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A Week In St. Louis, MO, On A $188,000 Joint Income

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 receptionist who has a joint income of $180,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on outdoor chairs.
This is a follow-up diary. You can read the original diary here.
Occupation: Receptionist
Industry: Veterinary
Age: 30
Location: St. Louis, MO
My Salary: I make $18.50/hour and work ~30-35 hours/week (~$28,000)
My Husband's Salary: $115,000 with a $45,000/year bonus
Net Worth: ~$4.23 million ($110,000 in a personal high-interest savings account (this will change significantly by the end of this week!), $25,000 in another savings account connected to my husband's trust (we get $80,000/year paid into this account from the trust fund automatically. We have it set to invest $1,000/week but will invest lump sums as needed to keep the balance down.), $50,000 in my 403(b), $122,000 in my husband's 401(k), $5,550 in HSA, $13,000 in my personal investment account, our house is worth ~$500,000, $3.7 million in husband's trust fund (invested in various ways and managed by an executor. This varies based on the market and it's low right now.) minus our mortgage. My husband and I have totally combined finances.)
Debt: ~$295,000 mortgage
Joint Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,748
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage: $2,500 (This is about $500 more than we actually need to pay, but we'd like to pay off the house a little early. Also includes our home insurance payment.)
Car Insurance: $183.80 for both cars
Utilities: $200-$350 depending on the season
Spotify/Hulu: $23
HBOMax/Netflix/Disney+: $0 (we use a friend and family's accounts)
Internet: $62.22
Donations: $150/month to local abortion fund, $150/month to local food bank, $150/month to local animal shelter. We also donate ~$1,500/year to random GoFundMes for people we know or friends of friends, etc., and I covered a client's emergency vet bill anonymously this year which was ~$1,000.
Cell Phone: $0, we're both on our family's plans.
Gym: $35
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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, higher education was very important to my parents and I was expected to go to college. I wish I would have been able to take a gap year because I really wasn't sure what I wanted to pursue right out of high school and I feel like I would have benefitted from some extra time to grow up. I got good grades but definitely partied a lot and I wish I would have taken my classes more seriously. My husband and I met in college. My parents paid for my private school education except for a small academic scholarship of $5,000 a year.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents both grew up in rural poverty. They both went to a state college on scholarships where they met and got married quickly after graduating. They lived in a trailer park before I was born. Once they had me, they moved to a small house in a middle-class suburban town and my mom was a stay-at-home parent. By the time I was in high school, we were upper-middle class. As I got older, they continued to save heavily and my dad's salary increased significantly. My parents always emphasized saving and have always lived far below their means. They are highly debt-adverse and buy everything outright. I know that taking debt avoidance to that level is generally not recommended (you'll make more putting your money in the stock market and having a mortgage) so I don't take it quite to the extreme that they do, but aside from our house, we don't plan on having any debt. My parents also drilled it into my head that credit cards are not for buying things you can't afford, they're for building credit and need to be paid off in full monthly, which we've always done. Other than that, we didn't talk much about money.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was babysitting neighborhood kids. My first real job with an actual paycheck was working as a cashier at a grocery store when I was 16. I was getting into a little bit of trouble (normal teenager stuff, but my parents were strict) so to keep me on the up-and-up, my parents said I had to either play a sport, do an after-school activity, or work a job every day after school. I played basketball and on the days I didn't have practice, I would work at the grocery store. I earned $7.25/hour and used my money on clothes and fast food.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not at all. I feel like I didn't even really understand the concept of money until I was making my own purchases in college. My parents definitely didn't give us everything we wanted, but I don't ever remember being told I couldn't have something because of the cost. It was more like they wanted us to actually consider whether something was a wise purchase. We were certainly never allowed to make impulse purchases.
Do you worry about money now?
Less so with every passing year. I think having parents who grew up in poverty really affected my feelings about money despite having plenty throughout my life. I've always had a lot of financial anxiety and so has my sister so I assume it's related to how our parents talked about it. I have started to recognize though that despite living my life pretty much how I want and not budgeting at all, I can basically spend whatever and the bank account keeps growing. I also don't have expensive taste which helps.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Technically we're still on our parents' cell phone plans so I'm not sure if that would disqualify us from financial responsibility or not. We can pay all of our bills and support our lifestyle with just our income though so to me, that feels like financial independence. We have a huge financial safety net in the form of the trust and our parents.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. We have the trust which provides passive income in the form of investments and the $80,000/year payout which we re-invest. We get $10,000/year for Christmas from my parents. Our parents paid for college and bought each of us a car when we went to college, both of which we still drive. I've received about $14,000 from my grandmother in the last few years. My parents gave me $600/month for rent for the first two years after college. We got about $20,000 from various friends and family when we got married. We also recently learned more about our parents' financial situations and I stand to inherit significantly more than I previously thought, in the multiple tens of millions of dollars. My husband will inherit about $10 million. Obviously, we hope this is as far away in the future as humanly possible.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Good morning! My alarm goes off and I'm out of bed pretty quickly after giving my cat a smooch and moving him off my chest. I throw on my work uniform (scrubs, so comfy!) and do my morning routine. This consists of Lush skin tint mixed with my Shiseido moisturizer, Hourglass concealer, Becca bronzer, NARS blush, Ilia mascara, and NYX brow pen. (You can assume I'm doing this every day from here on out; I'm not terribly creative with my makeup.)
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8 a.m. — I head downstairs and quickly pack my lunch, pour some of the coffee my husband, D., made into a to-go cup, and zip out the door for work.
8:30 a.m. — I clock in and take a look at the schedule for the day. It's Monday which means the phones will be ringing off the hook but our scheduled procedures look pretty light. I work at an emergency vet so we'll have walk-ins as well. I make some oatmeal for breakfast in the microwave and eat it at my desk.
12 p.m. — I sit outside on my lunch break and watch YouTube on a picnic bench. Lunch is leftover sushi from last night and a blackberry Izze pop. I watch a Disney travel vlog. I love travel vlogs of all kinds; I just think it's fun to virtually tag along on people's trips!
8 p.m. — Work's done for the day! I clock out and drive home listening to the audiobook of A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey. I just recently got into audiobooks and I find that they're a really good way for me to “read” non-fiction books that I might have difficulty getting into were I to actually sit down with a physical copy. I've always enjoyed history podcasts so this seemed like a natural next step. I can't get into fiction audiobooks, though; I think I like to read the characters in my own voice rather than hear how someone else interprets them.
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8:30 p.m. — D. and I catch up while I take a quick shower. He has a few interviews coming up that he's excited about and I'm so happy for him! He's been ready for a new challenge for a while. Once I'm all squeaky clean, I head downstairs to make dinner. Tonight I'm making two TikTok recipes. One is the Emily Mariko salmon rice bowl and the other is the Baked By Melissa green goddess salad, which I'll have for lunch tomorrow. I start with the salmon because I'm starving.
9:30 p.m. — The salmon recipe is good! It's pretty basic so I don't quite get the hype but I'm more than happy to devour it right now. I give some salmon skin to each of my cats (we have four) so they're quite pleased too.
11 p.m. — Phew, chopping everything for that salad took forever! It does look really good though and the dressing smells amazing. I portion out some for lunch tomorrow and put it all in the fridge. I have to close out the day with something sweet so I eat a slice of Trader Joe's pumpkin cheesecake. I did a grocery trip over the weekend where I picked up a bunch of fall items. I give the cats their nighttime medicine and treats, clean up the kitchen and run the dishwasher, give the fridge a quick clean and organize it a bit, scoop the litter boxes throughout the house, and head up to bed.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8 a.m. — I get to sleep in a bit today because my shift starts an hour later than usual, which is nice. I do my morning routine and have some Greek yogurt and granola for breakfast. I also make a “fancy” coffee by frothing some pumpkin-flavored oat milk and shaking pumpkin pie seasoning on top.
9:30 a.m. — I clock in at work and get started. There are already a few appointments here so I dive right into the day.
1 p.m. — Lunchtime! I eat the salad I made last night and the dressing is delicious. I would absolutely make it again. I have some leftover salmon and rice, too, which I throw on top. I watch some more travel vlogs and enjoy the sunshine. An old coworker stops by to drop off a sample for her dog and we spend some time catching up. She was burned out and ended up leaving the vet tech world to work from home for an online pet pharmacy. She says she's liking it but isn't sure the work-from-home life is for her. I can totally understand; I really enjoy getting out of the house for a few days a week.
5:30 p.m. — We're a little overstaffed today so my manager says I'm free to go — what a nice surprise! I listen to my audiobook on the way home again.
6 p.m. — We decide to make the most of my extra free hours so D. and I go for a three-mile walk around the park. We see tons of cute families and dogs on the walking path.
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7:15 p.m. — Once we're home, I hop in the shower and wash everything but my hair. I've always been a daily hair wash kind of girl, but as I've gotten older and my hair's become less oily I've realized it actually looks better if I only wash it every other day. Afterward, I dye my eyebrows with Just for Men, which I do every few weeks just to darken them up a bit. The package costs about $8 and literally lasts me a year so it's way cheaper than getting them tinted professionally. It looks exactly the same, too. If you've never tried it and have blonde eyebrows like me, I highly recommend!
7:45 p.m. — I have leftover salmon and salad for dinner and then put a rustic apple tart from Trader Joe's in the oven. While that's baking, I read an old Elle Decor magazine I have lying around. My mom has subscriptions to a few magazines and she saves them for me to read when she's done. I've been getting pretty into interior design lately and they're fun to flip through.
8:30 p.m. — Wow, the apple tart is really good! It tastes just like homemade apple pie and I have a small piece with a little scoop of pumpkin ice cream. When I'm done with dessert, I clean the kitchen up, give the kitties their treats and medicine, scoop the litter boxes, water our window box plants, and head up to bed.
10:30 a.m. — I mess around on my phone for an hour or so and then it's lights out!
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Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I hop out of bed, get my morning routine done, and make a mango, strawberry, and banana smoothie for breakfast with a scoop of the Alani Nu Munchies protein powder. I grab some coffee to go and kiss D. goodbye before heading out the door to work.
8:30 a.m. — Clock in and start returning voicemails and emails and checking in patients for surgeries. Looks like it's going to be a busy day.
11 a.m. — D. tells me he picked up his medicine and some ibuprofen at CVS. He used his HSA card for both so it will come out of that account ($21 on our HSA card).
12:30 p.m. — Break for lunch! I have a frozen Trader Joe's vegan tikka masala and a sugar cookie. I sit outside to get some fresh air and a praying mantis decides to join me at the table. I gently move him to a leaf where he won't get sat on.
6:30 p.m. — Work is over and I head toward the gym. I stop on the way to drop off a package at the post office (a bridesmaids dress from my friend's wedding that I sold on Poshmark) and pick up a package as well. Turns out it's the wallpaper paste I ordered last week. I just removed some old wallpaper from our entryway and need to put the new wallpaper up soon. I've only done peel-and-stick before and I'm a little intimidated by the real stuff. The wallpaper I'm putting up was a little pricey too so I'm really not trying to mess up the installation. Fingers crossed all goes well!
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7:30 p.m. — I make it to the gym and hop on the treadmill for 45 minutes. It's surprisingly not crowded for a weekday after work which is lovely.
9 p.m. — I say hi to D. as soon as I get home and we chat for a bit. We have some trips coming up so we talk about those while I shower. I take my time and do the full routine. I wash my hair, shave everything, exfoliate with a sugar scrub, use a Briogeo hair mask, and drench myself in body lotion when I finally emerge from the steam. I love doing this at the end of my little three-day workweek. I deal with quite a bit of animal bodily fluids when I'm working so it's nice to just get a full scrub and feel totally clean.
9:45 p.m. — I throw a load of laundry in and eat more leftover salmon, rice, and salad for dinner with a slice of the apple tart for dessert.
10:40 p.m. — If you read my last Money Diary you may recall we had some leaks in our roof and I was super stressed about it. I had already gotten several estimates by that point and knew it was going to be a very expensive project. At the end of the day though, when there's water coming through the ceiling, you don't have much of a choice. After meeting with five companies, we signed a contract with one and nearly a year later we finally have a new leak-free roof and a brand-new roof deck! I place an order for two outdoor chairs, two matching ottomans, some paint stripper for another house project I'm working on, and drywall primer for the entryway. The total comes to $1,275 but I have a $100 gift card so I pay $1,175. I also use a browser extension to get 3% cashback. $1,175
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11:30 p.m. — I do my little night routine with the cats and then head up to bed.
Daily Total: $1,175

Day Four

8:15 a.m. — I wake up to the doorbell ringing and rush downstairs. The refrigerator repairman is here a little early to fix our ice maker. He says we'll need a new ice bucket because the one our refrigerator was delivered with is missing a part. He orders it and says it should be here in a few days. The fridge is still under warranty so this doesn't cost us anything.
8:45 a.m. — Once the repairman is gone I make another “fancy” coffee to start my day and pop into D.'s office to say good morning and happy anniversary! Today is our third wedding anniversary which is exciting. We don't have much planned today since it's a weekday, but we are going on a little trip this weekend to celebrate. I settle at the kitchen counter to go through some emails after refilling the cats' water fountain.
9:25 a.m. — Aaaand there it is, the invoice for the roof and deck project. It's $77,000 and we already paid our $28,000 deposit, putting this project total at $105,000. I hope this lends some insight as to why I was a bit stressed in my last diary. We've never spent this much money at once aside from when we closed on our house, so even though I know we can afford it, it's still not fun. We went all out and made the deck as big as we could (it's two levels and 1,300 square feet), added a screened-in room attached to the house, and a waterproof storage closet with electric solar lights, etc., so it was definitely a big project. I'll have to sit down with D. later and get this paid.
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10 a.m. — D. has a Zoom interview today so I want to be out of the house to give him some space. After folding and putting away the laundry, running the dishwasher, wiping down the kitchen counters, and eating a quick breakfast of granola and almond milk, I head to the thrift store. I always know I can kill a few hours digging through the racks! I drop off a bag of donations on my way in and start looking around for things that catch my eye. I find some really cute sweaters for the upcoming fall season, a pair of Athleta shorts that look brand new, a little gold anklet, two scalloped wooden trays, and a bunch of books. I notice one of the sweaters is still on Nordstrom's website for $350! It always amazes me what you can find thrifting and I just love the treasure hunt aspect of it. $64
3 p.m. — Back at home I heat up two leftover hash brown patties and make a fried egg to throw on top for a weird late lunch. After putting away the clean dishes and loading any dirty ones from our lunches, I head down to the basement to tackle some cleaning and organizing I've been putting off for a few weeks now. I listen to my audiobook while I clean.
4:15 p.m. — While I'm shuffling things around I get a text from my credit card company that a charge from a light switch plate I ordered from Anthropologie last week has gone through. It was backordered so I guess it finally shipped. This will replace the builder-grade one in the entryway once I get the new wallpaper up. $23
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5:30 p.m. — D. comes down to the basement to let me know his work day is over and he's ready to head to dinner. His mom and her boyfriend (kind of a strange term for a 70-year-old man but I don't know what else to call him) are taking us out to dinner for our anniversary. I suppose this might be a little weird to some people but they really wanted to see us, we love spending time with them, and this was the date that worked for both of our schedules. D. and I walk to the restaurant.
8 p.m. — Dinner is so nice! I really love catching up with them; they're such a cute couple and it's been nice seeing their sort of “second-act” relationship grow. They seem really happy. We get delicious Lebanese food and D.'s mom got the check. D. and I walk them to their building and then make the walk home.
8:45 p.m. — D. and I exchange anniversary cards and enjoy a nice hot shower together. We don't do presents — it's just not how either of us feels or expresses love, and we'd rather just buy things we want for ourselves when we want them. When it comes to anniversaries, birthdays, etc., we prefer to just spend quality time together.
10 p.m. — I smoke a joint out on the deck and then we both get cozy in bed and turn on a movie. I fall asleep immediately afterward.
Daily Total: $87
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Day Five

8:45 a.m. — Oops, I slept in a bit today! I try to be up at about 8 a.m. on my days off but we slept with the windows open last night and the chilly morning air coming in just made staying in bed that much cozier. I do my quick little morning routine and pop downstairs to make a fancy coffee and have some granola for breakfast. We're going camping today when D. is done with work so I have to get our stuff packed!
9:30 a.m. — The camping stuff is in the basement and I get distracted by organizing and cleaning. I listen to my audiobook while I work.
12:30 p.m. — My stomach starts growling and I realize it's lunchtime! Where did the morning go? D. must feel the same because he comes down from his office and we meet in the kitchen for lunch. He makes an egg scramble and I have a salad and some leftovers from last night's dinner. Then I clean up the kitchen and it's back to business for both of us.
2:45 p.m. — Phew! Basement complete! I bring the camping stuff up and load it into the car and then settle on the couch with my book to wait for D. to be done with work. Right now I'm reading Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.
4 p.m. — D. is ready to roll so we hop in the car and drive to a state park. We stop at the grocery store on the way and pick up chicken breasts, lettuce, an onion, a tomato, a few slices of cheese from the deli counter, some guacamole, a few cans of kombucha, and a blueberry muffin. $26
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6:30 p.m. — We arrive at the campsite with just enough light left to get everything settled. We unpack and I set up our tent while D. gets a fire going and starts cooking dinner.
7 p.m. — We have guacamole chicken sandwiches for dinner and they're super good. Something about chicken made over a fire just tastes better. Afterward, we make s'mores and talk about life around the campfire for a few hours.
10 p.m. — It's getting chilly and we've burned through all our wood so we get all snuggly in our sleeping bags. As we're drifting off, I hear a fox! If you've never heard what a fox sounds like it's worth looking up; they often sound like a human screaming, it's freaky!
Daily Total: $26

Day Six

2 a.m. — Ugh, it's colder than I was prepared for and I'm in and out of sleep. I get up to pee and while I'm off in the woods an owl hoots about 10 feet above my head and makes me jump! I love hearing all of the wildlife here.
8 a.m. — The sun is up and so are we! It's 45 degrees out and we are cold! After psyching ourselves up for a few minutes we're up and at ‘em. We pack up the campsite and pile into the car to head to a trailhead. I eat my muffin on the way and D. snacks on some pistachios and a Clif bar.
9 a.m. — We start our hike and it's a steep incline right out of the gate. I love the feeling of huffing and puffing up a hill in the crisp fall air. After two-and-a-half miles we reach a beautiful vista and stop to enjoy it. We both chug some water and relax for a few minutes.
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10:15 a.m. — We head back the way we came, which is much easier since it's mostly downhill. My thighs will definitely be feeling this tomorrow! When we reach the car, we enter our address in the GPS and start the journey home. It feels good to have gotten a five-mile hike in before lunch.
11:30 a.m. — We stop at McDonald's for some sustenance. We each get a coffee, I get a McDouble, and D. gets a spicy chicken sandwich ($7). We don't eat fast food super often and I'm surprised at how cheap it is to feed the two of us — the dollar menu is definitely the way to go. We also fill up the car ($38). $45
12:45 p.m. — We're home! We unpack the car and say hi to the cats (don't worry, they have an automatic feeder and are fine being left for a night) and then we enjoy a shower together. D.'s been texting with some of our friends who are planning on hitting some balls at the driving range and then cooking dinner at one of their houses tonight so he decides to join them.
1:15 p.m. — Our friends come over to pick him up and we catch up about a trip they recently went on. There's a group of eight of us that have all been friends for years and often travel together. We couldn't make it this time because of work, but it sounds amazing.
1:30 p.m. — Once they all leave and I have the house to myself, I throw in a load of laundry, clean the litter boxes, and unpack the cooler from our camping trip. I'm a little tired from not sleeping super well last night so I decide to just have a lazy afternoon. I crash on the couch with my book, a cup of tea, and the cats.
3 p.m. — My reading is interrupted by one of the cats hacking up a hairball in the other room. I jump up to make sure it wasn't on one of the nice carpets and luckily he was kind enough to puke on the hardwood. I clean that up and then call my sister. We chat for half an hour and then I call my best friend. I figure I might as well just round out the phone calls, so I call my parents and catch up with them too.
4:15 p.m. — D. texts to let me know he spent $35 at the driving range and $18 on alcoholic seltzers for the night. $53
6 p.m. — After reading for a while longer I'm getting hungry and order a small pizza for pickup. $22
9:30 p.m. — I've been watching Game of Thrones and eating my pizza when D. calls to ask if I can come pick him up across town at our friend's house. Apparently, Ubers are super pricey right now. I hop in the car and head over.
2 a.m. — Okay, so picking him up turned into us all hanging out around a little bonfire in the backyard and then playing Mario Kart for way too long. D. is clearly too drunk to drive and comes in a hard 12th place on Rainbow Road. I take us both home, D. takes a quick shower, and we both pass out.
Daily Total: $120

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I am so not used to staying up that late these days! It was fun hanging out with everyone, though, so it was very worth it. D. and I are both up and I make us some coffee. I bring the laundry down and get a load going while D. takes the trash out and installs the new ice bin that came in the mail. We both eat breakfast (smoothie for me, eggs for D.) and I go through some emails while D. flops on the couch. This may be a bit of a hangover day for him — we just aren't as young as we used to be!
10 a.m. — My grandmother calls and I chat with her for about 30 minutes. I let her know I'm hoping to visit her in the next few months.
12 p.m. — I decide to make a few more purchases for the deck. I get a propane fire table from Wayfair which I'm hoping will help extend our deck season a little further into the fall ($382). I also purchase a separate wind guard for it ($58) and heat-proof mat for underneath ($23). The mat is honestly probably not necessary but I just want to make extra sure nothing happens to the deck boards. $463
1 p.m. — My day is getting a later start than expected, I need to get a move on if I'm going to finish everything I need to get done today! I make a quick grocery list and head to the gym.
2 p.m. — At the gym, I do my upper body weightlifting routine which takes about 40 minutes and then I do a quick mile on the treadmill. Afterward, I stop at Michael's because they're having a sale and I'm looking for a tapered candle and a pillar candle. I really want the MacKenzie Childs black-and-white checkered tapered candle set but I refuse to pay $28 for it. They don't have a black-and-white candle like I was hoping for, so I settle for plain black. I also find a really cool pillar candle with a snake wrapped around it. I have a 20% off coupon and a few bucks left on a gift card that I use. $7
3:30 p.m. — By the time I get to the grocery store I'm hungry, which is never a good move! I definitely get talked into some purchases by my growling stomach. I get salmon, fruits and veggies, kefir, a frozen pizza, seltzer water, two pints of ice cream, frozen waffles, eggs, almond milk, yogurt, and a few other things. $112
5 p.m. — I feed the cats and then D. and I decide to get this roof invoice over with so we don't have to think about it anymore. We pay the invoice out of our personal bank account which depletes it down to ~$33,000. We like to keep around $50,000 in here and will save beyond that until we have enough for our next big house project. We only have cosmetic projects left now so we're not in a rush to get them done and this feels like a nice way to pace ourselves. $77,000
5:20 p.m. — I've had a majesty palm sitting in our living room for a week now that needs to be potted. I've been avoiding it because it's going in a big pot that already has dirt in it and is too heavy to move so it's going to be a big ol' mess. I can't avoid it any longer or this poor plant will die, so I grab a blanket to protect the rug from dirt and dive in.
7 p.m. — I make mushroom ravioli for dinner and D. and I eat it picnic-style out on the new deck. Afterward, I put away the laundry, clean up the kitchen, do the nighttime routine with the cats, clean the litter boxes, shower, and hop in bed with my book. D. and I read for an hour, watch more Game of Thrones, and we're asleep by 11.
Daily Total: $77,582
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