A Week In Austin, TX, On A Joint $164,000 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.
This week: a wedding photographer who makes $45,000 per year ($164,000 when combined with her husband) and spends some of her money this week on Unreal peanut butter cups.
Occupation: Photographer
Industry: Weddings
Age: 34
Location: Austin, TX
Gender Identity: Woman
My Salary: $45,000
My Husband's Salary: $109,000 + $10,000 annual bonus
My Paycheck Amount: Varies from month to month
My Husband's Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,249
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,025.20 (includes PMI, HOI, and property taxes)
Car Loan Payment: $815
Student Loans: $0 (Both of us attended in-state public schools and were lucky enough to have parents who paid tuition in full.)
Health Insurance: $124
My Husband's 401(k) Contribution: $375 (maxed out)
Utilities: $115-$350
Internet: $101
Cell Phone: $184
Ad-Free Hulu & Netflix: $24.85
Cleaning Service (2x/month): $245
Charitable Contributions: $10-$30 to ACLU, Sierra Club, NNAF, & Planned Parenthood
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Annual Expenses
Roth IRA: $5,500 (I max out my Roth IRA every year in one lump sum.)
Amazon Prime: $119
Book Of The Month: $150 yearly subscription
Car Insurance: $2,508

Day One

10 a.m. — I'm up even though I slept only five hours. I check my phone in bed — there's a message from a friend whose photographer bailed for her wedding next month. Luckily, I'm available on her wedding day and can actually help. (I don't want to lecture, so I'll keep it brief, but if a deal is "too good to be true," it usually is. I've had to help more than one couple who relied on a "friend" to find a replacement at the last minute. Professionals cost money, and they're pro for a reason!) She's signed a contract and paid her deposit even before I'm out of bed!
12 p.m. — After eating an RxBar while answering client emails and doing a few other administrative tasks, I go to Pilates, using up the last class of a package I bought last month. Post-workout, I buy a giant jug of kombucha, canned coffee for my husband, a whole raw chicken, and Unreal dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Whole Foods. Then I swing by the library to pick up a book I have on hold. $43.35
1:30 p.m. — I shower when I get home and moisturize my face afterward with light argan oil. Then I start a load of laundry, check the mail, and have a glass of kombucha. I flip through some social media, but everyone's just sharing GOT memes.
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2:45 p.m. — Lunch is scrambled eggs with spinach, sweet potato, and avocado; I compost the egg shells and avocado skin. We love citywide composting — we can toss so much more into the industrial compost! It's allowed us to reduce our trash-bin size and thus $5/month on our utility bill.
3:30 p.m. — I work for a while at the computer, delivering a gallery to a client, sharing images with a restaurant that let us shoot an engagement session in their space (they wanted some images for their social media), and editing another engagement session. While I work, I listen to a podcast (The Bechdel Cast) and take breaks to change out the laundry.
6:45 p.m. — I get to a good stopping point and heat up dinner. While I was working, another client paid an invoice for a wedding next month and my husband returned from work. Dinner is leftover chicken thighs, steamed fresh broccoli, and Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi seasoned with EVOO/salt/pepper, with grapefruit Waterloo sparkling water.
7:10 p.m. — My husband, C., decides to go visit a friend who just moved back to Austin...into the apartment complex across the street! (Coincidence? I think not.) C. buys a six-pack of beer and walks over to hang out with him for a while. Meanwhile, I sit at the kitchen table and watercolor for a while as I finish the podcast episode. I snack on some mixed berries. $10.81
10:00 p.m. — I read for couple of hours until I get annoyed with the historical characters (I'm reading the history of Texas, because I'm an old nerd) and go to bed by 12:30.
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Daily Total: $54.16

Day Two

9 a.m. — I'm up even though I slept poorly. I go around the house organizing all the clutter to make it easier for our housekeeper to do her job (she vacuums, wipes, dusts, and mops, but she doesn't put things away). C. and I used to bicker about cleaning and finally pulled the trigger on hiring someone to come in every two weeks. Isn't it weird how a person's brand of messy can be so irritating to someone else? Honestly, hiring someone to clean for us has alleviated pretty much the only recurring source of tension in our marriage. Money well spent!
10 a.m. — I tackle my inbox as I have a glass of kombucha and then prep the chicken for dinner. I haven't slow-cooked anything in a long while, but I had a hankering for this cilantro-lime chicken recipe I like, so I follow the recipe and put the bird on low for six hours.
11 a.m. — The housekeeper comes and cleans. I stay in my home office and answer more emails, waste time on social media, and edit another session while she does the rest of the house. (My office is perfectly preserved the way that I like it: messy as hell and everything where I last put it.) After she leaves, I eat a hard-boiled egg with avocado and sweet potato.
1 p.m. — I package up a final wedding-gift box for a client — yes, what is the point of a gift box when photos can be digitally downloaded these days? I just really like my couples to have a nice, physical "last touch" keepsake from me, so I send them some prints, their USB, candy, and a fancy throw blanket when their photos are done. I weigh the box and print out the USPS label so it's ready to go. ($8.30 expensed)
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4 p.m. — My sister texts me to let me know she's going to our parents' house. It's mom's birthday today, and last week we pre-ordered an Edible Arrangement. We've never tried this gift before, but Mom always likes edible gifts, and apparently the chocolate-covered fruit is a hit. Mom, sis, and I spend about 40 minutes chatting on speakerphone. Sometimes I get sad living in a different city from the rest of my family. I wish I could drop in on my folks more often.
5 p.m. — The chicken is done! I fix myself a plate with a side of TJ's cauliflower gnocchi and a watermelon Waterloo. C. comes home from work but has plans to hang out with some friends at the bar that's walking distance from our house, whereas I'm going to an event at a bookstore downtown. He tells me later he got a few beers and a burger. $38.33
6 p.m. — I actually put on makeup and outside clothes to go to the author event. I read the ARC (advanced reader copy, which publishers give out for free in exchange for an honest review) of this book a few months ago and enjoyed it. Usually I buy a hard copy of the book for these types of events (support local bookstores! support authors!), but I don't know if I'd reread it, so I don't. A few of my book-club friends are also in attendance, and we sit in the same row.
7 p.m. — The author is charming and funny. After the Q&A, I stand in line with some of my book-club ladies to chat while they're waiting to get their copies signed. I find another set of friends there that I haven't seen in a while and split off from one group to talk to the other. They want to get ice cream, so we walk across the street to continue our conversation. I can't have ice cream due to a dairy intolerance, but I sit with my friends while they eat their sundaes. They're much younger than I am (on the Gen Z cusp), but we have the same taste in books, so we always have something to talk about. Though I only pretend to understand when they use the term "yeet."
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11 p.m. — We finally part ways, and I shower immediately after getting home — it was really humid out there. Then I trawl social media while eating a bowl of strawberries. I get a Facebook ad for a ridiculous swimsuit with your partner's face on it (or anyone's face, really, but they advertise it as a sweetheart thing), and it's so hilarious that I buy it to prank my husband on his birthday next month. The suit is just as much as the shipping, but altogether it's $20, which will be well worth the reaction I imagine he'll have when he sees me in it. $20.98
Daily Total: $59.31

Day Three

9 a.m. — I slept like the dead. Apparently C. kissed me goodbye before he left (he's an early riser and takes advantage of the free cafeteria at his work, eating two meals a day there), but I didn't move. I wake up once at 9, but my eyes feel so sticky that I shut them again and let myself sleep in. Sitting outside last night was probably a mistake — my allergies are acting up from whatever was in the air.
11 a.m. — I'm up and feed the cats, who are offended that I took so long to attend to them. I have a glass of kombucha while going over emails and make plans to get lunch with a friend/wedding coordinator next week.
12 p.m. — I don't feel like looking at photos just yet, so I read a finance book a friend recommended to me. While I do feel like C. and I are better prepared than a lot of our peers with money (we make enough, we don't plan on having kids, no student loans, we save for retirement, etc.), I am totally in the dark about investing. I end up calling my dad to ask him some financial questions since he is the most level-headed, risk-free person I know — it's because of his planning that my college tuition was covered, after all — and we chat a bit about money before he has to get back to work.
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2 p.m. — I realize I haven't eaten anything yet, and since we have brown bananas, I whip up some banana chocolate-chip pancakes made with oatmeal and coconut flour. I eat half the plate while reading Money Diaries and responding to a bride who wants to book me for a small wedding in two weeks. I send over the e-contract.
3 p.m. — C. is home early from work, getting a start on the weekend. He goes to take a nap and tells me he brought home some candy for me, which makes me love him more (I am definitely my mother's daughter). I have a headache, so I take two ibuprofen and then waste time by researching and shopping for some high-waisted jeans. Though I've never bought from them before, the reviews for Madewell jeans are so positive that I decide to take a chance, even with the high price tag. Neither store in Austin has the style and my size in stock, and the reviews vary between "definitely size down" and "these are TTS," so I end up buying one of each size to be delivered to the store closest to my house. Whichever one doesn't fit, I'll return on the spot. $162.38
6 p.m. — Dinner is yesterday's leftovers. I get ready to go to C.'s cousin's college graduation party, and we hit the corner store to grab some beer. $10.81
7 p.m. — The party is in Round Rock, so we take the toll road there to shave off ten minutes. $1.50
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10 p.m. — A bunch of C.'s family is there, so we hang out and chat. C. drinks enough of the beers he brought along that I drive us home (I don't like alcohol, so I'm a dependable DD). C.'s car weirds me out because it's so smart — it can even recognize if a person is walking on the sidewalk nearby and shows an alert. I have an old car that basically functions as a chair on wheels, and since it has working AC and speakers, I'm happy. C. used to drive a car even older/sadder than mine, but after two years at this nice tech job, he really wanted to replace it with a new electric car, so now we have a car loan. Sigh. At least we got a federal AND state rebate for it, and to plug it in costs basically $5 on our utility bill a month—cheaper than gas. We take the toll back again. $1.50
10:30 p.m. — For the rest of the evening, I snack on an RxBar and the candy C. got for me while I attempt to finish off Westworld season one. I borrowed the DVDs from the library, and they're due back in a couple of days. C. plays on his Switch in the other room because he already spoiled himself on how the first season ends. He goes to bed around 12:30, but I stay up later to finish the penultimate episode.
Daily Total: $176.19

Day Four

9 a.m. — Since it's the weekend, C. got up at a "normal" hour and fed the cats. One barfed. We are super concerned about that cat, who had blood drawn at the vet last week, but we haven't heard the results yet. The cat is only around nine years old and he's going blind, and I regret not getting pet insurance for him, since in the past few weeks he's racked up over $600 in vet bills. This reminds me that I want to get our other cat insured in case something happens to him. (C. also went out and bought replacement deodorant while I was still asleep.) $8.33
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10:30 a.m. — I'm finally up. I finish off the rest of the banana pancakes and have a glass of water.
1:30 p.m. — I nibble on half of a protein bar (it's pea protein and therefore chalky AF) while I finish Westworld (OMG, that ending!). I want to rewatch the entire season again to pick up on details — I make a note to look for used copies if I can find a decent deal. I return a book and the DVDs and pick up another book hold (The Cruel Prince by Holly Black) before the library closes for the day. Even though the library is in my neighborhood, it's over 90 degrees out and I'm lazy, so I drive instead of walking.
5 p.m. — I get home and make some eggs, fried potatoes, and avocado. I eat it while approving a print order from a mom, which is basically free money. I don't count on print orders as part of my business plan — I optimize, but do not prioritize, selling prints — which nets me several thousand dollars a year.
5:30 p.m. — Madewell sends me an email letting me know my order is ready (which is suspiciously fast — I wonder if these jeans were actually in the brick-and-mortar store all along). Since the store is five minutes away, I hop over there and immediately walk into a swamp. Their AC is busted, and I don't love either size of that pair of pants. It's actually miserable trying to pull them on in the hot store, and I rethink buying any jeans at all. There is a point in the Texas summer that I forgo any tight clothing and basically wear shapeless sack dresses while eating Pop Ice until October rolls around, and we are on the brink of that season. Pants of any type feel like a bad choice. I return both pairs. -$162.38
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6 p.m. — I'm bummed about my shopping expedition, so I go to the used bookstore near my house and find two books that I've been meaning to read and are on clearance, The Bone People by Keri Hulme and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. (I bet you're wondering: How many books does this woman need? I'm like Belle and Ariel combined. Wouldn't you think my collection's complete? I want more...) Then I come home sweaty, so I lean into it and have a quick kettlebell workout before I shower. $4.33
7 p.m. — C. is planning to have friends over tonight, so he buys more beer from the corner store to share with everyone. I start prepping for my wedding tomorrow — charging batteries, printing and double-checking the timeline — as his guests arrive. $20.63
8 p.m. — One of C.'s friends invites his wife, and the two of us disappear to a shopping center nearby just to waste time and catch up. I don't know her super well, but from our past sparse interactions I think we'll be good friends, so I'm glad that we're spending some time one-on-one. The only place we spend money is a health-food store, as I add to my vegan chocolate treasure trove. $6.91
9 p.m. — The stores in the strip center close at 9, so we come back to the house and my new friend goes home. I make myself a late dinner. I can eat leftovers for days, so I have the same meal as yesterday. Chicken's on day three, so I carve up a few pieces to freeze and leave just enough in the fridge for tomorrow. Then I finish my wedding prep while feeling my 2000s feels and listening to No Doubt — Tragic Kingdom.
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1 a.m. — Finally, the last of my husband's friends leave and I get the living room back. I write for a while (I've been working on a passion project for a few years now, hoping it'll eventually become a real book) and go to bed at 3.
Daily Total: $40.20

Day Five

11:15 a.m. — C., who got up at 9, crawls back into bed. He's hungover and I'm working today, so I burrow back under the covers. I try to sleep as late as possible on wedding days so that I don't lose steam halfway through a wedding — since I have to be on site today from 4 p.m. to midnight, with energy the entire time, I prefer to skew my sleep schedule accordingly.
12:45 p.m. — We've both finally banked enough sleep and get up. I have my usual breakfast and do my makeup, taking care to put on a good base of sunscreen (I use the Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte) as the wedding is mostly outdoors. I have time to kill before leaving, so I watch the Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special while methodically stuffing myself full of protein. (Sometimes I don't get fed and have to work through hanger. If you're getting married, please be proactive and tell your catering staff to feed the vendors. Beef jerky only goes so far.) The episode has its problematic stuff, but I love how Geraldine does Emma Thompson's Elinor "BWAHH" when Richard Armitage's character proposes to her. If you know what I mean, you're my people.
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3:05 p.m. — I'm out the door. It only takes 35 minutes to get to this venue, but I leave early in case of unexpected traffic. I take the toll road out west of the city (I hate using the toll, but I can write it off) and listen to the new Carly Rae Jepsen album on the drive. ($2.11 expensed)
7:30 p.m. — We get a break for dinner, and it's my favorite catering company serving fancy fajitas. I scarf down two with a half-plate of salad. (Fed! Yay!)
12 a.m. — The wedding is over, and we break down and leave. It was a good wedding! Every guest was nice, the other vendors were actually friendly, and the weather wasn't too hot for late spring in Texas. Probably helps that we were basically right on top of a lake. I take the toll back and listen to the new Marina album. Some good bops! ($2.11 expensed)
12:45 a.m. — As soon as I walk in the door, I peel off my socks, grab a Black Cherry Waterloo, and scarf some dark chocolate peanut butter cups. C. tells me he went out for dinner. I download all the cards and back them up to three places while having my snack. Then I finally shower, moisturizing my face after with Sunday Riley Luna oil. I read another book (that's three I'm in the middle of right now) for a few hours to wind down and go to bed around 3. $23.90
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Daily Total: $23.90

Day Six

11:45 a.m. — I'm up, and even though I'm hungry AF, I don't have the energy to make anything, so I have an RxBar and water. I catch up on social media (I was basically off my phone all day yesterday), taking care to post a sneak peek for the couple and tag them. My husband and I eventually gravitate back to the bedroom and have adult time.
2:50 p.m. — Now I'm REALLY ravenous. C. doesn't want any Whataburger, so I make a run for myself: a hamburger with no onions, small fries, and apple pie. I bring it home and catch up on The Bold Type. The workers gave me a lemon pie by mistake, which is disappointing. I toss it after the first bite. $7.17
4 p.m. — The only thing that forces me off the couch is that I need to drop that client package at the post office. While out, I also visit the grocery store. I buy avocados, hotdogs, bread, bananas, raspberries, cheese, sweet potatoes, almond milk, frozen chicken, Triscuits, canned coffee, cereal, and toothpaste. I also buy some grocery-store sushi to eat for dinner, because I don't have the energy to prepare anything. The rest of the day I just read, do little chores like laundry and dishes, and snuggle with cats. $67.33
Daily Total: $74.50

Day Seven

10 a.m. — I'm greeted by cat vomit when I wake up. This is from the other cat, who somehow ate plastic. Sigh. I check my email — new signed contract, new payment, new print order. I have some dry cereal, but I'm meeting a friend for a late lunch, so I don't want to be too full.
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1 p.m. — I get pizza with a friend on the east side. This place builds the pizza in front of you, like a Subway, and only charges by the size and not the toppings. I get grilled chicken, olives, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes with vegan cheese. Their card reader asks me if I want to tip, but the highest amount to select is 9%? And the system is so clunky, I don't know how to change it to something higher ($10.44 with $1.35 tip). I should tell their management... $11.30
2:30 p.m. — The vet calls me while I'm eating, letting me know the bloodwork results for our cat. Nothing conclusive, but they want him to go on antibiotics just in case of an infection. I head downtown to the vet's office to pick up medication and to discuss what the next step will be after the course is finished. $89.20
3 p.m. — I definitely go to bookstores when I am feeling upset — it's my way of soothing myself. I buy two new releases in hardcover (With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo and Trust Exercise by Susan Choi) and a fun pair of socks. Then I get to sit in traffic, which starts super early nowadays, as I travel the length of Austin back to my house. $55.74
4:10 p.m. — I don't feel like working, but I push myself to work on some of the photos from this weekend's wedding, so I cull through the first part of the day. (Culling is when you pick which images you'll end up delivering to the client. With thousands of photos taken in a day, culling can be a really arduous process.) C. comes home from work.
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7 p.m. — I'm unfocused still, so I pick a movie to zone out to on Netflix and try to drink more water. I get cat cuddles. C. goes out for a massage ($100 plus $25 tip). We both go to the same therapist around once a month for maintenance, sometimes more often if we are extra tense or in pain. #growingold $125
9 p.m. — When C. gets home, he gives me some Sour Patch Kids. He'd stopped at the drugstore for a box of Dots and got me candy, too. I thank him and put it in the pantry — not feeling any more sugar today. I eat an older meal that I'd frozen last week, read for a while, and go to bed late. $3.66
Daily Total: $284.90
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