A Week In North Carolina On A $53,300 Salary

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Today: a senior associate working in association management who makes $53,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on Goldfish.
Occupation: Senior Associate
Industry: Association Management
Age: 32
Location: North Carolina
Salary: $53,300
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,369
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,240, which I split with my husband. This includes annual taxes and insurance. We have separate accounts and a joint checking account that we both contribute to monthly for household expenses. He typically transfers $1,200, and I typically transfer $1,500 at the beginning of the month, but we make adjustments as needed.
Student Loans: $150
Credit Cards: About $600 per month on some 0% cards
Health Insurance: $117 is taken out of each paycheck for medical and dental. My husband has his own insurance that covers him and our son.
Child Care FSA: $192.31 (This is the max they'll allow.)
Daycare: $693
Orangetheory: $89
Car Insurance: $107
Utilities: $100 and up, depending on the season
Hulu: $12.82
Netflix: $11.76
HBO: $0 (I mooch off my brother.)
Amazon Prime: $4.91 (Student account via my husband.)
Pandora Music: $10
Phone Bill: $101.89
Internet Bill: $95
401(k): I put in $61 per paycheck and my employer matches up to 5%.
Savings: $100 into an account for my son almost every month. Hoping to increase this as we pay down some debts and try to get ahead in the coming years. We transferred some higher interest balances and hospital bills recently and are trying to pay it down in a smart way.
Annual Expenses
HOA Fee: $95

Day One

4:30 a.m. — Wake up to the unmistakable sound of my dog doing the peepee pace around the house. She's elderly and has been having a hard time holding it in lately. I leap out of bed to bring her outside, but alas, I'm too late. Her age, coupled with the fact that we've recently had a baby and our time for long leisurely walks has become more limited, has made the past year rough for my poor girl. I make sure she's got it all out, clean up the mess, and crawl back into bed.
5:30 a.m. — My husband's alarm goes off, and he snoozes.
5:45 a.m. — Second alarm and my husband, R., drags me out of bed. We usually try to get up, get the animals situated, and get one of us showered before baby, A., wakes up with his usual baby demands. R. starts the coffee, and I take the dog for a stroll.
6:15 a.m. — A. is up, and it's off to the races! Yogurt and half of a banana/applesauce/oatmeal muffin for him and coffee and more coffee for me. R. gets out of the shower, and we trade places. I grab some leftover takeout for lunch as I'm running out the door. R. will take A. to daycare on his way to work. I kiss them both multiple times and am on the road.
8 a.m. — I'm usually one of the first in the office and take advantage of the quiet by tackling all the emails that came in overnight. Many of my clients are international, and it's not unusual to have a full inbox by 6 a.m.
9 a.m. — Chow down on some almonds and dates that I keep in my desk and drink another cup of coffee. I take a quick walk to stretch my legs.
1 p.m. — The quiet morning turned into a hectic afternoon. Time flies when you're putting out fires! I eat leftover pad Thai at my desk while working.
3 p.m. — The thought of walking around the grocery store this evening is not very appealing, so I place an order online to pick it up on the way home. I order Cabot cheese, Dave's Killer bread, strawberries, blueberries, Goldfish crackers, frozen veggies, eggs, applesauce, mayo, chicken stock, peanut butter crackers, oats, and coffee. Thank god for express pickup, $4.95 pickup charge be damned. $53.17
6 p.m. — Arrive home after picking up A. from daycare. They said he had an excellent day today, which is always great to hear. I have a certain amount of mom guilt for paying others to take care of him all day, but I think he learns so much more there than he would if he were home with me all day! And he loves being social with the other kiddos.
6:30 p.m. — I rub some chicken legs with smoked paprika and garlic powder and throw them in the Instant Pot. Then I warm up some veggie soup for A. and feed it to him with chunks of cheese. When the Instant Pot is done, I throw the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes. Easy and delish! I will eat it after A. is in bed.
7 p.m. — Bath, stories, and bedtime for A. Dinner and wine time for mama. I take advantage of R. working late and turn on This Is Us. I'm a few episodes behind. Still crying every episode somehow. How do they do it? R. gets home, and we catch up on our days. He had a frustrating day at work today with some of his students, and we talk through it. Afterwards, we want to watch something lighthearted, so we turn on Family Guy. I promptly fall asleep on the couch and drag myself into bed around 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $53.17

Day Two

5:20 a.m. — That insane Orangetheory monthly fee is the only thing that motivates me to get out of bed this morning. Whatever works, right? In all seriousness, OTF is the only workout I've thoroughly enjoyed, and I sing the gym's praises from the rooftop whenever I get the chance. I wish I could afford an unlimited membership ($160 per month, are you kidding me?) but that is NOT in the cards right now. Offspring are expensive, y'all!
7:45 a.m. — Home and showered! I work from home one day a week, and today is that day so no rushing around for me! During my last review, I didn't get the pay increase I felt I deserved, so I asked to stay home with my son one day a week instead. My mother lives close by and made similar arrangements with her workplace, so we only have to pay for part-time childcare, and I get extra baby time each week. A win-win, for sure! I help wrangle A. so R. can finish getting ready and throw some breakfast sandwiches together for both of us.
9 a.m. — My mother-in-law shows up at — I forgot I had a vet appointment for our cat at 9:30 and asked her to come over and watch A. while I was out! Whoops. Good thing the cat hasn't strayed too far from the house this morning! The checkup goes well, but the vet suggests getting senior blood work soon to ensure we can take any preventative measures for run-of-the-mill elderly cat issues. The appointment is $53, and I have a credit for $15 from a past appointment. I pick up his regular flea/tick/heartworm script, pay, and head home with a grumpy cat. $38
11 a.m. — I have a very sleepy and fussy toddler. At daycare they don't nap until 12:30, but he never lasts that long when he's home! I put on Sesame Street, cut up half an apple pie Larabar and some Goldfish crackers, and then it's nap time.
11:30 a.m. — Nap time for baby means work time for me! I catch up on emails, make a few phone calls, and work on a couple projects. I honestly think I am more productive at home (when I don't have a toddler at my feet) and wish I had a little more flexibility to work away from the office more often. I know a lot of companies are allowing this, and I'm hoping my workplace will take note. While I work, I drink a black cherry Polar seltzer (obsessed) and eat snacks meant for my one-year-old.
12 p.m. — 1-800-PetMeds is having a 30% off sale. I use the prescription I picked up today and order six months of meds for the kitty. I also remember to take my elderberry supplement. Toddler germs are real, and this winter has not been kind to us. Who knows if the supplements are actually helping, but I'll try anything to avoid another cold! $87.99
1 p.m. — I hear babbling through the baby monitor, so I run upstairs and grab A. We eat a quick lunch of PB&Js and I dress him in an extra layer so we can head out for a walk around the neighborhood with the pup. It's so warm in the sun, I actually run back inside to change into shorts. You've gotta love March in North Carolina!
2:30 p.m. — We have a reverse osmosis water system installed for our drinking water, and today is the day we're having the filter replaced. A. is very intrigued by the man working under the sink, and I have to strap him to his highchair and feed him blueberries to keep him from crawling under there and trying to “help.” I write a check for the water guy. $65
4 p.m. — Even the simplest of dinners takes way longer when you're solo with a toddler, so I get started on prepping meatballs, pasta, roasted veggies, and homemade sauce.
6 p.m. — R.'s home! Thank god. I love and seriously value my time at home with A., but I am so ready for help by the end of the day. R. stopped at the store on the way home and picked up more whole milk for A., garlic, parmesan, beer, and wine. We eat dinner, and R. does stories and bedtime with A. Then he comes downstairs and cleans up the kitchen while I drink wine on the couch and scroll through Instagram (love him). $31.89
8 p.m. — Repeat of last night. We talk about our days and then attempt to stay awake for a single episode of Bob's Burgers. I almost make it to the end. I drag myself to bed a little after 9. I guess this is life at 32!
Daily Total: $222.88

Day Three

6 a.m. — Last night was a rough one. A. was up crying for no obvious reason multiple times, and we had a hard time getting him back to sleep every time. I am hoping this isn't a sign of an ear infection or other illness. Our lack of sleep caused R. to snooze the alarm twice, and now we're rushing. At least it's Friday! I head up to get A. ready for his day, and R. hops in the shower. We'll ask my mother-in-law to come over and take the dog for a short walk, today since she didn't get much time outside this morning, and I really don't want to come home to any accidents this evening.
8 a.m. — Make a cup of crappy work coffee and heat up some instant oatmeal. Breakfast of champions. I dig into my email.
12 p.m. — Heat up leftover pasta from last night, dump some parm on top, start to mix it up, and then realize that the cheese is bad. I have to throw away my entire lunch! What a waste. I run out to Whole Foods and make an overly expensive salad from the salad bar. I also pick up some cans of sparkling rosé (because, Friday), Lundberg rice cakes, and baby fruit and oat bars for A. since they're on sale. The checkout guy reminds me to scan my Amazon Prime account, and I get a whopping $0.30 off my purchase. $31.79
2 p.m. — Having a seriously hard time staying focused. It's Friday afternoon, 70 degrees outside, and half my office has left for the day. I take a quick walk to clear my head and then prep for a client call at 3.
5 p.m. — Had some good wins with a few clients this afternoon, and I'm feeling great! I pick up A. from daycare and head home. My mom got tickets for a concert tonight, and it turns out my dad isn't able to go with her, so I'm her date! She meets me at my place, we drink some canned rosé, I kiss A. and R. goodbye/goodnight, and we head downtown. Mom pays for parking and the first round of drinks. What a gem. Midway through the show, I get the second round. $16
11 p.m. — Turns out my mom is a great concert buddy! I'm seriously beat, but still manage to quickly wash my face and brush my teeth before collapsing into bed. Snuggle up to my husband and…sex! Hooray! A successful evening, if I do say so myself.
Daily Total: $47.79

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Apparently my son didn't get the memo that I was up late last night and it's Saturday so we're supposed to be sleeping in. R. takes care of him while I make a pot of very strong coffee.
9 a.m. — I'm actually glad to be up early because it's a gorgeous day outside. We decide to go downtown to the Saturday farmer's market and invite my mother-in-law along. I get some local blueberry lavender kombucha, and my mother-in-law tells us she'll buy dinner if we cook it for her tonight. Deal! We grab some local chorizo and crab cakes and decide to hit the grocery store for the rest, since the produce we want isn't looking so hot. We spend another 30 minutes or so wandering around downtown and checking out some of the little shops. We pack up quickly when we realize it's getting close to A.'s nap time. That's a schedule that you do NOT want to mess up, or the rest of the day will be a struggle. $7
12 p.m. — I successfully keep A. awake for the entire car ride home. When we get back, I heat up some leftover pasta and meatballs for all three of us and then put A. down for his nap. R. heads outside to get some yard work done, and I get started on the housework. Is there anything worse than scrubbing toilets when the weather outside is perfect? I'm able to get through a load of laundry, two bathrooms, and a scrub down of the kitchen before A. wakes up.
2 p.m. — R. brings A. outside to play, and I head to the grocery store to get the rest of the food for dinner. Zucchini, steak, lemons, beer, spring mix, goat cheese, pecans, and dried cranberries. On my way home, my mom calls, and I invite her over for dinner, too. We spend the rest of the afternoon alternating between playing inside and outside. We cook the chorizo and then slice it up to eat with some cheddar cheese and a couple of IPAs. $52.89
5 p.m. — R. is the chef tonight! He cooks up mushrooms and onions to have with the steak and then pan-sears the meat and the crab cakes before finishing them in the oven. We roast the zucchini, and I throw together a salad of spring mix, toasted pecans, goat cheese, and dried cranberries. I have some aged fig balsamic dressing that goes great with the salad. My mom brings over a bottle of wine, and we all sit down to dinner around 6:30. A. is clearly over everything by 7:30, so I bring him up to bed and the moms leave shortly after, since they're honestly only there for the baby anyway. I really would like a nightcap, but I have an 8 a.m. workout tomorrow so I resist and chug some water instead. Regular routine of falling asleep after five minutes in front of the TV, and I'm in bed by 9:30.
Daily Total: $59.89

Day Five

6 a.m. — The baby alarm clock goes off.
7 a.m. — Banana, blueberries, and a little oatmeal for me and A. Fried eggs and bacon for R. (He did have a nightcap, and it's showing.)
7:45 a.m. — Hop in the car and head to OTF. Love zero traffic roads on Sunday morning! The coach that works at this studio on Sunday mornings is my favorite. She's really on top of correcting your form to make sure you're completing the exercises safely and efficiently and is super motivating without being too cheerleader-y. Today is a strength day with some very serious treadmill inclines. Going to feel this tomorrow!
9:15 a.m. — I get back home and eat some toast with peanut butter. It's another gorgeous morning, but it's supposed to get rainy this afternoon, so we decide to head to the beach to walk on the boardwalk for a little while. I get out of my sweaty workout clothes and shower quickly. The nice thing about living in a beach town is everything is very casual. I never feel like I have to get too dressed up or put on makeup when we go out.
11 a.m. — We decide to walk over to a place that makes insanely good fresh donuts. They fry them and glaze them in front of you and then close for the day when they run out. They're so delicious. Our dreams are shattered when we see the line, though. Turns out everyone in town had the same idea. We continue our walk and notice a restaurant overlooking the water that has a nice rooftop area and decided to trade our donut calories for Bloody Mary calories. It's not very busy, and A. is able to run around and wave to the people down on the boardwalk while we enjoy our drinks. R. finishes his quicker than I do and also orders a beer, which I help him finish. $28
12:30 p.m. — Well, we went ahead and made the nap time mistake. A. falls asleep in the car for approximately 10 minutes and now refuses to go down for his nap even though he is so, so tired. I try everything, but eventually give up around 2.
3 p.m. — I want to pick up a few things for Easter, so I throw A. in the car and we head across town to the craft store. I figure at least he can sleep a little in the car on the way there. I get those little plastic Easter eggs, a wreath, some ribbon, and a picture frame. Then I head over to HomeGoods afterwards, but resist purchasing anything more! $16.67
5 p.m. — A. and I head over to my parents' house so my dad can visit with the baby for a little while. That boy loves his grandpa and starts acting well-behaved as soon as he sees him. Of course! We stay for a quick dinner and I get A. home to spend some more time with R. before bedtime.
7:30 p.m. — Bath time and bedtime are done, and now we're forced to face Sunday evening chores. R. picked up some more groceries while I was out ($78), and we food prep roasted veggies, chicken, and potatoes for us and Annie's mac and cheese with chopped up peas/carrots for A. I sort and label A.'s daycare snacks, lunch, milk cups, and water cup, and pack his backpack with the things that stay there all week (two sets of clean sheets, a blanket, pacifier, and two sets of clothes) so we don't have to deal with it in the morning. $78
9:30 p.m. — By the time the kitchen is cleaned up, I am toast. R. decides to stay up and watch TV, and I get in bed and scroll around Instagram until I pass out.
Daily Total: $122.67

Day Six

5:30 a.m. — R.'s alarm goes off, and we start the morning routine! I don't get far on my dog walk before R. texts me to let me know A. is up and R.'s a little busy in the bathroom to attend to him. Sorry, pup, your walk is cut short. Breakfast for A. is yogurt, Cheerios, and blueberries. Breakfast for me is two rice cakes with peanut butter and blueberry jam. And coffee, obviously. When R. is out of the shower, we trade places and I get ready for my day. I always have anxiety on Mondays before my week really kicks off. I jot some tasks down on the Notes app on my phone so they don't slip my mind when I get to work.
7:30 a.m. — Kiss the boys goodbye, grab some leftovers for my lunch, and head to work while listening to This American Life. R. texts me to let me know he paid the monthly daycare fee. We'll reimburse this from our childcare FSA account.
1 p.m. — Mondays always just fly by. I eat my lunch at my desk and then go for a quick walk even though it's not nearly as warm as it has been the last few days! When I get back to my desk, I make some green tea and eat peanut butter crackers.
4 p.m. — Emails, meetings, and more emails. I eat a lemon Larabar and drink more green tea.
5 p.m. — Pick up A. at daycare and they let me know he had a great day.
5:45 p.m. — Lots of dog pee on the floor. Darn. We've had a good run. I strap A. in his high chair while I clean up the mess so he doesn't try and “help” me mop it up. Tonight is not bath night, and I'd prefer to keep it that way. He's not exactly thrilled about being contained and is not shy about letting me know.
7 p.m. — I've been trying to get A. to eat more than a few bites of something, anything, for about an hour. There's no way he's not hungry! R. gets home from work and takes over A. duties. They head upstairs to wash up and settle down for bed, and I heat up some leftover chicken and veggies and scarf it down while standing up at the counter. Then I work on unloading all the lunch boxes from the day, cleaning up the kitchen, picking up toys in the living room, and sorting/folding laundry leftover from the weekend. When the baby is asleep, R. heats up leftovers for his own dinner.
9 p.m. — Asleep on the couch again. I start to head to bed when A. wakes up screaming bloody murder. Once in awhile he has these sort of night terrors where he wakes up upset, and it takes him a minute to recognize where he is and who is holding him. It's upsetting to watch! I give him some milk and walk him around for a little while until he falls back asleep in my arms and I put him back down in his crib. I also throw a couple more pacis around the crib for good measure in case he wakes up looking for one later on.
9:30 p.m. — Wash my face, brush my teeth, and I'm asleep by 10.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

5:30 a.m. — Alarm #1. No.
5:45 a.m. — Alarm #2. Fine. I drag myself up and take care of the dog while R. makes coffee. We run through the usual morning routine, but I am lazy and decide to dry shampoo myself today so I end up with about 20 extra minutes to spare! I eat an English muffin with almond butter and then use the few extra minutes to take the dog on another short walk in the hopes she gets it all out. We should really try and get someone to come over and walk her daily.
7:30 a.m. — Drive to work in the rain listening to NPR. The state of the world is depressing.
9 a.m. — Spend my morning trying to find decent airfare to our home state for a trip we're planning over the summer. I have miles to spend on one particular airline, but the options they offer if you're paying with miles instead of dollars are pitiful. So I either connect through three different airports or have a 10-hour layover for a trip that should take five hours tops? Ridiculous. And definitely not happening while traveling with a one-year-old. I contemplate driving instead, but of course that will cut the trip short on either end and will be no less of a hassle with said one-year-old. So frustrated.
11 a.m. — Someone brought in donuts. That helps a little.
1 p.m. — I'd really like to take a walk, but it's pouring. I heat up some leftovers and eat them at my desk while tackling a few spreadsheets. Budgets and numbers in general are just not my thing. I'm trying to learn, though!
4 p.m. — I have an evening meeting I'll take from home tonight, so I take off a little earlier than usual. I get home, let the dog out, and make a tuna salad sandwich with carrots, sprouts, spring mix, and cheddar. R. gets home earlier than usual, too, since he's attending his class remotely. I head up to our home office and get set up for the meeting, but have some time to spare before it begins and end up browsing online for a new bathing suit, since the season is almost upon us! I find one I love on Cupshe, but they're sold out of my size. After Googling around, I find the same suit on Amazon for just a few bucks more. Score! I also find some more socks for A., since his keep disappearing somehow. $41.06
7:30 p.m. — My mom arrives with A. (today was her day to watch him) while I'm in my meeting. When I'm done, I thank my mom and bring A. up for bath time. R. is able to join us briefly during a break from his class, and he kisses A. goodnight. We get through the nighttime routine quickly and I head back downstairs to prep daycare lunch, snacks, and drinks for tomorrow morning. After class is over, R. and I discuss our plans for the summer and what will make the most financial sense for our travels. We come to the conclusion that it makes the most sense to drive, even though it'll cut our vacation time a little short. Even though it's not the desired outcome, I feel good about the decision and relieved that we can check that off our to-do list.
9 p.m. — We pour a glass of wine each from an open bottle in the fridge, and it's lights out by 10.
Daily Total: $41.06
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