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A Week In Arlington, VA, On A $243,000 Joint Income

Photo: Courtesy of Sephora.
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 senior digital director working who makes $175,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on lip gloss.

Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up diary. To read the original Money Diary, click here.

Occupation: Senior digital director
Industry: Marketing
Age: 40
Location: Arlington, VA
Salary: $175,500 ($140,000 base and $35,500 bonus)
Partner’s Salary: $67,500
Net Worth: $897,600 (home value: $870,000; liquid savings: $90,000; mutual funds: $36,500; IRAs: $101,500; 401(k): $420,000; minus our mortgage. Our finances are joint.)
Debt: Mortgage: $620,400
Paycheck Amount (Every 2 Weeks): $2,625
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: Mortgage: $3,600; HOA: $500
All Other Monthly Expenses
Childcare: $685
Recurring extracurriculars for kids: $250
Health insurance: $335 (pre-tax)
Car insurance: $115
Utilities: $150
Internet: $90
Subscriptions: Orangetheory/Peloton app: $92; Netflix/Apple TV/Audible/Skype: $50
Cell: $55
College education savings: $600
Recurring giving to charitable causes: $600
Dependent Care FSA: $416 (pre-tax)
Healthcare FSA: $280 (pre-tax)
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, both of my parents grew up in poorer families and still graduated from college, and expected me to do so, too. They both needed to work multiple jobs through college and wanted it to be easier for my siblings and me to attend. My parents saved and paid for about a third of my college expenses. I was in a serious car crash in high school and ended up winning a lawsuit that paid for the rest. I still worked in college during the summer breaks. My husband was not expected to go to college and no one else in his family did. He qualified for financial assistance and did not have to pay tuition. He worked through school to cover room and board.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Yes, my father worked in the banking industry and frequently talked about saving money, after having grown up in a poor family where his father was in tears trying to cover debts. My parents never discussed budgeting or spending.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked in the kitchen of a restaurant when I was 14. I begged my parents to start working quite young so I would have spending money.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Do you worry about money now?
I do not worry about money now. I have gone through periods of worrying about money. I racked up five figures of credit card debt as a young adult and had to change my lifestyle to pay it off. At that time, I found a bedroom to rent with roommates on Craigslist to cut my monthly housing expenses in half. The second period was at the start of the pandemic, when my spouse was laid off and collecting unemployment. At that time, our childcare expenses were due (even though the center was closed) and more than our monthly mortgage — too high to live on only my income. I lost a lot of sleep at night for several months until he was able to start working again.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At age 22. When I graduated from college I was unemployed for several months, and my parents no longer supported me financially since I was fortunate to still have some savings remaining from the car crash lawsuit.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, we received $30,000 from a family member as a gift that is invested in a mutual fund. My parents also helped with my college expenses, as mentioned, and gifted $10,000 for my wedding.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — I’m up and making coffee. The kitchen is dirty, including takeout cartons from last night, but I ignore it and decide to read. After about an hour easing into the day, I bake cinnamon rolls for my kids and a neighbor. Then I prep food for later while my partner kindly cleans the kitchen and our youngest child plays with Lego. It is time to get ready and I grab a protein smoothie after I shower. I try to do my skincare as my first step in getting ready (besides the shower). I like to apply one layer, give it a couple of minutes while I get dressed, then apply the next. I use a hyaluronic acid serum after I cleanse, then I apply a moisturizer and finish with sunscreen before I apply CC cream to start my makeup. I’m not regimented and use dermatologist products mixed with drugstore brands, and sometimes rotate between skincare lines. While I do my hair and makeup, I watch Oppenheimer (I fell asleep watching it last night) and finish the movie.
9:15 a.m. — I leave home with my family and pick my older child up from a sleepover. We head to church. I see a good friend there, and it’s nice to catch up.
11:30 a.m. — I’m back home and bake the food I prepared earlier — gnocchi with mushrooms, sausage, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash. While I’m waiting on it to cook, I throw in a load of laundry and FaceTime with my in-laws who live out of state. After my partner and I clean up from lunch, our younger child has a friend over. We do a puzzle, play a game, and more Lego. Then I let them play alone while I help my older child with an assignment, spend time on volunteer work for a food pantry where I help, and fold the laundry from earlier. The friend leaves after a couple of hours.
3:30 p.m. — I leave home and pick up a matcha boba ($6.92) I’ve pre-ordered. It is freezing and I feel like watching a show or reading at home, but I want my kids to be tired this evening a sliver more. I take them to a kids’ open gym ($30) and let them run around the indoor playground. I see a friend, even though we didn’t make plans together, so we chat for a while. I also call my sibling while the kids play. We leave after about two hours, and I realize I don’t know what’s for dinner. $36.92
6:30 p.m. — Annie’s microwavable macaroni and cheese cups to the rescue. We also have leftover salmon and green beans. I make myself tortellini soup since I don’t want leftovers and feel like something hot after the cold day. I double the recipe and freeze half (best tip if you are feeding others often). Once the kids are fed, bathed, and in pajamas, they play video games.
8 p.m. — I practice reading with my youngest while my oldest child reads alone (by choice). We finish after 30 minutes, and I make a mental note to add teachers on my gratitude list tomorrow. I indulgently enjoy the rest of my evening by watching a Real Housewives series and am easily sucked into several next episodes. Maybe this is the show I was hoping for earlier in the day. I finally go to bed at 11:15 p.m.
Daily Total: $36.92

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — I wake up without an alarm and am so happy it is a holiday and work is closed. I get up at 7 a.m. and see there is a dusting of snow, which wasn’t expected. It is the first snow this year and still feels magical as an adult. With global warming, we haven’t had an inch of snow in more than two years. I do an at-home weights workout later in the morning and know I’ve pushed myself because I cannot complete the final rep (I switch to lighter weights). I take time to stretch and listen to a meditation app, then have a protein smoothie I made yesterday. I eat the same thing almost every day for breakfast and usually make the smoothies ahead of time. I use vanilla protein powder, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, chia seeds, flax meal, PB2 powdered peanut butter, frozen bananas, avocado, and spinach.
10:30 a.m. — After I get ready, I leave with my family to go to a museum in DC. I’m surprised to find free street parking, since it is a holiday. The museum is even better than expected and equally fun for all of us. These types of activities are hard to find. We leave the museum after a couple of hours and it is still snowing. My partner and I decide we’ll take the kids sledding.
1:30 p.m. — Once we’re home, we eat leftovers for lunch. I offer to make snow cream for dessert. My partner adds a dash of amaretto to ours, and it is surprisingly good. After lunch, I run to get bread and milk from the store ($8.57) since we’re out. Once I’m back and everyone is dressed in snow gear, we leave to go sledding. It is a lot of fun, but I am freezing after a short while and head home earlier than the rest of the crew. I decide to take a power nap since it’s so quiet and I’m a little spent from the day so far. I wake up and start dinner early because I’m making homemade meatballs. They take some time, but I usually triple a batch and then freeze them. A friend from high school called while I was asleep, so I call her back while I’m cooking, and we talk for 20 minutes. I also make a big salad for the week and more protein smoothies. $8.57
6 p.m. — More than an hour later, everyone is back so we sit down for dinner together and have spaghetti, the meatballs, and broccoli and kale I roasted. I typically batch cook on the weekends and then not as much during the work week. While I’m eating, I receive a text saying my kids’ school is cancelled for tomorrow. Once we finish, my partner offers to clean up while I triage my work calendar for the next day. After working, I decide to make a grocery order. The app is down, so I make a meal plan and grocery list for the week.
8:00 p.m. — My partner is putting the kids to bed and reading, so I work on finishing the volunteer work I started yesterday. The kids are in bed a half hour later, so we decide to play a game of Qwixx. I am surprised to win by a long shot, and it’s fun for both of us. After we finish, we watch a first episode of a new series, but quickly determine this won’t be one we keep watching — I’m not into the story line. I fold laundry in front of the TV and then we hang out for a bit.
10:15 p.m. — Go to bed.
Daily Total: $8.57

Day Three

6:15 a.m. — I wake up without an alarm and stay in bed an extra 15 minutes. I get up for coffee and to read, then journal. My younger child wakes up and we snuggle for a short time. The grocery app is working this morning, so I add my list from yesterday to my cart and place the weekly order ($208.93). After, I do another home weights workout, then stretch and foam roll after. $208.93
8:40 a.m. — I shower and get ready for a work-from-home day. I decide to make oatmeal for breakfast since it’s cold out. I make a bowl with protein powder, chia, flax, cinnamon and PB2, and top it with raspberries, walnuts and peanut butter. I grab a second cup of coffee and start my workday a little late. I check in with my boss on a report due today. I worked on it last week and some pending details need to be added. He has what he needs to finish and wants me to review it. I have a busy morning reviewing a client merger, working with a vendor on an outline for a team training session, and putting an agenda together for an all-hands next week. Then I quickly check in with everyone on my team following the long weekend. Afterward, I need to assign some new projects.
12 p.m. — After catching up this morning, I see a notice that my last meeting of the day, scheduled for later this afternoon, has been canceled. With the cancelation and the meetings I moved, my calendar is now clear and I’m dying to get out in the snow. I check in with my partner who has had the kids this morning, but they are wrapping up. He takes them to McDonald’s for a kids’ choice lunch ($9.16). I get back to work. When I’m at a good stopping point, I break to take a long walk in the snow. My partner is back so I have lunch with him, choosing the kale salad I prepped yesterday. It has pumpkin seeds, carrots, and cabbage, and I add rotisserie chicken my partner picked up ($6.49), feta and dressing. After lunch, I get back to work, following up with clients. $15.65
4:30 p.m. — My kids have neighbor friends over after playing outside. I’m unsurprisingly not able to focus on much more for work and shift my focus to place an order for a photo book I’ve already created, seeing a promo code for today ($82.70). I checked to see if there was a sale, not wanting to pay full price when I’d created it earlier this month. I go back to work mode and make sure everything due for today is finished. Once I wrap up work, I start dinner, which includes heating up leftovers and more microwavable mac and cheese. I eat some of the tortellini soup and add meatballs from the spaghetti. $82.70
6 p.m. — After dinner, we watch a family movie. This is an easy and enjoyable way to end a long day of working with children out of school. I love that jokes for the parents are included in most kids’ movies. I don’t watch until the end so I can clean up the kitchen and do a blitz pick-up session. My home looks like a tornado made of wet clothes from the snow, plus Lego and art supplies, has hit. I put my pajamas on early and do my evening skincare while they finish watching the movie. After I cleanse, I use the same serum from the morning, then add retinol a couple of times per week before a moisturizer.
8 p.m. — It’s time for the kids to go to bed, and it’s my turn to lead the effort. I read with my younger child until 8:30 p.m., and then tackle washing some pots and pans from earlier. I’m feeling tired, and wine and ice cream both sound delicious — luckily Jeni’s has invented frosé sorbet. I take a few bites while I finish cleaning up. A half hour later, I’m looking forward to solitude. I head to my bedroom, excited to choose how I’ll spend this precious time to myself. One of my kids has come to my bedroom, still awake. I’m too tired, so I turn on a white noise machine, shut the lights off, fall asleep, and my child does the same.
Daily Total: $307.28

Day Four

5 a.m. — I wake up early and it hits hard I did not sleep well, even though it has been eight hours. I had a dream I forgot my luggage for a (fictional) trip to Mexico. Perhaps it means I’m feeling lost and uncertain this week, trying to work and provide some childcare at the same time? I down a half cup of coffee, and then leave to walk to a pilates class (pre-paid for $24). It’s challenging with weights. After class, I introduce myself to a neighbor I recognize from my building. I love making connections. When I return home, I am locked out, as the digital keypad has a dead battery. No one else is awake to let me in, and I haven’t had enough coffee to remember a hidden key. I eventually realize it exists, but it takes me longer than it should given the cold temps.
6:50 a.m. — My kids have a school delay due to the snow and I realize I need to make a plan for the morning. I pour a fresh cup of coffee and write out a list, estimating task times for to-dos and priorities. Then I do some morning reading while everyone is still asleep. I start making their breakfast (Greek yogurt, granola and fruit) when they wake up 30 minutes later. I hop in the shower to get ready while the kids eat.
8:15 a.m. — I help everyone bundle up to head out in the snow. I decide to start work late since there are so few opportunities to sled and it will be dark by the time I finish. We head back inside an hour later, and my partner offers to help the kids get ready for school and take them for the late start.
9:30 a.m. — I grab another coffee, a protein smoothie, and slice of peanut butter toast, and sit down to start work. I have a lot of meetings today (thankfully none too early), including through lunch. I feel like I’m starting to chip away at the back log from the holiday and meetings I put off yesterday during the snow day. A few hours later, I have a break and check my email. I donate to one of my friend’s kids who is raising money ($5), and also place an order on Amazon for PB2 (for smoothies), hair product and blush. I have a gift card to cover the $47.18. I have back-to-back calls for the full afternoon except for an hour. I heat up leftovers for lunch and address a few priorities. During one meeting, I multitask and pay for an upcoming field trip ($12.60). $17.60
5:30 p.m. — I finish work, eat a piece of pie, and take a short nap. I’m drained! My partner comes home with the kids 30 minutes later and he makes seasoned pork loin, roasted cauliflower and cauliflower mash for dinner. The double cauliflower dishes seem puzzling, but I don’t question it and end up eating both. When we finish dinner, I help one of my children with homework while my partner cleans up the kitchen.
7 p.m. — I take a bath and read more of my book. When I’m finished, I look at the menu at a new-to-me restaurant for a reservation tomorrow. After my partner tucks the kids in and reads with them, we watch SNL, catching up from last weekend. It is funny and makes us laugh, which is a great way to end the day before heading to bed at 10:15 p.m.
Daily Total: $17.60

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and start with reading and coffee. For me, these are both great reasons to get out of bed early. I finish my historical fiction book about Eastern European communism. It ends in 1990, during my lifetime, and is fascinating. I get ready for work without showering, and put on leggings, a sports bra and black sweater, hoping to replace it with a tank and make it to the gym later. I take a quick walk outside before my first meeting.
8:00 a.m. — I start my first call and have another cup of coffee and protein smoothie during meetings that run until 11:30 a.m. I do a quick email triage and then head to the gym for a class that starts at noon.
1:15 p.m. — I’m back home from my exercise break and my partner has kindly made me a salad for lunch. I eat it while I dive right back into work and have a few meetings in the afternoon.
5:30 p.m. — I do a workday shutdown and finish for the day. I decide to do a short meditation before my kids get home. I ask about their days and connect for a bit before hopping in the shower (finally). I leave for the train about an hour later to meet a friend for dinner. I walk from the metro through a popular shopping area to get to the restaurant. I stop at Sephora for a lip product ($28.65). $28.65
7:45 p.m. — Our dinner is a splurge and I have salad, duck, and dessert with drinks ($128.48, including tip). The time with my friend and our conversation has been good for my soul during an especially full week. $128.48
10 p.m. — I decide to get an Uber home since it is getting late ($22.91). My partner is up so we spend some time together and catch up before heading to bed a little more than an hour later. $22.91
Daily Total: $180.04

Day Six

6 a.m. — I wake up and start the day with my usual caffeinating, reading and journaling. No one else is awake yet and I treasure this quiet time before the day starts. I am looking forward to finishing out the work week. My kids have another snow day today with fresh flakes overnight. It certainly feels less magical than earlier in the week, and I am ready for schools to reopen, since that’s their childcare. I make time for a short 15-minute run, feeling like something is better than nothing, and knowing I have a full day ahead. I get ready in 15 minutes, including washing my hair, and do not think I could do it if I had even a single minute less.
8 a.m. — I start my first call of the day. While I love the ability to primarily work from home for a global company, during weeks like these I can feel more disconnected from my coworkers. When I was primarily in an office, everyone was in the same area and facing the current weather conditions. Since no one is using video this morning, I finish putting on my makeup during the call.
9 a.m. — I have my calendar blocked for summer camp registration opening this morning for the kids and make a deposit ($200). It seems if you do not sign up for many programs immediately, it can be hard to get a spot. $200.00
10 a.m. — My partner has the kids out sledding and then takes them for donuts ($2.57). I’m still backlogged from the holiday Monday and the calls I rescheduled for the first snow day. I have seven meetings before lunch. $2.57
1 p.m. — I take a short break and have leftover spaghetti squash, marinara sauce and broccoli for lunch. After I eat, I go back into meetings until 3:30 p.m. I take a short walk outside in the snow for a break. When I return, I realize one of my children is still wearing their snow gear from this morning. I talk with the kids about their day and get them setup with something to watch so I can finish out the workday. To close out the week, I work on wrapping things up, getting organized for both work and home. I look ahead to priorities for next week, reschedule conflicts, update calendars, and catch up on email. I decide to stop an hour later. I still have three kids’ birthday parties I need to RSVP for, but I’ve made a lot of progress and can address the invites when I have more stamina.
5:30 p.m. — I finish work, put a frozen pizza in the oven, pour a glass of wine, and call my parents. The kids are caught up in a documentary. After I finish talking with my mom and dad, I start helping them get ready for bed.
8:15 p.m. — I read with my younger child for 45 minutes while my older child reads alone. Once we finish, I dive into Netflix’s You Are What You Eat. I go to bed and fall asleep at 9:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $202.57

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I wake up without an alarm after nine blissful hours of sleep. I feel restored and energized since it is the weekend. I enjoy the quiet morning hours to myself and follow my usual routine of reading and journaling with a cup of coffee. I remember I need to sign a waiver for one of my kids who has an event this afternoon. My children are up soon, and I make protein pancakes (the box mix from Kodiak) and a couple of smoothies to have ready in the fridge. I take a quick shower and help everyone get ready to leave.
9:30 a.m. — Our first stop is the toy store to pick up a gift for a friend ($19.06). I explain up-front to the kids that they won’t be able to get anything today, and I breathe a sigh of relief when there is no whining, and it is a quick trip. $19.06
9:45 a.m. — The next is a stop is at the farmers’ market. I love their apples and pick up a dessert ($21.19). It is cold so we don’t stay long. The library is nearby, so we go there next to check out a few books I’ve held ahead of time and are available. After these morning errands, my kids have karate class; I’m able to take a yoga class (pre-paid for $20.25) next to their studio at the same time. $21.19
12 p.m. — I’m home and fix a salmon sheet pan for lunch with asparagus and baby potatoes. After we eat lunch together, my partner cleans up while I wash my hair. I love listening to a podcast or watching a show while I blow dry to make the time go by faster. I pick up our home while my partner drives one of our kids to an activity.
2:30 p.m. — One of our high school sitters arrives and we have plans with friends for a day date! We ride with another couple to a brewery we haven’t been to before. It has been a long time since we’ve seen these friends, and we spend hours catching up. There are indoor games like shuffleboard, darts, and foosball, so we stay for hours. The guys order several dishes to share, including nachos, barbeque and mac and cheese. The food goes well with a beer ($58.52). The company is even better, and I feel like we could stay all evening. I told our sitter we would be back before she has plans with her friends though, so we need to head home. $58.52
8:30 p.m. — We arrive home and venmo the sitter ($90). I ask the kids about their day and hear about the fun they’ve had. My partner graciously offers to help them to bed while I watch a movie with Kristin Bell, Vince Vaughn and Joel McHale. It is based on a true story about a housewife who takes her couponing business to a fraudulent level. The movie is funny with good actors, and I really enjoy it. $90.00
11:30 p.m. — I finish the movie, thank my partner for helping with the kids this evening, and go to bed. It has been a good week, and I’m ready for one that includes five full days of school for my children.
Daily Total: $188.77

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: $385.39
Entertainment: $95.44
Home & Health: $0
Clothes & Beauty: $28.65
Transportation: $22.91
Other: $409.36
Weekly Total Spent: $941.75
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