A Week In Prince George’s County, MD, On A $121,000 Salary

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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 project manager who makes $121,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on blue crabs.
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Occupation: Project Manager
Industry: US Government
Age: 43
Location: Prince George's County, MD
Salary: $121,000 (my husband is a full-time parent — so just my income)
Net Worth: $98,800 (Savings + money market account + stocks + 401(k): $256,800. Mortgage is $158,000 and we have no other debt.)
Debt: $158,000 mortgage (We have no student loans since we paid off the remaining balance with cash from our savings four years ago.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,170
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,458
Extra Mortgage Principal Payment: $470
House Interest, Taxes, Insurance: $984
Car: $0 (Paid for in cash. Bought it used.)
Peleton App: $14
Homeschool Tutoring: $300 every 12 weeks
4-H Club Dues: $10 annual fee
Electricity: $300 (less in the winter)
Water: $60 (billed quarterly)
Gas: $25 (inverse relationship — gas goes up in winter for our heating needs)
Donations: $20
Pool Membership: $600 annually
Car Insurance: $1,100 annually
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, it was expected I go to college. However, it was never clear what I would do with a college degree or how I would manage the debt. I graduated from an all woman's college in 1999 and joined the Peace Corps. I finished an online Degree in Public Administration (with honors!) in 2013 while working full time. My agency covered 2/3 ($7,000) of the cost as business credits were required for my position. I covered 1/3 ($3,000) of the total cost. It took me three years, but I finished the degree as a working adult and walked away with no debt. I am currently pursuing my PMP level II certificate at no cost through the federal certification program.
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Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Zero. My family was '80s rich — big house, flashy cars, big vacation. All on a mountain of debt that crashed in the 87/88 recession. My parents lost everything — house, cars, all of it. My older sister had to drop out of college for a time because she missed the student loan deadlines and my dad couldn't pay her tuition. My dad moved us to rural MA from a cosmopolitan DC suburb. It dramatically changed my life at the age of 13. My dad then left the family, so it was just my mom, my older brother, and I barely getting by. That level of poverty scared me. I worked several jobs and crawled my way to the steady point my family is in today. I want my son to have some struggle to build resilience, but not at that traumatic level. We openly talk finances with him — he knows our mortgage rate, our monthly budget, and how much things cost. I do not have a college account for him — he has a general savings account. That is money he can use to go to trade school, travel, start a business, buy tools/truck, or go to college. I want him to have the freedom of choice that I was rarely granted.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I bussed tables from age 14 until I went off to college. I worked Friday nights and doubles on Saturdays and Sundays. I would occasionally work a weekday, but I played sports so going into clean tables after practicing was tough. I was able to put $5,000 down on my first year of college through four years of savings. My first job after college was as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It was the toughest job I ever loved. It made me the woman I am today. I am a public servant because I began my career in service to my country and my host nation.
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Did you worry about money growing up?
All. The. Time. When my brother left for college after two years at community college, I had to start helping with the rent/groceries. In college I was on scholarship plus loans. I didn't do spring break trips or summers at home — I was a live in nanny for families or crashed on friend's sofas. Thankfully the readjustment allowance from the Peace Corps helped me grow a savings account, pay a deposit to rent a room in a group house, and set up my life. I always lived within my means, because I have seen what happens when you put your life on finance.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I worry about being sandwiched with aging parents and a growing child — all demanding my attention and money. I worry that we won't have enough for retirement. I worry what will happen to my family if something happens to me.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
About 16. I had to help with the rent and groceries. In college, my mom moved me in freshman year and then never again. I had to figure it out on my own. I always worked several jobs so I could have a bit of a savings buffer.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
LOL, no.

Day One

8 a.m. — Wake up on Saturday. I go on a Peleton walking workout outside with the app. I recently tore my meniscus, so I am getting back into working out. Husband mows the lawn, I help clean the house. I try out these new Swiffer pads with the cleaner built in (moms, this thing is amazing). Then the family gathers for lunch, which is pretty basic with sandwiches.
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1 p.m. — After lunch, I realize my kid, Y., has grown a size. I put in an online Target order for new shoes, a two-pack of kid sweatpants, and a cat toy ($48). While I'm at it, I put in an order of bread (rye, sourdough, English muffins, hamburger rolls, brioche ($32)) for delivery this week from a local bakery. I start the mountain of laundry — I wash/dry and husband folds/puts away. $80
5:30 p.m. — Dinner is mac and cheese with spinach salad. We watch Honey I Shrunk The Kids with the kiddo and then he is off to bed by 7:15 after books, teeth brushing, and lots of good night kisses. I play Animal Crossing and text my neighbors to sell turnips. In real life (not Animal Crossing), a neighbor is looking for robot building supplies, so I get up and leave egg cartons on our porch for pick up. We head to bed around 11.
Daily Total: $80

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Breakfast for the kid is Cheerios and fruit and I make eggs and toast for myself. Y. has a struggle with behavior (being 6 is hard y'all — breaking those baby behaviors all while the big boy feels are coming in). I pull out a new book about manners and character. We read and talk about how hard it is to grow up.
10:30 a.m. — We have a pool reservation that starts at 11, so we mask up and go! We stay for a while and Y. has a great time. We eat lunch at a picnic table far away from everybody else and then head home. I body shower when we get home and take a minute to snag my son a spot in homeschool tutoring for the fall.

1 p.m. — Y. and my husband play outside — having a yard has been a lifeline of sanity as we stay at home. Around 3, I put Y. down for a nap and then watch 90 Day Fiancé.
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4 p.m. — I go upstairs and see my husband is smoking ribs with Carolina mop sauce. I help make some sides and then we sit down to dinner. Sweet potatoes, spinach salad, spicy ribs — yum! After dinner we call my mother-in-law for our weekly video chat. Her sister has COVID coupled with major health issues. SIGH, please wear a mask. We get Y. in bed and read Indian In The Cupboard until he falls asleep.

7:30 p.m. — Sunday scaries set in. Another week working at home sinks in, sigh. I open up Animal Crossing — ohhhhh fireworks! Whoops I forgot to buy turnips. I collect some shells and hand the Switch off to my husband as 90 Day Fiancé starts. Team Kalani!

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

5:40 a.m. — I wake up, thrown on my swimsuit and head to the pool for an early morning swim. I deeply enjoy my blissful alone quiet time. I get back home by 6:50. I get dressed, fix breakfast, get the kid up, and feed him. I start work computer at 7:15 and hand Y. over to husband.
9 a.m. — Interruption #1 of the day by the kid — I am short with him and immediately feel guilty. I take a breath, make more tea, an egg, and toast and then sit with him and apologize. My husband finishes up a call and takes Y. to the pool.

12 p.m. — Lunchtime call, so I grab goldfish, M&M, and pistachios (balance). I have calls from 12-5 with various departments.

5 p.m. — I finish up my calls and emails right as Y. gets home. I close my laptop, refill our bird feeders, pick some oregano and few tomatoes. Then I play with Y. and the cat while my husband cooks dinner. Our chatty hungry kiddo chats, chats, chats for a good 20 minutes nonstop. He's now pretending to renovate our house. Pretend power tools are being revved and everything. Dinner is chicken with tomatoes/herbs and a spinach salad. After dinner, the faux renovation continues.

7 p.m. — I get Y. in bed and we read more Indian In The Cupboard. Such a great book about growing up, empathy, and humanity. Plus, a magic key.
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8 p.m. — I livestream a yoga class. I miss going in person and seeing everybody. I'm a bit frustrated my knee holds me back. (Prepaid for the month $48 for once a week class for August). After yoga I turn on Below Deck. What is up with Hannah? And Captain Sandy? So much drama! Can we get back to power women being BOSS? I head to bed about 10:45. I realize I forgot to shower today. Whoops.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

5:40 a.m. — Alarm goes off. Not today. Back to bed until 6:45. I get up and make the kid and myself breakfast and then start work. It's meeting day, so I put on contacts and makeup.
9 a.m. — I login to the all-hands weekly meeting. Of course, during my presentation, my kid breaks the handle off the kitchen sink and screams “daaaaaad” as water rushes everywhere. I power through and finish up my piece as my boss says “you need to go?” FML. I hate being at home like this. I get onto 10 a.m. call with federal team then a 10:30 call with my team. My husband brings Y. on a Costco run, bless him. I login to another meeting.

1 p.m. — The Costco damage is $149.90 plus $25.17 for gas. It's a big haul because we are going on a beach vacation next week (staying away from restaurants and stores). He got waffles, ramen, eggs, butter, spinach, lemons, strawberries, blueberries, pork loin, steaks, lunch meat, sliced cheese, bread, tortilla, block-o-cheese, Coke Zero. He also went to a grocery store for regular non-Costco sized foods and got fresh cilantro, dried spices, croissants, taco shells, chips, crackers, sour cream, juice boxes, oil, La Croix ($56.20). $231.27

4:45 p.m. — Hang up my last meeting and close my laptop. I head to living room to mom. I'm really missing my commute time as a buffer between work and home. Leftovers for dinner and then we head to the pool with freshly washed (please wash your masks!) masks. We pool it up for 50 minutes then head home for bedtime routine. My husband hangs up wet towels/suits on the drying rack.
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7:30 p.m. — The kid is in bed! I drink a glass of wine and play Animal Crossing with my neighbors. I put on some more Below Deck. Holy moly. Team Malia! Well, let's be honest. Team Kiko. Bed by 10:30.

Daily Total: $231.27

Day Five

5:40 a.m. — Alarm goes off. I look outside and see it's pouring. Nope. Back to bed. I sleep in until 8 — it's my birthday and I took a day of annual leave! My husband and son greet me with homemade cards, homemade paper airplanes (ahhhh, 6 year olds), a new succulent plant in a teal planter, and fresh flowers. Be still my heart. Also a croissant egg bake with fresh strawberries.
11 a.m. — We get in the car and head out to Annapolis for crabs. It's brutally hot but we mask up and sit outside. I get a margarita, husband gets a hoppy local beer (DC Atlas), and the kiddo gets a pink lemonade. We get a dozen medium MD blue crabs, shrimps, and hush puppies. Kiddo gets a hot dog and fries. It's just amazing. After roasting on the deck outside, we mask up and head home. Kiddo goes for a rest and I take a nap as well. $121
5 p.m. — I realize we are going to the beach next week and both of my swimsuits are super old. Birthday treat to myself time — I buy a one-piece and a two-piece on Lands' End for $137. Dinner is grilled steak (grilled as it was pouring rain), chimichurri sauce, fingerling potatoes, and homemade blueberry pie. My husband is the greatest. It is the most relaxed we have all been in ages. The boy has been so well behaved all day. He goes to bed at 7:30. My husband and I spend the evening chatting and finishing the wine. I am so grateful for this life we have together. He is my best friend and together we created a great (albeit exhausting) kiddo. $137
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Daily Total: $258

Day Six

5:40 a.m. — Yup swim time! It is dark and peaceful. Just me and a few others. When I get home, I make the kiddo breakfast and get ready for my busy workday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are just brutal. Emails and then back to back calls until noon.
12 p.m. — Lunch is a turkey and cheese sandwich. While I eat, I set up our son's home school portfolio (our second year as homeschoolers) for the county review — I write a quick bio, his learning goals, book lists, and YouTube channels (shout out to Jack Hartmann and Practical Engineering). I add a few pictures from recent hikes (yes, that counts as gym!) into our drive for his portfolio.

1 p.m. — More meetings from 1 until nearly 5. Lots of emailing. My kiddo has been so great today — very few interruptions as I work. He and dad are working on a play hut out back.

5 p.m. — Quitting time! No pool reservation for tonight, so we hang out as a family. The kiddo plays with his Legos and has a bath. Mom and dad get into some adult conversation. Tonight is Bunco league night! I was on deck to hostess in May when COVID hit. One of our players figured out how to host online via zoom and breakout rooms as the tables. We each have a score card and dice (or a dice app). I love my Bunco ladies — great mix of retirees, young moms, singles, no kids. I miss it in person, but at least we can all see each other and laugh like old times. We wrap up about 10:30. Just seeing folks again makes me so happy. We used to play for actual prizes, but now we pay for money. I send in $6. Head to bed at 11 ready for Friday! $6

Daily Total: $6
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Day Seven

5:40 a.m. — Yup, pool time. It is much needed alone, kid-free, guilt-free, screen-free time. Get home and make breakfast and tea. Friday means a lot fewer video meetings, but a lot of emails to follow up on. I usually block time off for back burner topics or circling back on unanswered issues.
9 a.m. — A HUGE groundhog is in the backyard — he's really big and entertaining to watch. My husband takes the kiddo to a local park to meet up with another homeschool family. Our kids adore each other.
1 p.m. — I meet with my deputy and then spend the rest of the afternoon working on communications issues and pushing products through the approval chain of command. I message with a few contractors on our team that I miss terribly.
4 p.m. — I am off for the weekend! Woot! Kiddo is resting and I pick up my kindle to read for a bit. We have a dinner of egg sandwiches and salad. Head out (masks on, Maryland!) to the pool reservation. It is a bit cloudy and chilly, but we get some water time in. Kiddo is exhausted and struggling to behave. We head home and read books befor bedtime at 7:30. I hop on the Switch for an evening of Animal Crossing with the neighbors — and the husbands have guys' night on Zoom playing games too. Finish up the wine and reflect on the week. It was a great week, especially with our son starting to get his feet solid in some coping skills. Start watching Selling Sunset. ohhhhh, this looks GOOD. We head up to bed about 11:30.
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Daily Total: $0
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