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A Week In The Suburbs Of D.C. On A $153,000 Joint Income

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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.

Today: a stay-at-home parent with a joint income of $153,000 per year who spends some of her money this week on a Super Soaker.
Occupation: Stay-at-home parent
Industry: None
Age: 33
Location: Suburbs of D.C.
Salary: $0
My Husband's Salary: $153,000
Net Worth: $940,000 joint (checking: $7,800, savings: $157,000, 401(k)s: $143,000, IRAs: $38,500, investments: 208,000, value of cars: $38,000, house: $350,000 (paid off this year)).
Debt: $0
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,900
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
HOA: $99 (we paid off our townhouse this year with a lump sum from our savings after 10 years of our 30-year mortgage. We had been saving this money as a downpayment on our next house, but rising interest rates and house prices have made us slow to move).
Utilities: $300
Health Insurance: $650
Life Insurance: $150
Car Maintenance/Insurance: $280
Streaming: $5
Cell Phones: $115
Internet: $110
Retirement Contribution: $1,750
Roth IRA Contributions: $500 for me, $500 for my husband to meet the annual maximum. This is acting as our daughter's savings for college. We plan to save 80% of her estimated total costs, with inflation, to live on-campus at a state school.
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 expected me to go to college and talked about it with me from a young age. Neither of them went to college and they were insistent that I go. I got my B.A. in English with a minor in Spanish and then, after a year off from school, working part-time in the service industry, I started my master's degree online in Library and Information Science, which I'd been considering as a career path since undergrad. My undergrad was paid for mostly by scholarships. The rest was paid for by my parents. I paid for my graduate degree with the money I made working part-time throughout my program while living at home with my parents. It wasn't sexy, but I graduated debt-free with both degrees. My husband did almost exactly the same for his degrees.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Scary conversations. From a young age, I was aware of money as a problem in our home. We lived well, which is to say my parents paid off their home ahead of their 30-year mortgage and we took a week-long vacation to the same beach town every year. However, it felt like every dollar spent was painful. If we had a calamity in the house (broken fridge, water leak) my parents were very upset. They didn't hide anything, and when they started talking to me about money as I got older, it was always about frugality. There was a lot of guilt around unnecessary spending. It made me very cautious as an adult.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at a women's clothing store in our town's mall when I was 17. I got it because I wanted to get out of the house more and I needed to earn the money to do anything. I also wanted to save money to have spending money for college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, but in what I recognize was a privileged way. There were all these things I wanted to do that we didn't have the money for. I wanted to go on a class trip to Greece, but that was absolutely out of the question. I wanted nicer versions of whatever I had, but they weren't in my parents' budget. I was worried that I'd never have the money to do the things I really wanted to do, like travel.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, but not in the same way. My husband and I are both on the same page about financial matters and I think it really helps to have someone whose judgment you trust managing it with you. Before I stopped working to take care of our daughter full-time, I had a job that paid me very poorly and then a job that paid me very well. It feels like I've taken a step backward to be dependent upon my husband's income and I worry that I've set myself, and us as a family, back financially by making this choice. I never expected to be a stay-at-home parent, but I felt regret every day that I was at work without her. We knew that we could make it work for a finite amount of time, so I took the jump. I knew I would feel guilty either way, so I chose to feel guilty over lost money versus lost time. I'm very fortunate to have had a choice. I plan to go back to work part-time after her second birthday and then full-time roughly a year after that. We've cut back our spending a little bit and I make sure to sell any of her outgrown baby things on Facebook marketplace or through consignment.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at age 23, as I was finishing up graduate school and working two part-time jobs. Soon after that I started working full-time and moved in with my husband. My husband has always had a larger income and has paid more of our expenses. And, of course, he pays all of our expenses since I've been home with our daughter. We both have parents who would help us out financially as they're able, too.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents gave us $10,000 to pay for our wedding. My husband's parents gave us $10,000 to help with the cost of repairs when we first bought our house.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I snooze it. My husband, L., wakes me up at 7am as he's leaving for work to make sure I'm okay. I stayed up late last night writing, trying to steal back some time for myself. I go and get my daughter, H., ready for the day.
7:30 a.m. — After I get breakfast for myself and H., I turn on a Ms. Rachel YouTube video for H. while I run upstairs to brush my teeth and switch out of pajamas into clothes. I have approximately 10 minutes: go!
9:15 a.m. — H. and I drive to Target so that she can pick out a gift for her father. After twenty minutes of touching things at her height, she emphatically selects a Super Soaker. I also steer her to the coffee aisle to choose a bag, and I pick up some new shorts for her. $25.57
12:30 p.m. — After lunch (peanut butter sandwich and applesauce for H., chicken wrap for me, both homemade), I put H. down for her nap and make up a marinade for the chicken we're having for dinner. Then I check my email, scroll through some job listings, and lay down for 30 minutes before I have to get H. up at 2:30.
6:30 p.m. — The afternoon rush is still a rush, even when you're home all day with a kid. Between 5pm and 8pm we have to get dinner made, eaten, cleaned up, and then it's time for H.'s bath and bedtime. It's the last stretch of the day, and it feels like the end of a workout: some days I'm finishing strong, other days I'm phoning it in. Tonight I have to run out to pick up the special-ordered Minnie Mouse wrapping paper for H.'s upcoming birthday. It would've been easier to ship it to the house, but it was free shipping to send it to the store and pick it up. On the way into the mall, I see innertubes meant for lake and river use in the sporting goods store; they're the same ones I was thinking about buying us last week, and the same price. I take it as a sign, and since our 10-year wedding anniversary is tomorrow, I buy them. During COVID, we floated on borrowed tubes on the river near our house and it was fun. Maybe we can do it once this summer, sans toddler. $31.79
10 p.m. — I'm in bed after relaxing in our jacuzzi and finishing up some laundry and watching an episode of Seinfeld with my husband. It's one of the shows we both like, and this is the second time we're rewatching episodes together.
Daily Total: $57.36

Day Two

7 a.m. — Wake up late, again; I've been sleeping poorly. I rush to get H. dressed and fed breakfast.
9:30 a.m. — It's a nice day, so after a quick snack of yogurt for the two of us, we head outside. There's a community playground right behind our house (a blessing and a curse) so we head over there and end up tossing pebbles into a hole for half an hour. I've got one earbud in, listening to Lessons in Chemistry. I'm loving the story and don't want the book to end.
12 p.m. — The thing about toddlers is they can lose their minds at any point. I get H.'s lunch ready and serve it (chicken nuggets and strawberries) and while I'm heating up leftovers for myself, she demands to get up from the table. Then she wants me to come to the table, but my food is still in the skillet. There's been a lot of whining for the past 10 minutes, so I know she's tired and hungry. After I snap at her, I finish up, take the skillet off the burner, and pick her up to apologize.
3:35 p.m. — It's our 10-year wedding anniversary and L. comes home a little early and has roses ($15), chocolates ($9), two scratch-off lottery tickets ($20), and a matchbox car for H. ($5). I give him the innertubes I bought yesterday. We also went out over the weekend for a nice dinner while his parents watched H. We win $10 on the scratch-offs. $49
4:20 p.m. — I have physical therapy this afternoon for ongoing back pain. I'm hyper-flexible and I keep overextending when I pick up H. It's been going really well, but now I want to buy a Theragun.
9 P.M. — I take a bath with Epsom salts to recover after physical therapy. While I'm in the bath, I place a Target order for a t-shirt for H. ($5), a tablecloth ($4.20), and a metal utility cart to store her arts and crafts supplies ($40). I do a lot of online shopping in the bath. Afterwards, L. and I play Battlefield V online with some friends and then I blow dry my hair before turning in around 11 p.m. $49.20
Daily Total: $98.20

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — I don't know why I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. When it comes to getting up at a predetermined time, I'm an eternal optimist.
9 a.m. — L. is working from home today because we're going to meet our realtor at 11 a.m. to look at a listing that came on the market yesterday. I spend the morning trying to distract H. with kinetic sand and stickers, but she's determined to “visit Daddy” at his desk.
11:45 a.m. — It's a rainy day and our realtor is stuck in traffic, so we walk around the listing's yard to kill time. The layout of the house ends up being great, but the lot is more sloped and unusable than we expected from the photos. For the price — $585,000 — we'll keep looking. We stop by Dunkin' for lunch and eat in the car so that we can get H. down for her nap as soon as we get home. $15.43
4:15 p.m. — L. gets home from the second half of his work day and we all head out with the dog for a short walk.
5:15 p.m. — I start making dinner — shrimp scampi for us and chicken nuggets, pasta, and spinach bites for H. She eats most of the nuggets, none of the noodles, and maybe one of the spinach bites. L. and I were both picky eaters as kids, so I find myself walking a fine line between pushing her to try things and letting her get there in her own time.
8:30 p.m. — I've really wanted to see the new movie adaptation of Are You There God? It's Me. Margaret and it's finally available for streaming, but only through purchase ($19.99). Normally I wouldn't buy a new movie, but I didn't have the chance to see this in the theater so I rationalize it as adapting to my current reality of being house-bound. $19.99
Daily Total: $35.42

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — It should be a fun day; we have some outside things planned and the weather looks amazing.
9:20 a.m. — We give H. her snack while we push her in the stroller and go for a walk. Timing her snack this way is the only way to keep her from getting restless in the stroller.
3 p.m. — Our financial advisor's firm is hosting its annual picnic for clients and their families. Since L.'s friend referred us, and then we referred another friend, it's fun to go and hang out together.
5:15 p.m. — L. eats at the picnic, but I stick to a pretty specific timetable for eating my three main meals so I order a sub and pick it up on our way home. H. eats some of it and a peanut butter sandwich. We also serve her carrots and some leftover rice, but she doesn't touch either of those. $6.89
7:45 p.m. — We talk for a while about the picnic and our plans for tomorrow, but honestly, we get into a fight about said plans and both go to bed early and angry around 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $6.89

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I hand H. the gift we wrapped up for L. and have her carry it into the living room to give her daddy. About thirty minutes later, he's squirting her with the Super Soaker in the backyard.
9:35 a.m. — One of our best friends comes over for a short visit. We get the lowdown on how things are going with his new girlfriend and then spend the rest of the time talking about other friends, work, and funny things that have happened to acquaintances.
12:15 p.m. — We're running low on most everything, so L. goes out to pick up lunch from one of our favorite local sandwich places. Their sandwiches are so huge, we can split one. We usually like to split a meal when we go out if we can. It saves money and we don't have to worry about dragging home leftovers — but we do tip as if we had ordered two meals. L. also picks up a side of mashed potatoes for him and a bag of chips for me. $16.83
2:45 p.m. — After H. wakes up, we head over to L.'s parents for a birthday celebration. We stop on the way for lemonade and iced coffee ($5.81). It's L.'s dad's birthday so we also stop for cake and a gift. We get an ice cream cake, a bag of limited edition Old Bay Goldfish, and a joke gift of a “fun pack” of miniature cereal boxes ($39.98). $45.79
7:45 p.m. — We have a cookout and head home around 7:45 p.m., hoping that H. will doze on the way. However, it's summer and still light out, so she stays awake most of the way. When we get home around 9 p.m. and she goes right to bed.
9:30 p.m. — We clean up around the house and then go to bed.
Daily Total: $62.62

Day Six

7:55 a.m. — H. had a really rough night's sleep, so we let her sleep in a bit in the hopes that she won't be overly cranky today.
11 a.m. — Our hopes are dashed; H. is a hot mess, and we're in survival mode. We had originally planned to go to the grocery store as a family, but L. stays home with H. while I make a quick trip to pick up some essentials for the week like milk, eggs, and chicken. I come home and make lunch for everyone, then put H. down for her nap. L. and I also decide to take a nap to recover from the morning's madness. $96.78
3:30 p.m. — The conventional wisdom if your kid is cranky is to add water, so we get ourselves ready and walk down to our community pool, which is included in our HOA payment. After about an hour we've had enough walking back and forth between the kiddie pool and the regular pool and end up having to drag H. home wailing. Cue that TikTok sound from Euphoria of “Hey. Hey. You're not having fun? No. Yeah, me neither.”
5 p.m. — We're keeping dinner simple: tomato soup and grilled cheese. H. goes in the bath immediately afterward, and then we watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for the rest of the evening.
8 p.m. — After H. finally settled, L. walks the dog and we both go to bed around 9, exhausted.
Daily Total: $96.78

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — The benefit of going to bed early and exhausted last night is that waking up on time this morning isn't so difficult.
9:30 a.m. — I pack H. a snack for the car and we head over to pick up her enrollment paperwork for daycare, starting in September. When we get there, I find out that I know her future teacher and I'm really relieved and happy that H. is going to be in her class. As a celebratory gesture, H. and I get Dunkin': a coffee and egg wrap for me, two munchkins for her. $5.87
12:30 p.m. — I start filling out the enrollment paperwork and make out a deposit check to hold H.'s spot. The plan is that I'll substitute teach on the days she's at daycare and then once she's settled, we'll ask to enroll her full-time and I'll look for full-time work, most likely back in libraries. $268
5 p.m. — I have physical therapy, and when I get home, there's a package from Amazon. L. ordered me a knock-off Theragun ($106), which is what the physical therapist recommended would work just as well. Nice! $106
5:15 p.m. — We miscommunicated about dinner, so we order sushi ($33.94) for pick-up and serve H. a grilled cheese and applesauce. $33.94
7:45 p.m. — Thankfully, H.'s bedtime routine goes well and we're in the clear at 7:45 p.m. L. and I play some Mario Kart on the Switch to have a little fun together. Then we head to bed around 9:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $413.81
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