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A Week In Northern Virginia On A $176,857 Joint Income

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Today: a teacher who has a joint income of $176,857 and spends some of her money this week on a new car.
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 29
Location: Northern Virginia
My Salary: $61,857
My Husband's Salary: $115,000
Net Worth: $314,000 ($24,000 (car equity), ~$140,000 (retirement accounts), ~$100,000 (equity on our house), ~$50,000 (savings))
Debt: $488,000 ($8,000 (cars), $480,000 (mortgage))
My Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $3,430
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,300
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,600 (we pay $1,300 twice a month, we're trying to pay it off faster while our expenses are still low)
Student Loans: $0 (we both paid our loans off)
Utilities: ~$230 (water, garbage, electric)
Internet: $40
Phone: $60 (we're still each on our parents' plans, but our phones are paid off)
$67 ($19 for Netflix, ~$42 for Amazon Music, Audible and Prime, Disney+ is free from Verizon, and $6 for Hulu)
Summer Pay Fund: $240 (I only get 11 paychecks a year from my employer, so I save money every month to pay myself in July)
Retirement: $1,834 ($780 before taxes for me and $1,054 before tax for my husband; we each have our own retirement accounts for work, 401(k) for him and 403(b) and 457(b) for me. We've been working to invest this into different funds, but we still have a lot to learn.)
Insurance: $196 (I pay $116 for health insurance, dental, vision, and our joint FSA; my husband pays about $80 for insurance and FSA and gets free dental and vision from work.)
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. My parents moved to this country when I was 10 years old to ensure that I attend college and post-grad in the U.S. So when it came time to apply for college, it was never a discussion. I knew that with that expectation came financial help from my parents to pay for college. My parents essentially started over from nothing when they got here. Despite this, they somehow were able to help me pay for college outside of a $5,000 loan that I took out in my name. To this day I don't know how they did it, because we did not have any built-up wealth. For grad school I was able to get a generous grant through the NSF that paid for the bulk of my tuition, I also worked part-time and got a $5,000 loan.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
After moving to the states at 10, I grew up pretty fast. I learned about a lot of the realities of living below the poverty line. However, my mom was able to learn English and get a better job and we worked our way into the lower middle class. By the time I was in high school, my parents were able to buy a house. Then, less than a year later [in 2007], the market crashed. Luckily my parents didn't lose their jobs, but once again, I became very aware of our finances. My parents' home loans had extremely high interest rates (6% and 11%). This put a big strain on all of us mentally, even though my parents tried their hardest to keep me shielded from it. Through all of this, my parents did talk to me about saving by telling me not to spend money on frivolous things.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
In high school my parents didn't want me working because they wanted me to focus on school. When I was 17, I convinced them that it would show college admissions that I was able to juggle more things, so I got a job at a grocery store. I wanted to get a job because I was never given an allowance and was never able to buy anything myself.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes, I was unfortunately very perceptive, and even though my parents tried their best, I always knew money was tight and that we had nothing to fall back on. Both of my parents also had lingering health problems and so I always knew that if something happened to one of my parents, it would be financially catastrophic and we might have to move back to our home country. This anxiety has definitely stuck around.
Do you worry about money now?
I don't worry in the same way that I did growing up. My husband and I have been lucky enough to contribute to our retirement accounts starting at a young age, and we have a pretty good safety net. I worry that I wouldn't be able to support one of my parents if the other one passed away. I'm also worried that we can't afford to grow our family and maintain our saving and investment habits, because child care is so expensive where we live.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became 100% responsible at the age of 24 when I started working as a teacher. Before that my parents helped with rent and car payments in grad school. I worked a few jobs in college that helped me pay for everything but room and board. I also worked in grad school to pay off my tuition, which helped me walk away from grad school with only a $5,000 loan. At this time, I'm sure our parents would step in to help if we needed.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My grandmother gave my husband and me about $8,000 over the last five years to help us with a down payment towards a home. She knew I would save it, so she was happy to give us what she could save from her pension. We don't anticipate having any passive or inherited income in the future.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I hear my husband, K., in the shower and curse at myself for forgetting to turn my alarm off last night. It's summer break and I like to wake up naturally sometime between 7 and 8. Since I'm awake, I take my temperature and mark it in my ovulation apps (I'm trying a couple of different ones to see which I like). I started tracking my ovulation as a form of birth control because I want to get off the pill. I stay in bed a little longer.
7:30 a.m. — My husband leaves for work and my dog. F., starts crying. I get myself into some yoga pants and a sports bra for our morning walk. I feed our cat and head out with F. After several minutes of sniffing around our yard to go to the bathroom, she doesn't, so we leave our property for a walk and she has diarrhea in our neighbor's yard. We're those people now — sorry! I scoop it up the best that I can while praying for a rainstorm to wash away our shame and head back home for a much needed hand-washing.
10:30 a.m. — After I shower, I sit in the living room, relax and text with some coworkers about meeting up at a winery later this week. I also check my emails and see Chewy is out of our cat's food, so I hop on Amazon and quickly order a month's supply. $49.41
2:30 p.m. — I make some cheese quesadillas with jalapeño. The fresh jalapeño is delicious, but I still add some hot sauce for more heat. I decide to knock a few things off my to-do list before finishing a movie on Netflix.
3:45 p.m. — I do some laundry, tidy up in the kitchen and, go to Costco for turkey breast lunch meat, sour cream, fabric softener, and tortellini. Now I'm ready to get back to Netflix and lounging. $41
6:30 p.m. — K. comes home from work and finds me on the couch cuddling with F. He reminds me that he has to pay for parking at work, which is annoying. The office only allows vaccinated employees back, so he's been going to the office three days a week since June. We cuddle for a bit with F. $8
7 p.m. — K. and I head out to test drive a new car. I'm looking to sell my commuter car because its value is so high right now. It's paid off, so we would save some of the money and put some of it toward a down payment on a lease (~$2,000). Plus, I want to switch to an electric car. We're looking at leasing because electric cars are expensive, depreciate a lot, and with technology changing, it doesn't make sense to buy right now.
7:45 p.m. — The car is fine, but the numbers they give us are way higher than what we anticipated. So we're going to test drive another car this weekend, for comparison. We get home and I quickly fry up some fish and make a traditional cornmeal, cheese, and sourcream dish to go along with it. In the meantime, K. takes F. on her evening walk.
10 p.m. — Bedtime. We take F. outside and feed the cat. Then head upstairs and watch Legend of Korra before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $98.41

Day Two

8:45 a.m. — I end up sleeping in today. After getting my temperature and logging it on my apps, I sit on my phone for a bit. I get up, wash my face, and put on some Renewed Hope in a Jar from Philosophy to help wake me up. I then feed the cat and take F. out on her morning walk. No diarrhea! We end up walking about two miles as I get lost in my audiobook.
10:15 a.m. — Once we're back, I resolve to continue being productive and so I tidy the kitchen, vacuum, water the garden, defrost some chicken, cut up some watermelon for later, and eat some fruit for breakfast. All the while I'm still listening to Enrique's Journey. I teach a lot of students with very similar stories to Enrique's, and so it's hard to listen to, but it's an extremely good book that I highly recommend. As an immigrant with a very different story, this is heartbreaking.
12 p.m. — I start to think about what I want to do for lunch. I decide on a caprese salad because I have a few ripe tomatoes in the garden. I go outside and grab a few cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, cut up mozzarella, and drizzle everything with olive oil and sprinkle in some salt. I go back to relaxing with Netflix and F. on the couch.
3 p.m. — I start to get dinner ready. I want to make a biryani recipe my mom got from her neighbor, but I realize I'm out of onions and milk. On the way to the grocery store, K. calls and asks me to get him some decaf green tea for the office. I also buy some potatoes and sunflower seeds. $20.67
4 p.m. — While the chicken biryani is in the oven, I paint my nails. I started doing my own gel manicure at home after the pandemic started. It was a $40-$50 initial investment and I've gotten a few polishes since then, but overall, it's much cheaper. I don't think I'll go back to the nail salon any time soon. While I do my nails I watch The Handmaid's Tale.
6:30 p.m. — K. comes home from work and we chat about his day (he paid for parking again). He doesn't like how empty the office feels. I sip on some rosé and munch on olives while we talk. K. sees F.'s dog pals playing outside so we go say hi and get F. some socialization time before dinner. Quarantine puppies… am I right? $8
7:30 p.m. — We come back in and have the chicken biryani (which turned out great) and watch Schitt's Creek for a while.
9 p.m. — We take F. outside and feed the cat. Then head upstairs and put on Legend of Korra while we fold some laundry.
Daily Total: $28.67

Day Three

1:45 a.m. — I'm wide awake from a vivid dream I can't remember anymore. I decide to go downstairs and snack while I read The Kingdom of Back to get my mind tired again. So far as I can tell it's a sci-fi story about Mozart and his sister. After about 50 pages, I decide I like it and that I should keep reading it.
4 a.m. — I fall asleep sometime around 4 a.m., stressed that I'll miss my alarm in the morning.
8:37 a.m. — Wake up to my alarm. I get dressed and take F. out for a walk. When I get back, I shower and actually put on some makeup. I've been using the La Roche Posay tinted primer that has SPF 50 all summer. I'm very happy with it. It also does great under my trusty Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer and hasn't made me break out at all.
10:50 a.m. — After my shower, I get a few winery essentials packed up and ready to go — cheese, salami and my special parmesan and olive oil dip. My friend, T., is meeting me at my house and we're going to carpool to a winery that's about 45 minute out west. K. and I got our vaccines as soon as we were able to, so we've been socializing with other vaccinated people since around late May. It's been wonderful getting back to a more normal life. All of our family and friends are vaccinated, so we've been able to see a lot of them this summer. But we still eat outdoors and mask inside, you can't be too careful and my parents are high risk.
3 p.m. — T. and I are back from the winery. I ended up just getting a tasting because I wasn't super impressed with their white wines. Once we're back, I decide to start baking a peach clafoutis recipe I got from Manon Lagrève's Tuesday Bake-alongs on her Instagram. We chat while I get the clafoutis in the oven and relax on the couch while it's baking. $15
6:30 p.m. — K. comes home from work (paid for parking) and joins us for a chat. $8
7:45 p.m. — After my friend leaves, we take F. on a short walk and head back to eat leftover chicken biryani. After dinner, K. tries the clafoutis and loves it. He decides that he's in charge of the dessert next week. He wants to make something with cream cheese frosting, but isn't sure what yet. I suggest carrot cake because it's my favorite type of cake.
9 p.m. — We're both exhausted, so we agree to go to bed early tonight. We take F. outside and feed the cat. Then head upstairs and put on Legend of Korra again, we're getting close to the end of the second season.
Daily Total: $23

Day Four

9:25 a.m. — I wake up with a gnarly backache. I take my temperature and log it. I wash my face, put on my Philosophy moisturizer, get dressed, and head downstairs. F. is just going to have to get a run around the backyard today because I'm not up for walking her this morning. I check all my emails and see that Chewy shipped F.'s food. $55
11 a.m. — K. is running a virtual meeting in the next room, which means I have to keep it down until it's over. I sit on the couch and relax with a book instead of my usual streaming services.
1 p.m. — I get a one-way ticket to meet my parents in Myrtle Beach, SC. I splurge on a premium seat because I'm an anxious flier. My parents will be my ride back at the end of the week. Unfortunately, K. doesn't have enough vacation days to join in. $128
2 p.m. — We call a contractor to give us an estimate for the electrical car charging station. He comes and says the old spa hookups will help out a lot, so he's going to crunch the numbers and send us an estimate soon. We're looking for something that's no more than $1,000. After the contractor leaves. I make a spicy cheese quesadilla for lunch. I also defrost some chicken thighs that I plan on marinating for this weekend and a large piece of steak we got a few months ago for a nice date night meal. K.'s meetings are done for the day so I start watching The Handmaid's Tale, put a heating pad on my back, and enjoy my quesadilla.
5 p.m. — K.'s done working, so we walk over to the food truck that our HOA organized to come today. We walk around the neighborhood with F. while we're eating and talking about our food plans for the weekend. Food and meals are at the center of life in our home. $17
6:30 p.m. — After we get back K. decides he wants to try a climbing gym near us to see if he likes it. It's $22 for a day-pass. He heads out while I settle in with Forrest Gump. I haven't seen this movie in such a long time! $22
9:30 p.m. — K. and I are munching on some Taco Bell and watching the end of Forrest Gump. Then we decide to watch another movie and I make peanut butter and jelly cocktails for dessert. $6
12:30 a.m. — It's late and I had one too many PB&J drinks. We walk F. and crawl into bed for the night.
Daily Total: $228

Day Five

9:35 a.m. — We finally get out of bed and get ready quickly. I wash my face, put on moisturizer and some NYX eyebrow tint. We have to be at the car dealersip at 11. We quickly walk F. around the neighborhood and feed the before we head out.
10:35 a.m. — We stop at a Taco Bell to get something on the way. I'm made up of about 10% Taco Bell. $6
2:35 p.m. — We test drive another car and I like it so much better. We talk numbers and we are able to convince them to lower the cost by about $2,000 and bump up their offer on my car by $1,500. Since the numbers match what we are looking for, we decide to trade in our current car and lease this one. It all comes out to a similar monthly cost as the payments we've been making for my car for the last five years, so it doesn't affect our finances. We got $10,500 for my car and we put down $3,000 of it towards the lease. All we have to pay today is the first month of the lease. $241
5 p.m. — Taking everything out of my car makes me feel nostalgic, it has served me well for six years. I'm excited to do something good for the environment and at the same time lower our fuel and maintenance costs with an electric vehicle. We drive off the lot in the new car and head home.
6:30 p.m. — While K. walks F., I start making mashed potatoes and steak for dinner. We're so exhausted, we don't really feel like it's a real date night, but that's okay. We chat about our purchase and our plans for getting the 240 volt plug put into the garage.
8 p.m. — We're settled on the couch passively watching TV while K. reads through the car manual and I cuddle F.
9:30 p.m. — We feed the cat, walk F., and head up to bed.
Daily Total: $247

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I wake up naturally and actually feel rested. K. and I take F. out for a longer walk around the neighborhood since she didn't get as much attention yesterday. Once we're back, I start putting everything in its place in the new car.
12:30 p.m. — We get brunch and charge the car while we're eating. When we get to the restaurant, we discover that charging is free for two hours. The brunch is delicious and by the time we are done, the car is fully charged. $61
2:30 p.m. — After brunch we do our normal routine of groceries and other odds and ends. First stop, groceries. $64
3:10 p.m. — After, we go to Target for toiletries ($20). K. wants to look for running shorts, so I decide to meander into Home Goods next door while he finishes up at Target. I leave with an interesting glass bottle display that I plan on putting eucalyptus stems in ($10). $30
3:35 p.m. — K. texts me that he can't find running shorts at Target so he is going into Sierra to look. I join him and find a cute PJ set, some yoga shorts, and a top. We leave the shopping center feeling guilty about our spending. This shopping center has it ALL; it's very dangerous. $58
4:30 p.m. — Our last stop before we get home is Home Depot. We want to change an outlet in the garage to a newer one since we want to charge the car in there until the 240V charger is installed. $4
6 p.m. — After we get home and unpack, we fall asleep on the couch. I wake up not really knowing what day, month, or year it is. I try on my Sierra purchases. The PJ set fits perfectly and is super soft, so I decide to keep it. The shorts work well too, but the top is not great, so I will return that later in the week.
7:35 p.m. — K. ends up mapping out all the circuits in our house while installing the new outlet and realizes that the builders in 1985 didn't follow the electrical code when they installed the outlet in the garage. So he heads back out to Home Depot to get the right plug for the garage. $15
8:30 p.m. — I was going to grill some chicken for dinner, but we're both still too full from bottomless brunch and it's getting late. We snack on smoked salmon with cream cheese and crackers while we watch Schitt's Creek.
9:45 p.m. — It's late and it's a work night for K., so we feed the cat, walk F., and head up to bed.
Daily Total: $232

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I'm up and can hear K. on Zoom downstairs. I take my temperature and lie in bed on my phone for a bit. I remember that I made plans with coworkers to go to a dog park. I text the group to get the ball rolling so I can plan out my day.
9:20 a.m. — I walk F. about a mile around the neighborhood. While on the walk, my doggy date plans fall through. When I get back, I get some to-dos off my list. I need to report my old car as sold with the DMV and my county.
1:20 p.m. — I end up laying about all morning watching Outlander. I take a break and make myself a quesadilla with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, cheese, and hot sauce. I can tell after the second episode that I will be on the couch watching Outlander for the rest of the summer.
4:20 p.m. — I decide to do something productive, so I run to the post office to mail the spare key to my old car to the dealer. On the drive, I discover that the car has an eco mode, so I test that out. It seems like the braking regenerates the battery, saving me some energy. $3.70
6:20 p.m. — K. finishes up work, so I fire up the grill while he runs to our local Salvadorian place to grab two orders of yucca fries to go with our grilled chicken. I also grill some eggplant to make an Eastern European version of baba ganoush. $6
8:20 p.m. — We're full and settled on the couch watching Schitt's Creek again.
9:40 p.m. — It's late, so we feed the cat, walk F., and head up to bed while L. tries to talk me into watching some more Legend of Korra before bed.
Daily Total: $9.70
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