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A Week In Huntsville, AL On A $321,000 Joint 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.

This week: a program manager who makes $179,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a walking pad.
Occupation: Program manager
Industry: Manufacturing
Age: 33
Location: Huntsville, AL
Salary: The annual salary of $321,000 is joint between myself and my husband, T. My salary alone is $179,000.
Assets: Primary residence: $260,000 value ($201,000 mortgage). Future home under construction: $280,000 value ($151,000 mortgage). Car one: $19,000 value ($9,000 loan). Car two: $31,000 value ($35,000 loan). 401(k)s: $352,000. Other stocks and crypto: $96,000. Cash savings: $43,000. My husband and I have separate bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages and car loans, but strategize and track our finances jointly.
Debt: $14,000 in liabilities to contractors on the house project; $2,000 on a no-interest credit card.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $7,973
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: Primary residence: $1,132; future home: $1,545
Monthly Loan Payments: Car one: $380; car two: $880
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Gym: $250
Tennis Club: $167
Online Yoga: $30
Apple Fitness: $10
Netflix: $17
NY Times: $13
Spotify: $12
Utilities: $240
Internet & Cell Phone: $175
Car & Umbrella Insurance: $162
Investments: $350
Savings: $1,275
Biweekly Expenses:
Maid Service: $120
Health Insurance & FSA: $472
Life & Disability Insurance: $73
401(k)s: $1,383
Company Stock Purchase Plan: $310
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?
Yes. I went to a private high school that emphasized college prep. I was never presented with any options other than going to college after high school. Both my husband and I have PhDs in engineering. He attended college 80% funded on a scholarship, his parents paid his housing costs, and he graduated with no student loans. About 70% of my undergraduate was paid for with a scholarship and I used loans to cover some of my living expenses. I graduated with $35,000 in student loans. Both of our PhDs were funded by research grants.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents taught me how to budget, but never discussed their income, bills, or investing.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked the front desk at a dry cleaners in high school to earn extra spending money and become more independent from my parents.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, my parents always provided what I needed. However, I was very aware that I was one of the poorest kids at my private high school.
Do you worry about money now?
I wouldn’t say I worry about money. However, my husband and I often talk about strategies to increase our net worth and create generational wealth.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially independent the summer after my freshman year of college because I worked a pretty high-paying internship. My parents still helped out here and there, but I didn’t ask for help often.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I did not. My husband inherited about $40,000 from his grandmother in college and used that money to pay for whatever scholarships didn’t cover. He used the leftover money towards a down payment on a house and he helped me pay off the rest of my student loans.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — T. makes us Americanos and brings them to bed. We spend a long time just hanging out and talking in bed. I love a lazy weekend morning and we think this might be our last lazy weekend morning just the two of us, because I’m 39 weeks pregnant.
9 a.m. — T. eats a granola bar and a banana then jets out the door to go work on our project house. After he leaves, I make myself an egg sandwich with an avocado on the side and a glass of homemade juice — a copycat of Whole Foods’ Mommy Boost.
10 a.m. — I pick up my mom to run errands. We get two knives sharpened ($10), buy chicken feed ($17.25), and go to Costco for batteries and shredded cheese ($30.38). Then we have lunch at a local coffee house. We both order açaí bowls, mom has a plain latte and I order a turmeric almond milk latte ($46.69). When we get home, my mom wants to buy me a baby gift so we log into my baby registry and use my 15% off one-time registry discount to buy the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair. I tack onto the order the Stokke Tripp Trapp newborn set and three glass baby bottles to take advantage of the discount (this was $457.16 originally, and $135.61 after a gift card deduction and contribution from my mum). The foldable walking pad that Instagram influenced me to buy has been delivered so I set it up under my standing desk ($329). $568.93
12 p.m. — T. plays a tennis match at our public tennis courts. $8
2 p.m. — T. comes home from tennis and eats a late lunch of leftovers from a new Italian spot in town we tried out last night. When he leaves to go work on our house project, I cut the grass then go to Whole Foods for eggs and oranges. $14.23
8 p.m. — T. is finally home. We reheat leftover coconut chicken and tofu and rice for dinner, watch Masters of the Air on Apple TV then head to bed.
Daily Total: $591.16

Day Two

8 a.m. — T. and I wake up and head out to a local bagel shop for coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and bread to take home for the next week. T. drops me off at home and goes to work on our project house. $62.92
12 p.m. — I log onto my work computer to complete required corporate training (that will lapse during my maternity leave) while walking on my new walking pad. I take a break in the middle to have a blueberry bagel with low-fat cottage cheese, a peach, and coconut water.
2 p.m. — I head over to our project house to see T. On the way, I stop at Whole Foods to get him a late lunch from the hot bar and some chocolate chip cookies for us to share ($19). Then I head to Ulta to spend a gift card that T. bought me with his credit card points. I stock up on products, including Tarte lash primer and mascara, Dune facial moisturizer and sunscreen, body polish, facial spray, toner, hairbands, and a hair brush ($185.24, covered by a $200 gift card). I then pop across the street to Whole Foods to get cream cheese for the bagels we bought this morning, low-fat cottage cheese, and some Kerrygold butter because it’s on sale ($16.84). $35.84
7 p.m. — T. gets home and we roast carrots and lamb chops for dinner while watching Break Point on Netflix — I really miss playing tennis and I’m sure I will be very anxious to get back on the court after I have my baby. We hang out after dinner then go to bed around 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $98.76

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I get up to get ready for my OB appointment, have a cup of coffee and a blueberry bagel with whipped cream cheese, then head off to the doctor with T. Monday mornings are slow at my OB’s office, so we are done in about a half hour. My blood pressure is still perfect (yay!) and at 39w+5d my OB says that if the baby does not come by next Monday, we will discuss options to induce labor. I make another appointment for next Monday morning. We’re home before 9:30 a.m.
9:30 a.m. — I share with T. that I’m nervous the baby won’t come naturally. He spends some time comforting me, then we make a plan for him to come home from work early to help me relax. I’ve been feeling stressed and my doctor told me that I need to reduce that as much as possible for the baby to come naturally. T. leaves for work around 10 a.m. and I log on to catch up on emails and do more training modules while walking.
12 p.m. — I’m getting hungry but T. wants to take me out for a late lunch, so I make a snack of grapefruit juice and a cut apple with peanut butter. I then log back onto work but there isn’t much for me to do. I am so lucky that my job has been very flexible with my work situation, allowing me to work from home more as my pregnancy progressed. I honestly don’t have much to do at work at this point, because I have spent the past month transitioning all my responsibilities to my backup. I plan to take 12 weeks of maternity leave starting the day I deliver.
2 p.m. — T. gets home to take me to lunch at our local salad shop. I order a salad with kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken, and hummus, plus a lavender kombucha on tap. T. also has a kale salad but with rice, sweet potatoes, goat’s cheese, and chicken. We both have 3 p.m. meetings, so we make lunch quick to get back home in time. $43.97
4 p.m. — I want to get out of the house so T. and I head out for aimless shopping — this definitely reduces my stress. We get a bird feeder at Wildbirds Unlimited to replace a much lower quality one I bought at home depot about two years ago ($43.59), I buy honey for energy during labor and brewer’s yeast for after the baby is here at our local natural food store ($23.79). After that we go to the outdoor mall where I get my color analyzed at Sephora and color-matched with the House Lab foundation. They don’t have my color (145) in stock so I don’t purchase anything. We then stop at Lush next door where we buy some relaxing scented bath bombs and a shampoo for T.’s chronically dry scalp ($62.68). $130.06
7 p.m. — When we get home from our shopping we realize we don’t have food for dinner, so we head out to Whole Foods together where we buy two grass-fed steaks, a sweet potato, and bok choy. T. cooks the steak and sweet potato and we save the bok choy to make with chicken tomorrow. We eat while we watch David Chang’s Dinner Time Live and are in bed by 10 p.m. I listen to a hypno-therapy recording and we are asleep by 11 p.m. $41.45
Daily Total: $215.48

Day Four

8:45 a.m. — We oversleep by a lot today. We have been waking up with no alarm around 7:30 a.m., but I suppose we both needed some extra sleep today. We jump out of bed and get ready for the day. T. heads off to work and I’m signed on to my email by 9 a.m. While I catch up on email, I eat a poppy bagel with whipped cream cheese. I also help my backup with some of my routine tasks like preparing reports for management and I write a schedule for a proposal I expect to be kicked off while I’m on maternity leave.
11 a.m. — There’s a break in the rain storm, so I head out to vote in my district’s runoff election for state representative. The polling volunteer tells me that I’m the 80th person to vote at this polling location today and there are around 5,000 registered voters in the precinct. I think the pro-choice candidate actually has a chance in this deep red area because she campaigned hard. I’m home before 11:30 a.m. and eat a lunch of leftover salad from yesterday with some salmon on top. I call into a meeting at 12 p.m., reply to a few more emails, then take a bath. T. has a meatball calzone from a local Italian place near his office. $9.06
3 p.m. — I eat a low-fat yogurt bowl with blueberries, strawberries, granola, and chocolate chips. I have a strong sweet tooth and am always working to manage it with healthy-ish treats like this. Then I take a bath. After my bath, I log on to finish out my work day. I realize that I haven’t had any coffee today so I make myself an iced latte with almond milk and sit outside watching the birds eat out of our upgraded bird feeder.
7 p.m. — T. and I cook dinner together — roasted chicken with bok choy — while watching a show about Americans running a home renovation in Tuscany. We’re in bed around 9:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $9.06

Day Five

8 a.m. — Today is baby’s due date! I didn’t sleep well last night so I sleep in. T brings his laptop to bed to work while we cuddle and I sleep. While I’m sleeping he buys plumbing supplies online for the plumbing rough inspection coming up at our project house. $108.84
9:30 a.m. — I finally get up and out of bed. T. and I go for a walk at the park down the road from our house. When we get home it’s time for lunch. T. has a leftover burger with roasted carrots. I have a salad with leftover steak, tomatoes, peppers, and blue cheese.
12 p.m. — T. leaves to go to work for a few hours. I rest more and try out my breast pump for the first time because I read it can help kickstart labor — fingers crossed because I do not want to be induced!
4 p.m. — T. picks me up for a short local hike. I feel enormous and am ready to get this baby out! We hike about a mile and a half and I’m exhausted by the end. On the way home, we stop at Fresh Market to buy fruit and end up leaving the store with chickpea pasta, pasta sauce, a baguette, and chocolate-covered blueberries as well as grapes, strawberries, and fresh blueberries. When we get home, T. makes the chickpea pasta with leftover chicken and I have the chocolate blueberries for dessert. We watch one episode of David Chang’s Dinner Time Live and I’m in bed by 9 p.m. $80.47
Daily Total: $189.31

Day Six

3 a.m. — I wake up with terrible pain in my lower back thinking this could be it, but I’m not completely sure. I hang out in bed for a few hours trying to sleep. Around 5 a.m., I get up to make a hearty breakfast — three fried eggs, avocado, and toast. I continue to hurt all day, staying in bed mostly, and start throwing up around 11 a.m. T. is home with me this whole time, being very supportive.
12 p.m. — At this point, I’m hurting bad, but it was all in my back and hips, nothing in my tummy area, so I call my doctor to find out if I can come into the office to get checked. She agrees, so T. packs everything on my hospital list then drives me in around 1 p.m. I puke on the way there and am a complete mess. She tells me I am 2cm dilated and to go for a walk then come back in two hours. I truly don’t see how walking at this point would be enjoyable or even possible, as the intensity was escalating. T. takes me home and I do the Miles Circuit exercises — a series of resting positions and movement (including walking) to help baby get into a good position for delivery — to the best of my ability.
4 p.m. — We return to my OB’s office for another check. I am 7cm dilated so we go straight to the hospital. I am admitted immediately because my doctor has called ahead to let them know my status and that I am on the way. Our beautiful baby girl is in my arms by 9:30 p.m.!
10:30 p.m. — T., baby and I make it to our recovery room and T. texts my mom to ask her to bring us burgers. My mom goes to the only place in town that stays open that late. However, she gets there just after their kitchen has closed. She explains the situation to their wait staff and they agree to whip us up two cheeseburgers with fries on the house. I’m only able to eat about a third of my burger and I stay up the rest of the night just talking with T. and holding our new baby!
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I stay in the hospital all day and the timing of everything is quite a blur. Baby and I both have nurse check-ins every three hours all day, which makes it very difficult to get any sleep. My OB pays me a visit and says I’m doing just fine, and the hospital’s baby doctor checks in on us, as did a lactation consultant. We order our “gourmet” meal from the hospital for lunch, which is steak, potatoes, and green beans that taste like they’re from a can. This is the most edible food we’re served our entire stay. It amazes me that hospital food is so bad. How are people expected to adequately recover when the food is almost inedible and frankly unhealthy? By the end of the day, T. and I are both anxious to be discharged the next day. We have already met our health insurance deductible for the year, so we just have to pay the hospital copay, which is $250 per day and will be paid for out of our FSA account.
Daily Total: $0

The Breakdown

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