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A Week In Missouri On A $74,200 Joint Income

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 teacher who has a joint income of $74,200 and spends some of her money this week on a Madewell sweater.
Occupation: TeacherIndustry: EducationAge: 27Location: Missouri My Salary: $34,200My Husband’s Salary: $40,000Net Worth: $43,500. (I’ve been married for four years, we’ve been together almost 10. We currently share all of our finances between joint accounts. $34,000 home equity, $15,000 in savings, $2,500 in a checking account, $5,000 in my retirement plan, $1,000 in my husband’s retirement plan. Minus $14,000 car loan.)Debt: $130,000 ($116,000 mortgage, $14,000 car loan)My Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $2,300Monthly ExpensesMortgage: $780 (My husband and I purchased our first home when we were 19 and 20 years old. It was $75,000. We lived there as the market increased, which later allowed us to purchase our current home for $150,000.)Car Loan: $300Netflix/Swift/Amazon Subscriptions: $45NEA (Teacher’s Union): $22Phone Bill: $130Electric: $67Internet: $55Water: $90Life Insurance: $26Car Insurance: $142Dog Food: $50Fuel Costs: $150Savings: I attempt to put roughly $2,000 into savings per month with the intent of paying the rest of my husband’s truck in the next year.
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?My parents were divorced and while my mom continued on with higher education (she has a master’s degree), my dad never pushed higher education on me. While I knew I wanted to be a teacher (which of course required a degree), I was not instructed or provided any means to pay for it, or even taught how to afford it. I attended a junior college for two years and I used a program called A+ to pay for it. After that, I attended a university where I worked two jobs to help pay for my tuition as I went through. I finished with $15,000 in student loans that I immediately started making large payments on and was able to pay it off right as I started my first teaching job.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?These conversations didn’t exist. I often saw my mom struggle with money and we would constantly be reminded that we didn’t have any. As for my dad, he lived very frivolously (and still does). It seems the second he gets a dollar in his hand, he has to spend it. I feel I was educated about finances from learning what not to do.
What was your first job and why did you get it?My very first job was when I turned 16. I worked at McDonald’s and babysat for a family friend during the summer. I got these jobs to help pay for gas as well as to have extra spending money.
Did you worry about money growing up?Always. It’s very terrifying to hear your parent say they don’t have any money or go as far as to wonder how they’d pay the house payment or electric bill. I was very fearful of money for the longest time and started to develop a relatively unhealthy relationship with the concept of it.
Do you worry about money now?I do, but I’m getting better. This sounds strange, but I use to sort of hoard money. I would work as much as possible and put every extra cent into my savings because I was so scared that one day I’d come up short on something. I was 18-19 years old and had nearly $30,000 in a savings account and still didn’t feel secure. As years have progressed, I’ve tried to calm my thinking and become more realistic with it. I am now working to get fully out of debt and become less afraid of spending.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?I would say around 16 years old. I became financially responsible for myself as it was the age I started working. My husband and I do not have a financial safety net. I think if I asked my parents or his parents, they would help us to the best of their abilities, but we would honestly never ask.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.No, I have not.
Day One
7 a.m. — My husband and I are both really good about eating at home as much as possible. As much as I love to swing through a drive-thru for some greasy breakfast, I settle for oatmeal and buttered toast and then head to work.
6 p.m. — After a day of teaching all I want is ice cream! We try to eat relatively healthy, but ice cream is our weakness. There’s a local frozen custard stand in our town that serves the best waffle taco frozen custard, so we each get one. I get peanut butter cups with chocolate and he gets butterfingers with vanilla. $12.68
6:30 p.m. — One of my favorite stores sent me an email today about a sale they’re having. After a quick beg to husband to check it out, I walk around a solid 30 minutes and end up leaving with nothing. We go home, eat dinner, and lounge for the rest of the night.
Daily Total: $12.68
Day Two
9 a.m. — Saturday mornings are for buying a week’s worth of groceries. I don’t mind grocery shopping, but during a pandemic and in a town where many people don’t wear masks, shopping has become even less enjoyable. I get there as early as possible to avoid crowds. I start at Aldi (my favorite) then finish with a quick run in Walmart for the couple of items Aldi doesn’t have. I have a $50 Aldi gift card my mom got me for my birthday, so our grocery spending is super low this week! $41.92
10:15 a.m. — I’m hungry, and of course, after grocery shopping, there’s no better thing to do than not eat the food you just bought! I run by a locally-owned donut shop and grab a few for my husband and me, as well as a chocolate milk for me and a bottled Starbucks coffee for him. $13.17
2:15 p.m. — We spend most of our day at home, lounging around and watching TV. We take our dogs for a quick walk around the park then decide we’re hungry. I place an online order for Jimmy John’s and because we leave half a mile too far for them to deliver, we jump in my car and go pick it up to bring home. $18.26
6 p.m. — My husband cuts grass in the summer and my aunt often pays him ahead of time. Now that the season is finally changing, she over-paid and I’ve been meaning to refund that additional money back to her. For some reason, I remember and Venmo her $25. $25
Daily Total: $98.35
Day Three
7 a.m. — Since we ate out a lot yesterday, my husband and I make a quick promise to each other that we’re going to do better today. With that, we have breakfast at home, which consists of waffles, turkey bacon, and eggs. We spend the rest of the morning working out (I run five miles on the treadmill, he runs 10 miles outside) and doing various household chores.
1 p.m. — My husband often eats protein bars for breakfast and realized we’re completely out. We make a stop at a vitamin shop and stock up on a few to get him through the next week. $14.30
3 p.m. — Today we’re having a few pictures taken by one of my favorite photographers so I can send out Christmas cards in the next few weeks. Typically when we get pictures done (every other year or so), I spend hours looking for new outfits. I’m not sure what changed within me this year, but I managed to find what we need already hanging in our closet. Our pictures cost $200. $200
3:15 p.m. — On our way to pictures, I realize I probably should have grabbed some eyelashes and stick on nails because they looking pretty rough. We stop at Walmart and I run in and grab those two items. $15.06
5 p.m. — After the pictures, we meet up with my mom for dinner at a bar and grill in town. We pay, but my mom gives me $7 (which I throw in my wallet as I don’t have any small enough bills to add to it for the tip). The bill comes to $41.09. I add 8.91 to it for the tip, making our total exactly $50. $50
Daily Total: $279.36
Day Four
7 a.m. — Today is payday, which means I transfer any additional money from the previous paycheck into our savings. This morning I move $500 into our savings account.
8 a.m. — My paycheck finally hits and it’s $2,468.94. It’s a little higher this month as I’ve been working some additional hours at the school. This check always seems too big to me, but then I remember I live in the Midwest where teachers are severely underpaid and I get a quick reality check.
11 a.m. — On my lunch break I get a quick 30 minutes to shovel in as much as I can before my next group of students arrives. During this lunch break, I decide to order my sister’s Christmas present because it already sold out once. I’m getting her a super cute pair of boots from Madewell, but I end up ordering through Zappos where they still have the color and size she wanted. Not only that, Zappos gives a 10% discount for teachers (SCORE!), so I put them in my cart and submit my purchase. $216.48
4 p.m. — I get home to find a check in the mailbox from GAP coverage we had purchased on my car. Since we paid it off early, we’re able to get a refund of the coverage so I rip open the envelope to find a check for $630! I quickly sign the back, pull out my phone, and deposit it electronically into our bank account.
Daily Total: $216.48
Day Five
8 a.m. — My husband fills up his gas tank on the way to work. Of course, he drives a huge truck, which seems to cost a million dollars to fill! On the bright side, he works close by so a tank of gas can last a whole month. $51.37
10 a.m. — Thanks to the constant mask-wearing, my skin has been freaking out lately. I spend a solid 45 minutes reading reviews on different skincare products and gathering a completely new routine for myself (because there’s, of course, nothing better I should be doing?!). I decide adding Vitamin C to my routine is a must and jump on Amazon to order a bottle. Thanks to Prime, I find one with next-day shipping. $8.50
11 a.m. — Now that I’ve been thinking more about my skincare, I decide the addition to Vitamin C just isn’t going to cut it. I pull out a $25 Ulta gift card I’ve been saving and start loading up my cart with different products. After I input my gift card, I still owe $38.85…Hey, at least I spent enough to get free shipping. $38.85
4 p.m. — By the time I’m home, I remember I should probably transfer some of that GAP refund into our savings. Minus the boots I bought for my sister, I transfer the remainder of the check into our savings (about $330).
Daily Total: $98.72
Day Six
7 a.m. — Ugh, I wake up and check my account because I know there are a few things coming out today. Why does it seem the largest of the bills all fall on the same day? I hate that the first thing I do in the morning is check my account. It just feels so obnoxious to me. I catch myself falling into old habits of the constant account-checking compulsion like I’m worried I’ll just open it one day and all of our life savings will have vanished. I try to avoid these thoughts, but this compulsion I have to constantly check our accounts may never fully go away.
11:10 a.m. — I remember I have a $25 reward to use at Madewell from my birthday. I scroll through the website with so many beautiful things, but nothing is jumping out at me. I switch over to the sale section and find a black sweater on sale with an additional 40% off. They have my size, so I decide I better just grab it. I go to checkout, using the reward and my total comes to $10.54 — not too bad for a store where I can hardly afford anything! $10.544 p.m. — Ahh, time for the dentist! I was supposed to come in March, but due to the pandemic the office shut down and I never rescheduled my appointment when they re-opened. I’m here today though and per usual, not looking forward to my visit. I like to call myself the “Cavity Queen” because no matter how many times a day I brush, floss, and use mouthwash, I seem to always have a cavity. For some lucky reason, today isn’t one of those days! After they do the normal appointment things, I tell them about a tooth that still bothers me, even though it was filled two years ago. They tell me they can seal the tooth for $25 and see if that helps with the sensitivity. I say yes and when they’re done, skip to the front and pay my bill of $82. $82Daily Total: $92.54
Day Seven
7:15 a.m. — I am CRAVING breakfast food this morning and there’s not a single thing at home I want. I remember the $7 my mom gave me in cash the other night at the restaurant and decide I definitely need McDonald’s. I hurry to get ready, kiss my husband goodbye, and fly into the drive-thru. I get a sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle, hashbrown, and a Diet Coke. My total comes to $6.27, but I round up to donate the remaining 73 cents to the Ronald McDonald House. I savor every bite of this glorious, greasy masterpiece. $7
4 p.m. — Driving home from work, I realize I really need to stop for fuel. I pull up to one of the only gas stations in town that has diesel, and as I pump, I wait for someone to question why I’m putting diesel in my car. (This happens about every other time I fill up… I’m not sure if people don’t realize diesel cars actually exist or they just have sexist thoughts of me being a woman and not being smart enough to know which pump to use.) No one says anything this time, so I rip my receipt out, germ-x my hands, and climb back in my car to go home. $24
4:15 p.m. — Before I get home, I remember my husband only bought enough protein bars to get him through part of the week. Remembering they sent me a coupon, I turn in the opposite direction from my house and head back to the vitamin store. I load up on bars they have marked down, and with my $10 coupon, the total comes to $17.42. I’m pretty impressed with my haul — this should last him a solid three weeks. $17.42
Daily Total: $48.42

Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.
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