A Week In Cleveland, OH, On A Joint $63/Hour Income

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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: a part-time writer working in publishing who makes $33 per hour (around $108,000 per year when combined with her husband's income) and spends some of her money this week on a snow globe.
Occupation: Writer
Industry: Publishing
Age: 38
Location: Cleveland, OH
My Income: $33/hour (~$36,000/year)
My Husband's Income: $30/hour (~$72,000/year)
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,400 (I work part-time — 20 to 30 hours per week.)
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): ~$2,700
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $560
Electric: $106
Gas: $84
Water: $33
Sewer: $45
Child Care Expenses: $85 per day, 1-2 days a week
Internet: $67
Cell Phones: $118 (for both of us)
Netflix: $15
Amazon Prime: $0 (We use my mom's account. Thanks, Mom!)
Piano Lessons: $25 per week (for my seven-year-old daughter)
Dance Lessons: $42 (for my four-year-old daughter)
New York Times Subscription: $15
Charitable Donations: $70
Church Donation: $20 per week
401(k): 30% per paycheck (Our employers match is 5%)
Annual Expenses
Property Taxes: $5,500
Home Insurance: $800
Car Insurance: $840
Health Insurance: $4,300
529 College Fund: $6,000 ($2,000 per daughter. We already have $73,000 saved.)
Washington Post Subscription: $99

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I head downstairs where my husband, T., and our three daughters, M. (age 10), B., (age 7), and L. (age 4) are watching Elf on the Shelf videos on YouTube. Our elf just arrived yesterday.
10:30 a.m. — We head to church where we have to drop B. off at PSR class (that's basically kid's Catholic religion class). I don't usually eat before mass, but today I have a brownie (we baked a bunch last night) and a glass of iced tea lemonade.
12 p.m. — After church, we always eat lunch at Qdoba. We order a burrito bowl, a quesadilla kids meal, chips, and queso. Kids eat free on Sundays, and I have coupons on my Qdoba app. $14.13
1 p.m. — Back at home, T. watches half the Browns game, the girls clean their rooms, and I order $345 in Target gifts cards as Christmas presents because they're 10% off today. $315
2 p.m. — I chat with Apple online about my mother-in-law's iPad. The battery keeps dying and apparently it will cost $100 for a new one. I'll have to stop by the Apple Store after work one day to take care of this in person.
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3 p.m. — T. and I play Twister with the girls for a little bit, and then I clean the second floor of the house. We used to have a pay someone $90 to clean our house every two weeks, but that was before we moved to this 2,300 square-foot home four years ago. Since then, we've been doing a lot of remodeling and it seems silly to have someone clean while projects are ongoing. I've been thinking about having someone back once we're more settled though. My kids are slowly accumulating a layer of dust.
4:15 p.m. — I take a quick break to drink a Sparkling Ice and eat a brownie. Okay, two brownies.
4:45 p.m. — We leave for a Santa Claus event downtown and have dinner at Wahlburgers. I've never been before, so I try the smoked bacon mac 'n cheese. It's pretty disappointing. Someone needs to get Marky Mark to take time from his busy pants-dropping schedule to figure out this soupy pasta. $40
6:40 p.m. — It's finally time to visit Santa. We prepaid for this whole holiday adventure a few weeks ago. I got a discount through a moms' group I belong to, but it was still $131 for the five of us. We've done this for the last several years, and the kids still enjoy it so I suppose it's worth it. They get to privately meet with Santa and talk to him and tell him what they want for Christmas. We have always told them that Santa only gets them one present (the rest of their presents come from us), so whatever they ask for during this visit is their "Santa present."
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7:30 p.m. — When we see Santa, it turns out that we know him. (Santa! I know him!) He is my husband's former high school teacher and a really nice man. So then we have to buy the photos of the girls with him, of course! The kids also pick out some small toys in the gift shop. $32.36
9:30 p.m. — Back at home, the kids are finally asleep and I can crawl into bed myself and relax with a glass of iced tea lemonade and another brownie. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of Michelle Obama's new book from the library, so I read that until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $401.49

Day Two

7 a.m. — Alarm goes off, but I stay in bed. My husband takes M. to band practice. He's also going to take our car in for service. It stalled on me this weekend and I haven't driven it since.
7:40 a.m. — The phone rings. The car stalled again as T. was driving it, so he doesn't think it will make it to the repair shop by his office. He's bringing the car back home and I'm going to be stuck with it. Crap. I call my mom and dad who live 10 minutes away. Luckily, I can borrow my mom's car for the day and my dad can help me get the car to a repair shop up the street from us. Crisis averted.
8:40 a.m. — I get B. on the bus. My dad, L., and I drop off the car and then we hang out with my parents for a while at their house. I hope there's nothing seriously wrong with the car, especially since it's over 10 years old. My mom tells me that she would just buy a new car if it were her. That is definitely something she would do, but I hate being rushed into major financial decisions.
10 a.m. — Back at home, I have to check in with work. I need to do some new writing, process paperwork, and work on some rewrites. Hopefully I can get it all done by the time L. needs to leave for preschool. I have a dentist appointment at noon and I want to leave a little early to pick up some cookies for the folks in the dental office as a Christmas thank you to them for being so good to our family.
11:45 a.m. — We get to preschool, and L. is in tears. I've been so busy all morning I've hardly had a minute for her, but she still goes into class like a champ.
12:10 a.m. — Arrive 10 minutes late for my dentist appointment after stopping to pick up cookies at a bakery on the way. Luckily I have gorgeous teeth, so all is forgiven. $15
1 p.m. — After my cleaning and exam, I grab a handful of Tootsie Rolls from the bowl at the front desk at the dentist's and head home. I work on cleaning up the kitchen and living room and then make lunch — sausage ravioli with olive oil and iced tea lemonade to drink. I also finish my rewrites and send them off to my boss for approval.
2:20 p.m. — I pick up L. from preschool and we stop by McDonald's for a Happy Meal. It works by bringing the promised happiness. $3.97
5 p.m. — M. and B. get off the bus after school. B. has piano lessons, so I help M. and L. with their homework while calling the repair shop to check on the car. Apparently, they need to keep it one more day. Luckily, my mom can loan me her car again tomorrow. Moms are the best.
6:30 p.m. — My husband comes home from work and takes M. to PSR. While he's out, he also stops to get his haircut at Great Clips with a $3 off coupon ($14). (Yeah, it's a cheap haircut, but he looks gorgeous no matter what.) He grabs a few groceries ($14.68) on the way home, too. $28.68
9 p.m. — Once the kids finally go to bed, I take a shower. When I get out, T. is preparing for some training classes he'll be teaching the rest of the week at work. He also mentions that the Santa we saw last night has offered to stop by our house and visit with our kids on Christmas Eve. My heart just grew three sizes.
9:45 p.m. — I realize I didn't eat anything for dinner, so I grab some peanut butter trail mix and an iced tea lemonade to take up to bed with me. I read more about the formative years of Michelle Obama while I crank up my electric blanket, finish my snack, and then nod off to sleep.
Daily Total: $47.65

Day Three

7 a.m. — My alarm rings and I glance over my schedule for the day. It's a bit hectic, since T. has already left for work and I've got to get three kids to three different places and then myself into the office.
8 a.m. — I finally get out of bed and get M. on the bus. I get breakfast for the younger girls and pack a lunch for B. Then, I take a shower while they get dressed for school on their own.
8:45 a.m. — B. gets on the bus and I drop off L. at the babysitter's. She's only watching the kids for five days in December because I'm taking off some time around the holidays, so I write her a check for the whole month today.
9 a.m. — On my way to work, I listen to My Favorite Murder and drink a black raspberry Sparkling Ice. At work, my rewrites from yesterday are partially approved. Yay! But one still needs work. I also see that I have a $10 gift certificate sitting on my desk as a reward for winning a little contest we had last week. Have I mentioned that my job is the best? I spend the morning Googling memes (work-related) and working on new options for the rewrite.
11:40 a.m. — I walk over to the Apple Store to figure out the battery situation on my mother-in-law's iPad. The guy there tells me the battery is garbage and they will replace it for $100, or we can trade this one in for $65 and then upgrade her to a new one. She's 80-years-old and mostly plays Candy Crush, so it's not like she needs the latest and greatest technology, but if we're spending $100 anyway, maybe she wants an iPad that wasn't made in 2013. I tell him I'll talk to her about it.
12 p.m. — I pop into Bath & Body Works to grab some lotions. There's a buy-two-get-one-free deal and the lady at the counter gives me a coupon for some Christmas lotion, too. The four bottles I buy will probably last me two years. $35.64
12:15 p.m. — I need something for lunch, so I head over to Liquid Planet. I get the peanut Thai rice bowl and a mango berry smoothie and then walk back to work. $12.90
1 p.m. — I finally get approval on that rewrite. Huzzah! I spend the rest of the day focusing on paperwork. I even squeeze in a few quick PTA emails to help out another mom at B.'s school.
4:15 p.m. — T. is picking up the girls, but I leave work a bit early so I can meet him to pick up the car from the repair shop. I listen to the Binge Mode: Harry Potter podcast on the way home and get really engrossed in their discussion of "The Tale of the Three Brothers."
5 p.m. — T. and I meet at the repair shop. Apparently, they were able to clean out a bunch of stuff inside the car's engine, and it's starting much better now. I tell T. we should probably start researching new car options so we don't wind up in a situation where we're forced to buy a new car if this one dies on us. He agrees because, after 15 years of marriage, he knows I'm always right. $150.15
5:30 p.m. — We get gas in our car ($20) and my mom's car ($25.97) and then return her car to her house. $45.97
6:30 p.m. — We drop off B. at Girl Scouts, where she will earn her science badge. At home, I make pierogies and broccoli for dinner. T. and I debrief about the day and he calls his mom to ask what she wants to do about the iPad. She's fine with just keeping the old model and upgrading the battery.
9 p.m. — With the kids finally in bed, I relax with my iced tea lemonade. T. and I watch Merry Kissmas on Netflix. It's unspeakably idiotic. I go to sleep very happy.
Daily Total: $244.66

Day Four

7 a.m. — T. doesn't have work today, so he takes M. to band practice in the morning and I get the younger girls ready for the day.
8:40 a.m. — B. gets on her bus and then I get dressed. L. has her first dance class today, so she wears an old pink leotard we have in our costume trunk.
10:30 a.m. — L. crushes her dance class, so we sign her up for weekly lessons. It's $42 per month (which is now part of our regular expenses) but there's also a $20 registration fee. $20
10:45 a.m. — We run to the grocery store to buy a gift card ($10) and a book of stamps ($10) for the giving tree at church. We also need a snack for L.'s preschool class. This week they are learning about the letter G, so we pick up gingerbread people ($6.57). T. buys three more books of stamps ($30) for home, too. $56.57
11 a.m. — We run over to McDonald's for a quick lunch and use some coupons. T. and I both get Big Macs and split large fries. L. gets a Happy Meal. $12.07
11:50 a.m. — We eat quickly and then drop off L. at school. On the way home, we fill up the gas tank in our car. $19.63
12:30 p.m. — At home, we order groceries online. Aside from meeting my husband and bringing home my children, online grocery shopping is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I hate shopping in stores. We spend about 15 minutes online selecting a whole cartload of food for breakfasts, school lunches, and dinners, and then we're done. We'll pick up everything in a few hours.
1 p.m. — We decided a few weeks back to get a landline at home so our daughters would have a phone in the house if they needed to call us. It increased our internet bill from $65 to $68 per month, so it was a cheaper option than a third cell phone, which we also considered. The phone modem has arrived in the mail, and I'm installing it myself to avoid the $75 installation fee. I run into an issue and have to call tech support. The guy on the phone is super nice and accidentally lowers our bill to $67 a month, but it turns out we do need a coaxial cable splitter.
1:30 p.m. — T. and I drive to the nearest cable company store and pick up a splitter kit. (It's free.) In the car, we discuss the stock market, a potential recession, and property taxes. The romance never ends! We pick up L. from preschool on our way home.
2:30 p.m. — Back at home, I hook up the splitter for the landline. It works! We've officially arrived in 1987. I open a bunch of delivery packages that have been piling up, including some snow tubes I bought for our post-Christmas getaway. We are surprising the kids with a weekend trip to a lodge in an Ohio state park. We used credit card points to pay for our hotel, so it technically didn't cost us anything.
3 p.m. — I also open an HDMI cable I ordered from Amazon. Now I can hook up our new Blu-ray player from Target I got on Black Friday for $65.
4:30 p.m. — I pick up the groceries. $172.21
5 p.m. — I put away the groceries while the kids work on homework and play Wii games. Eventually, I make some Hamburger Helper with a "twist" (per the box) by throwing in some vegetables. It's pretty good.
8 p.m. — Kids go to bed early tonight, and I help T. sort a mountain of laundry while we listen to his Morning Joe podcast.
8:30 p.m. — T. gets ready for his class tomorrow while I prepare for work by checking emails and starting some more writing. When I'm too tired, I put away my laptop and drift off to sleep.
Daily Total: $280.48

Day Five

8 a.m. — I get out of bed, put the girls on their buses, get myself ready for work, and drive L. to the babysitter's house.
10 a.m. — At work, I duck into a meeting late. Oops. Afterwards, I drink a cherry lime Sparkling Ice and look over the writing I did last night to see if there's anything I can turn in today.
12 p.m. — I run out to grab a Cuban sandwich with a side of tater tots for lunch. I've never had a Cuban before, and it's pretty tasty. I eat at my desk while I polish up my writing. $7.78
1 p.m. — The rest of the afternoon is spent bouncing from meeting to meeting. Everyone has been so great since I moved from full-time to part-time work five years ago. I am really lucky to have coworkers who make balancing work and life a little bit easier.
4 p.m. — I book it out of work and head back to the Apple Store. The Genius Bar guy tells me the iPad battery's maximum capacity is 8%, and that this was probably caused by a malfunctioning battery. Unfortunately, I still have to pay $100 plus tax to replace it because my octogenarian mother-in-law didn't realize that the battery capacity was failing and therefore didn't bring it in within the warranty period. I make a mental note to complain to Apple later. $106.92
5 p.m. — Back at home, T. and I chat about our days while the kids do their thing. His classes are going very well. I wrote some pretty okay stuff today. I warm up leftover Hamburger Helper for dinner for those who want it.
8 p.m. — I glance at my phone and notice that some of the ladies from my moms' club are talking about our annual holiday dinner tonight. I have it on the calendar for tomorrow night. Crap. It started at 7 p.m. and now I'm in my pajamas eating Hamburger Helper, which is annoying, since I prepaid $20 to attend. T. tells me to go anyway, but I'm already in pajama mode.
9 p.m. — The children are nestled all snug in their beds and I get T. to help me look over their Christmas lists. I'm unsure if I'm spending too much — about $175 to $200 per child. I have an Excel spreadsheet of every gift I buy for Christmas, which tells me I'm on track to spend about $1,200 on Christmas presents this year for everyone — kids, family, friends, teachers, etc. We're buying for almost 30 people. T. and I usually don't exchange gifts because we don't really need anything.
9:30 p.m. — I end up ordering my daughters' "Santa presents" on Amazon. I get some headphones for M., a snow globe for B., and some Disney Doorables for L. I add a few more presents to the order, too. $126.73
10 p.m. — I sip on a can of Sparkling Ice and catch up on a little work before drifting off to dreamland myself.
Daily Total: $241.43

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — T. has to leave for work early today, so I have to take M. to band practice. I get all three girls in the car and we head towards school.
8 a.m. — Back at home, B. gets ready for school. L. and I will probably lounge around in pajamas today, since she doesn't have preschool and I don't need to head into the office.
10:30 a.m. — I spend some time updating our Mint account and see that our net worth is over $900,000. I keep hoping it will cross the $1 million mark, because it seems like it would feel neat to be millionaires. I assume it's the same feeling Scrooge McDuck gets when he swims in that room full of gold coins.
11 a.m. — L. keeps asking to go to McDonald's, but I put her off because I just bought a fridge full of fabulous groceries. I end up getting her to eat some yogurt instead. Afterwards, I take a shower and get dressed for the day — if you call a fluffy sweater and leggings dressed.
12:30 p.m. — A friend from my moms' club stops over to drop off a stack of donations for a charity event I am planning. I secretly love organizing fundraiser events and this one is shaping up pretty decently. We've already had local businesses donate some hotel stays and theater tickets and gift cards. Cleveland is very generous.
1:30 p.m. — I realize I haven't eaten anything yet, so I grab a bunch of walnuts and a Sparkling Ice. (Yes, I recognize I'm a terrible eater.) L. asks me to play carnival and beauty salon with her, so we do that for a while, too.
2:30 p.m. — I need to tackle some actual work, so I take out my laptop and start on that.
4 p.m. — The girls get off the bus and T. gets home from work soon after. We all get ready to head out for my niece's 16th birthday dinner. I grab a birthday card from my greeting card stash and we stop and buy a gift card on the way to dinner. $40
5:30 p.m. — At dinner, I order a flatbread B.L.T. and my brother-in-law pays for all of us in honor of his daughter, the birthday girl.
7 p.m. — We head home and the girls decide to have a sleepover in M.'s room. All is calm and I'm able to finish up some work stuff with my laptop before bed.
Daily Total: $40

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Saturday mornings are for lying in bed, but the girls are up and wandering about. My sister-in-law and I have decided to take our kids to see Ralph Breaks the Internet this morning, so I'll need to get up at some point.
11:30 a.m. — We leave the house a little early to buy eight boxes of movie candy ($8.29). I have a voucher for a free movie ticket and then I buy three more for the girls at the theater ($22.50). My sister-in-law and nephew get their own tickets. I buy a large popcorn with a free refill for all of us to share ($8.37). I drink a Sparkling Ice and eat Milk Duds and popcorn for my breakfast/lunch combo. $39.16
2:30 p.m. — After the movie (which is super cute), we head home and the girls help me do some online Christmas shopping. We are exchanging gifts with the kids who live next door, so we pick out some presents on the Target website. $50.62
3 p.m. — I order some more gift cards on Amazon as Christmas gifts. I also notice that I am so very close to finishing my Christmas shopping spreadsheet. Powers of organization don't fail me now! $75
6 p.m. — The girls and I watch a couple episodes of Doctor Who because we all love the new lady Doctor. T. gets home from work and I make pierogies and veggies for dinner.
7 p.m. — After dinner, T. reads over my diary entries and has lots of suggestions for improving them. I tell him I'll take them under advisement. Once the girls go to bed, we watch The Holiday Calendar on Netflix and I drink yet another Sparkling Ice. The movie is much better than expected, which is always the ideal way to end a day.
Daily Total: $164.78
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