTube nursery rhymes in bed. By 5:30 everyone is up. My husband, K., takes the puppy outside and I feed our two cats. I wrangle the boys into their outfits and manage to get D. to use the potty before putting his underwear on (potty training is rough). At 6:30, K. takes the boys to daycare. I put the puppy in his crate and make my snacks/lunch for the day. Today is a full morning of instruction for me so I need some snacks handy or I tend to get lightheaded after speaking so much. I make my usual coffee: a Nespresso original espresso, a pump of honey sweetener, and Califia almond/coconut milk blend over ice. I'm out the door by 6:45.
9:10 a.m. — I finish my first lecture and check some e-mails. I dive in on a professional military education paper that is due tonight. In order to get to the next rank in my career, I should do this schooling. I snack on cherries, string cheese, and a Funfetti scone from a local bakery while I do more work.
12 p.m. — For lunch, I head home to let my puppy out and eat leftover Chinese food. As I eat my cashew shrimp and fried rice, I place an order for grocery pickup from Wegmans. K. will pick up the groceries on his way home. I buy whole milk, lactose-free milk, Kashi frozen blueberry waffles, tortillas, strawberries, bananas, raspberries, snap peas, baby carrots, broccoli florets, veggie cream cheese, graham crackers, cookies, fig newtons, ground beef, Califia almond/coconut milk, Gerber yogurt melts, and Gerber apple sweet potato puffs. I'm the primary buyer of groceries mostly because I have a better eye for what the boys need for the week. I put the dog back in his crate and make another coffee. I head back to work. $84.37
1:50 p.m. — My command put me on an interview panel for a civilian position that opened up. The baseline assessments for the ten candidates are due by Monday, so looks like I'll be working on reading resumes during my long weekend, yuck. At 3:30, it's quitting time! Pick up the boys from daycare and head home. Let out the pup in the yard while I scramble to get the boys inside, entertained, potty/changed, and start their dinner of chicken nuggets and fruit.
5 p.m. — After cleaning up all kinds of bodily fluids from my pets and sons, my husband comes in with the groceries and starts making a HelloFresh meal for us. I get the youngest in the bath while failing to convince my oldest to also get in the bath. K. and I eat in separate shifts. The HF meal is barramundi and some spicy vegetables — it ends up being really good! I enjoy HF because we get to have variety in our meals without really needing to think about it. The boys watch Onward for maybe the 30th time and then wind down for stories and bed.
8 p.m. — The boys are asleep, the dog is walked and in his crate, and we settle down to watch season four of Stranger Things. I have a glass of wine to unwind. Around 10, I do some mindless scrolling and then sleep!

Daily Total: $84.37

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — It's Friday and I have the day off! The boys are up, so no sleeping in for us. K. and I get them packed up and he takes them to daycare. I stay home with the pup and start cleaning the house like a madwoman. I find a whole basket of bibs we no longer need so I post them on my local buy-nothing group. I get dressed in a Lululemon tee and Nike shorts. When I'm not in uniform, I'm usually in a combination of workout shorts, a t-shirt, and Tevas or Birkenstocks. I also always put on vitamin C serum and sunscreen as my daily morning skin care.
8:30 a.m. — Time to get D. and take him to his ABA therapy. D. has been recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and we have multiple days of different kinds of therapy during the week. D. has been thriving since going — it's so exciting to see and hear all the new things he's saying and doing. Fellow autism parents out there, I feel ya!
9 a.m. — Drop D. off and then go thrifting at my favorite local shop. I'm a reformed shopaholic so going to a thrift store every few weeks is where I get my fix. I walk out with a toddler bike, three baskets, six picture frames, two pairs of swim shorts for the boys, two small vases, and a pair of REI swim shorts for me. I round up my purchase for a donation to the children's hospital ($38). I need to get training wheels for the bike so I order those from Amazon ($14.43). What a successful trip! I stop by UPS and drop off my recycling bag of Nespresso pods. $52.43
1 p.m. — I spend a few hours cleaning, touching up paint, and snacking on veggies, crackers, and veggie cream cheese. Make the pup ground beef to add to his lunch. Once he's back in his kennel, I head out the door to pick up D. He had a great day but is a little cranky. We go to a pet shop to pick up some treats and rope toys for the dog. We also stop by Starbucks for a tall latte and cookies for D. The coffee is free today because I loaded my Starbucks card last week. We pick up my youngest from daycare and go home. $48.07
5 p.m. — After a few hours of the afternoon and dinner madness, K. is home from a going-away party and brought me shrimp tacos! A potential sitter/helper comes by the house to meet us and seems like a great fit. It's hard for me to accept help; I like to do everything myself, but I know it will help my sanity to have an extra set of hands.
8 p.m. — As I'm taking a shower, I hear D. screaming. Turns out he wants more snacks but is frustrated that my husband doesn't understand the kind of snack he wants. Toddlers. I take him to bed early and read him some stories. He falls asleep holding my hair which is one of his favorite things. K. and I finally settle in to watch Stranger Things. At the end of the day, I'm usually completely touched and talked out. I have ADHD and this part of being a mom has really triggered that aspect of who I am. I've found that going to bed immediately after the boys do actually makes me unhappy so even if I'm tired, watching a show for an hour or two with K. really unwinds me.
Daily Total: $100.50

Day Three

5:13 a.m. — Rise and shine with all the boys! K. is taking the pup to go clamming at the bay, so he leaves and the boys and I watch Mickey's Clubhouse and eat breakfast. I get dressed in Old Navy workout shorts and a brewery t-shirt.
7 a.m. — We're feeling kind of restless, so I pack the boys up in the double stroller and we walk to the grocery store to pick up a couple of essentials I forgot the other day (recycling bags, plastic bags, seaweed snacks, two Alani Nu energy drinks, and rice cakes which are a staple snack for the kids). F. falls asleep on our way home so I have D. take a potty break and then we head to the park while it's still cool out. $28.66
9:45 a.m. — Feeling peckish so I eat a string cheese and some Trader Joe's cookie butter. Then I eye my spicy Bloody Mary mix and fix myself a morning cocktail. I notice my Grove order processed. I love Grove products for most of my household cleaners and non-food items. I get paper towels, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, baby bath wash, trash bags, dish soap, and a new soap tray ($84.10). I qualify for two free gifts this month! I got more dish soap and dog chews. I also see my Chewy order shipped. I get cat food, urine stain and odor remover, a few toys, and training bites ($73.97). $158.07
11 a.m. — K. comes home from his adventures with the dog. He brings back a BLT for me. K. starts cleaning clams in the backyard so I set up the boys' water table and mini pool. They last for about 20 minutes and then I take them for baths. K. takes the dog to puppy kindergarten and I get all the things we need for our local minor-league baseball game tonight.
6 p.m. — We somehow get out the door for the game. We notice it's a little chillier than we thought it would be, so I duck into the team store and get us long-sleeve shirts with the team logo. We don't have any team swag and we come here pretty often, so I feel kind of justified in these ridiculously overpriced shirts ($78). K. gets us beers and hot dogs. At some point, I get a chicken fingers plate ($12). After the game, we head home. Both boys go to sleep immediately. I take a quick shower and go to sleep fairly quickly. $90
Daily Total: $276.73

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — Wow, the boys let us sleep in! K. lets the dog out and does some training while I watch morning cartoons with the kids. I eventually make my coffee and make them a quick breakfast of peanut butter waffles and fruit. They don't touch it so I eat some. We get restless and go to the park to take advantage of some gorgeous weather we're having. When we get back home, I take about 45 minutes to knock out reading the resumes for work. There's often nothing I can do from home for work, but having this assignment has given me a small case of Sunday scaries.
10 a.m. — We go to Costco. It's quiet at opening, which is nice, but D. is upset they aren't doing samples, sorry kid! I pacify him with an alphabet game on my phone. We get a rotisserie chicken (of course), pesto, pasta sauce, 12 cans of canned chicken for the dog, bacon, lobster ravioli, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, sunscreen, a beach towel, fruit and veggie purée pouches, Frosted Flakes, ground beef, almond butter, and wipes and diapers. $224.39
12:30 p.m. — After unloading the car and giving the dog his lunch, we load the stroller back up and walk to our favorite brewery. A friend is moving (the downside of military life is people are always moving!) so we're sending him off with a few beers. I order our food separately and K. pays for the beers. I get a Caesar salad, pepperoni pizza, and a waffle bacon fried chicken sandwich. It's seriously amazing. We walk home after about two hours. $58.33
4:30 p.m. — My neighbor sees K. watering our plants and asks if we want to come swimming. Of course! We have amazing neighbors, and the boys love to swim. I stay about an hour with F. then go home and get him ready for bed. D. and K. come back about an hour later.
8 p.m. — The boys go to bed very quickly — perks of swimming. K. and I watch Stranger Things, but only make it as far as an episode before we start nodding off. Off to sleep we go!
Daily Total: $282.72

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — F. is up, so I grab him his bottle and K. takes the pup out and feeds him. I get F. ready for daycare. D. is still snoozing so I'll stay home with him and telework until his first therapy at 9. K. and F. take off and I make my usual coffee. D. gets up and I make him cereal and a peanut butter waffle. At 9, D. and I are off to his speech/OT. After that, I take him to ABA. Then, I'm finally on my way to work around 10:30.
11 a.m. — I do some admin work and print out my lessons for the week. Later, I take briefs from the students and instructors and I provide feedback. I snack on veggies, rotisserie chicken, string cheese, and some chocolate I brought from home.
4 p.m. — I head out to get F. from daycare. K. already picked up D. from ABA. I stop by Starbucks and reload my card ($25). I get a chai latte that is too sweet. When we get home, I make dinner for the boys, chase the dog who is chasing the cats, herd the boys into the bath, and manage to make a HelloFresh meal. It's Southwest tacos, and they're alright. While the boys are bathing, I have them play with some paint and make posters with handprints to send to the grandparents. $25
7:30 p.m. — While I'm rocking F. to sleep, I place an Amazon order for Not All Diamonds And Rose by Dave Quinn, a book I got influenced to buy from Kate Casey's podcast. I also get another pack of boys' underwear for D. and a meat chopper to mash up meat in a pan. It's something that I have been meaning to buy forever, but after making tacos for the hundredth time I finally bite the bullet. I use my Chase rewards for $20 off, so my total is $17.90. D. finally goes down and we're just exhausted from today so we get ready for bed. I wash my face with a Tatcha sample of the Rice Wash — I love the texture, but the fragrance is a bit much for me. I fall asleep after scrolling on my phone for a bit. $17.90
Daily Total: $42.90

Day Six

5:30 a.m. — I wake up in D.'s bed. He had a rough night so I ended up in his room. I sneak out and see that K. is in the guest bed with F. — looks like he had a rough night too. K. tells me the pup has been let out but not fed so I make my way to the kitchen to get his breakfast together. I feed the pup and post my bottle-drying rack on my local buy-nothing page. Once F. is up, I get him ready for school and K. takes him to daycare. D. snoozes until around 7, and then I make him his usual breakfast. I eat some cereal (Frosted Flakes) with him. D. looks like he's dealing with allergies — at least I hope that's all it is. We hang out, work on puzzles, and watch Onward until it's time to take him to ABA.
10 a.m. — I'm on my way back to work after dropping D. off. I'm extremely grateful I'm at a command that is so accommodating to this new schedule I have for D. I know not every command in the military is like this: At my previous position it would have been impossible as my spouse and I were both deploying constantly. I'm considering getting a transport nanny at my next job in another year or so if D. still has a lot of therapies outside of school. My command is doing a fundraiser for lunch and has pizza for sale so I get two slices and a drink. $6
4 p.m. — After a busy day of reviewing my lessons, emails, and interviewing candidates, I head home. K. is exhausted so I suggest we order some pizza; he pays. Night-time routine commences and we're in bed after watching the first episode of Love Island UK (season eight), a favorite show for both of us.
Daily Total: $6

Day Seven

6 a.m. — K. was out the door early this morning, so it's just me and the boys on morning routine. D. is snoozing so F. and I eat breakfast and watch cartoons until he's up. I take F. to daycare and D. to speech and occupational therapy. On the way to daycare, I stop by one of our favorite breakfast joints and get an iced coffee, bacon biscuit sandwich, and breakfast potatoes. D. eats half of the potatoes and perks up before he heads into daycare. $10.24
4 p.m. — At work, I review the last class' critiques to implement changes to the next class, sit in on a meeting, write some e-mails, and follow up on a few tasks. I eat a sandwich I made at home alongside some fresh peaches. After, I head to get the boys from daycare.
6 p.m. — My HelloFresh box for the week came, yay! Tonight, I make orange chicken bowls for K. and me, and the boys eat goulash. K. and I get the boys in the bath and off to bed. We watch more Love Island and head to sleep.
Daily Total: $10.24
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