A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A Joint $120,000 Income

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 stay-at-home mom whose husband makes $120,000 per year. She spends some of her money this week on a Snickers bar.
Occupation: Stay-At-Home Mom
Age: 36
Location: Los Angeles, CA
My Husband's Salary: $120,000
His Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,950 (after health insurance)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,100 (We rent a two-bedroom apartment in a suburb of L.A. with a very good school district. We used to own a house in the city, but we sold it and moved when my son started kindergarten, in order to get into a better district.)
Loans: $0 (We both paid off our student loans, and we both drive used cars we bought for cash.)
Car Insurance: $165
Cell Phone: $145
Internet: $80
Electric: $75, but this varies month to month
Netflix: $11
Kids' Gymnastics: $168
Audible: $15
Transit Pass: $50
Preschool: $335
Hulu: $12
HBO: $15
Tithe: $310 twice a month
Kids' Colleges Funds: $250 ($125 into each)
Retirement: $1,050 pre-tax

Day One

8:30 a.m. — My husband leaves for work around 6. He drives to the transit station and takes the bus from there — it's a lot less stressful than dealing with L.A. traffic, but it adds about 30 minutes to his commute each way. The kids and I wake up around 7:30, and I feed us fruit and toast. After getting the kids dressed, I drop my son off at elementary school and my daughter at preschool. My children are both on the autism spectrum, so they receive services at school. My son gets speech and occupational therapy, which are paid for by the school district, and my daughter receives ABA therapy at school, which I pay for through my health insurance. Because she's under 5, there isn't a copay for the ABA services she receives, so I don't have to spend anything out of my own pocket.
11 a.m. — While my daughter is in school, I head to the grocery store to pick up some sparkling water. I buy myself lunch: prepackaged sushi and a ginger kombucha. I love kombucha! My mom says it tastes like non-alcoholic wine — maybe that's why I like it. $12.15
12:30 p.m. — Pick my daughter up from school and make her a sandwich for lunch. Now it's time for her second ABA session today, which will go for two-and-a-half hours. She receives 40 hours of ABA therapy per week. It would bankrupt us if we had to pay for it out of pocket — so I say a prayer of thanks that we live in California, where ABA therapy is covered even for those on Medi-Cal. Then I say a prayer of thanks for our health insurance.
3:30 p.m. — After picking up my son from school, he starts his ABA session for the day. Because he is older than 5, there is a $15 copay for each of his sessions. He receives 15 hours of ABA therapy per week. Our max copay for the year is $1,500, and we usually reach it by April each year. We have the option of having our copays covered by Medi-Cal because our children each have a disability, but I don't utilize it because I feel like we make enough money that we can cover it on our own. It's the conservative in me, I guess — I don't want to take anything I don't really need. $15
7 p.m. — When my husband gets home from work, we take the kids out to a restaurant for dinner. My son is on the mild end of the autism spectrum, and my daughter is moderate, so taking them out to dinner is doable for us. We have a gift card from my parents, so we splurge and order sodas, an appetizer, and dessert ($84.83). My son loves to draw, so he draws pictures on his menu while I walk my daughter to and from the bathroom a few times (she's potty-training).
Daily Total: $27.15

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Make the kids breakfast (fruit and toast again) and drop my son off at school. Then I head back home with my daughter, where she starts her first ABA therapy session of the day. This session lasts three hours.
10:15 a.m. — Once a week, I take my daughter to speech and occupational therapy, which each have a copay of $15. Her ABA therapist attends with her. $30
12 p.m. — When we come home, she has a lunch break before the next one starts at 12:30. I make us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with milk. I remember last year when she had so much trouble drinking from an open cup, and I smile as I watch her do it now. The therapy is working.
1 p.m. — While my daughter is working with her therapist, I pay our credit card bills, sweep and mop the kitchen, and run two loads of laundry (which costs $1.50 to wash and $1.25 to dry). I usually listen to one of my audiobooks while I fold. I just finished Pride and Prejudice, which was wonderful. It's funny how the dynamics of Jane Austen novels are so much like high school — who is dating who, dealing with crazy friends and parents, etc. $5.50
3:30 p.m. — Pick up son from school, and he begins his ABA therapy session. My daughter's second session of the day has ended, and she is beginning her third, which will run two-and-a-half hours. Three-session days can be tough on her — so the therapist who works with her in the evening is usually pretty easy on her, and they mostly play with her toys. My son is working with his therapist on developing a "circle of trust," so he knows to treat strangers differently than he treats family and close friends. So many things that are intuitive for most kids need to be taught explicitly for mine. I'm mostly optimistic about the future (which is why we have a college fund for each of our kids), but I do worry about it sometimes. $15
Daily Total: $50.50

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I make breakfast for us, and then drop both of the kids off at their respective schools. I notice how most of my days look exactly the same. I have a little time to myself, and I think for a minute about going to the beach, but I decide against it and go home. I watch my favorite show on Hulu, This Is Us, and make some coffee.
12:30 p.m. — Pick up daughter from preschool, make us lunch (sandwiches), then she begins her second ABA session.
1 p.m. — I'm browsing Facebook and see that my aunt has put up a fundraiser for her birthday for Autism Speaks. It's very sweet of her — I know she's thinking about us. I donate $5. $5
3:30 p.m. — Pick up my son from school and he starts his ABA session while my daughter begins her third session today. $15
6:30 p.m. — Both kids are done with therapy for the day! My son has homework to complete for school afterwards. I marvel at how hard he works every day. I help him finish his homework while my daughter watches a video on my phone, and then I make us chicken with crackers and mixed veggies. I love frozen veggies — they're easy to prepare, and they never go bad. I hate wasting money. My husband comes home around 7, and he and my son play the Lego Star Wars video game for an hour while I put my daughter to bed.
Daily Total: $20

Day Four

8 a.m. — It's Saturday!!! I make us pancakes for breakfast. We all love pancakes. My daughter only likes them when they're plain, but my son has just started to let us put syrup on his. My husband covers his in peanut butter and syrup, and I eat mine with a little butter.
11 a.m. — For lunch, we take the kids out to Souplantation, a salad bar/buffet restaurant. The kids both eat macaroni and cheese, and my husband and I get salad and too much other stuff, although I limit myself to one cornbread muffin. $20.71
2 p.m. — My husband and his friends have football season tickets, and there's a game today, so he heads over to the stadium. It works out to about $20 for each game. I go with him to one game per season — I'm not a big fan of football, but I enjoy hanging out with him and his friends. The game itself is super boring for me, though. By the second quarter, I always end up rooting for the clock. After he heads out, I take the kids to an indoor playground nearby. I follow my kids as they run around — my daughter climbs into the big tunnel structure, and I get a little nervous about her getting lost inside, but my son is staying with her so they're easier to keep track of. $44
6 p.m. — I pick up some pizza on the way home from the playground. Pepperoni for the kids, and Hawaiian chicken for me. There's some leftover for tomorrow. $36.86
Daily Total: $101.57

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — We have leftover pizza from last night for breakfast. Then my husband and I get the kids dressed for church. My son will wear a button down shirt if we let him choose which one. My daughter hasn't shown a preference in clothing yet — and I'm actually looking forward to the day when she tells me she doesn't want to wear something I've picked out.
10 a.m. — When we arrive at church, we put our tithe in the offering box near the front of the sanctuary. We tithe $310 twice a month, which works out to about 10% percent of my husband's take-home pay. When we get our tax refund at the end of the year, we tithe 10% of that too. Our church has a food bank and pays for diapers when a single mom needs it or for other emergency expenses that might arise in the community. But even if they didn't, I tithe because our family has everything we need, and not everyone does, so we have a responsibility to give what we can.
1:30 p.m. — After church, we take the kids to Costco for lunch and grocery shopping. We eat some hot dogs first, then we go inside and buy bread, fruit, milk, and frozen entrees to eat throughout the week. $178.84
6 p.m. — We share a rotisserie chicken and some potatoes that we picked up at Costco earlier today. Delicious!
Daily Total: $178.84

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — My husband has the day off, so he helps me get the kids ready for school today. I love Mondays — it's nice to have him home. He takes our son to school, and I take our daughter. Then he plays Fallout 76 for an hour or so.
10 a.m. — I go to the deli and pick us up some sandwiches for lunch. When I bring them home, we eat together and talk about the week. It's nice to spend some time together without the kids. $16.79
3:30 p.m. — I pick my son up from school. On our way to his speech therapy appointment, I stop at The Coffee Bean for some much needed caffeine. I get myself drip coffee because it's ready faster than anything they have to make with espresso, and I get him a bottle of water. $4.75
3:45 p.m. — I take my son to his speech therapy appointment and pay a $15 copay. His ABA teacher is waiting — he'll attend the appointment with my son and come back to our house after for a three-hour session. One more $15 copay. $30
4 p.m. — While my son is at his speech therapy appointment, I stop by the gas station and fill up my car. I pick up a Snickers bar, too, and eat it as I drive back to pick him up. $46.30
6 p.m. — My husband makes dinner, and he always goes all out when he cooks. Tonight it's carne asada with homemade guacamole. It's as delicious as it sounds. My son eats the tortillas and picks at the meat. My daughter eats the meat and picks at the tortillas. I enjoy every bite.
Daily Total: $97.84

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up early and make banana-oatmeal muffins for breakfast. I also make a pot of coffee, which is really good, because I have a coffee maker that grinds the beans before it brews. The coffee tastes fresh and delicious. The kids and I get ready, and I take my son to school.
9 a.m. — My daughter begins her first ABA session for the day. I talk to her therapist a little. Some of the technicians who work with my kids are really friendly and want to chat, and some want to get straight down to business. Most of them are at least 10 years younger than I am and just starting out in their careers, so they've all got a lot of interesting stuff going on in their lives. They're all really nice, which makes sense, because you don't get into this line of work unless you're nice.
11 a.m. — I spend $19.99 on iTunes for a game I play on my phone. It's the one expense I have that's completely ridiculous, but I plan for it, and I just give myself permission to waste the money. I end up spending about $40 a month on the game, and I really like playing it. I can't think of anything I could spend that money on that would give me more pleasure than the game does. It's just this dumb "free-to-play" game that ends up costing money once you play it long enough. But I like it, so YOLO. $19.99
12:30 p.m. — My daughter and I have sandwiches for lunch, and then she starts her second ABA session for the day.
3:30 p.m. — I pick up my son from school and he begins his ABA session, while my daughter begins her third ABA session today. His session has a copay, and hers does not. $15
7 p.m. — My husband arrives home, and I head out to my support group, who I meet with once a week. I love this group. There's a donation basket that gets passed around so I always put a few bucks in — it's a lot cheaper than therapy. Today I put in $5. We all take turns going around the room and talking. Today I talk about how I want to make an effort to get out of the house more while the kids are at school. I tell them I'm thinking of volunteering at my son's school library — they always need parent volunteers. When it's over, I stay a few minutes to chat with the others, then I head back home. My husband has put the kids to bed, and we watch some TV before we go to bed, too. $5
Daily Total: $39.99
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