Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a combined $127,000 salary

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Our Cash Confessional series, in partnership with Bank of America, takes a personal and anonymous look into how people of all ages and incomes spend their money in the span of seven days.

To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. This series is completely volunteer-based; if you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Kylie at kylie@charlotteagenda.com. This week, I spoke with a couple, ages 28 and 31, that makes a combined $127,000 a year. Here’s how they spend their money. -Kylie

The basics:

Position: 

Her – Administration
Him – Engineer

Yearly salary: 

Her – $47,000
Him – $80,000

Extra income: 

Her – Up to 10% bonus annually

Savings: 

Her – 20% of each check goes into savings. When she has enough for a substantial emergency fund, she plans to do something more meaningful with this money. 8% of each paycheck goes into her 401k with 3% matched by her company.
Him – 20% of each paycheck goes straight into his company’s 401k plan. 6% goes into his mandatory pension plan. He has a decent emergency fund set up so the remaining savings at the end of the year will go into an IRA or investment account.

Ages: 

Her – 28
Him – 31

Monthly expenses:

Note from the participants: Monthly expenses are divided based on income. He pays the mortgage every month and she pays the remaining home expenses (utilities, HOA, groceries, supplies, etc.). Sometimes he picks up groceries or home supplies and we take turns paying for meals/drinks out and entertainment.

Mortgage: $1,119.06. He pays an extra $100 monthly. Homeowner’s insurance is rolled into this payment and we dodged having to pay mortgage insurance by putting 20% down.
Neighborhood: Elizabeth
Utilities: 

Electric – $50-100, depending on the season
Internet – $49.99
Water – $0, included with HOA
Netflix – $11, which he pays. We don’t have cable, so Netflix is our main means of watching TV. We have an antenna on both of our TVs to pick up local stations and news.
Spotify: $11 for him
HOA: $302. This hurts!
Groceries: We budget ~$250 monthly. we realize that’s a lot for two people, but we try to cook at home a lot and believe in buying quality produce and meats.

Student loans: His are paid off, and hers are $152.05 monthly, but she pays a flat $200 every month. If she has anything left over at the end of the month, she throws it at her student loans.
Car payments: His car is paid off and he’s riding it until it dies, while hers are $248.05.
Car Insurance: 

Him – $46
Her – This is covered by my parents until we get married or my student loans are paid off. I already know I’m going to get flak from CA readers for this one.

Transportation costs: 

Her – ~$60 in gas monthly
Him – Around $60. Living to work helps keep gas down.

Phone bill: 

Her – Paid for by work
Him – $47. He’s on a family plan and pays his portion monthly.

Insurance: 

Her – 100% covered by work. $20 for dental and $100 monthly deferred into an FSA per each paycheck.
Him – $75/month for health insurance and $9/year for dental. Work pays for the rest of the premiums.

AAA membership: $79 annually
Gym membership: $240 monthly. This also hurts, but we love our gym and community!

Four financial goals

She wants to eliminate all student loan debt in the next 1.5 years with an overall goal of paying them off in 3 years’ time. She also wants to save more rigorously for retirement.

He wants to save heavily so they can retire or semi-retire as soon as possible.

Together, they want to save up enough money to buy a house with 20% down. We currently live in a condo and would like to move into a house in the near-ish future and keep the condo as a rental or stay in the condo and purchase a rental property.

They also want to save enough during the year to take one amazing trip annually.

Money Diary: How we spent our money last week

Day one: Sunday

Her: She was home alone this weekend and made breakfast and coffee with items already on hand ($0).

She ran by Trader Joe’s in the afternoon ($81.70) and instead of splurging $9.99 on a bouquet of roses, she opted to stock up on meats for the freezer. On the way home, the gas light came on so she filled up for $32.09.

She spent the rest of the day watching football, cleaning, and meal-prepping for the week. Lunch and dinner were eaten at home ($0).

Him:  He was out of town visiting family and was treated to a homemade breakfast from Mom.

Before heading back to Charlotte, he filled up on gas for $28.  Lunch and dinner were eaten at home ($0).

Total spent: $141.79

Day two: Monday

Her: There was no coffee in the house this morning, so she stopped by Starbucks on her way to work – this is a rarity ($5.68).

She brought breakfast from home and lunch was provided by work.

A Cyber Monday deal caught her attention and a scarf she has been watching went on sale for half-price, so she bought two (one neutral and one brightly colored.. #treatyoself) ($51.48). She snagged free shipping by signing up for emails and earned 6% cash back through Ebates. Despite placing the order on Friday, an Amazon order for a new Nalgene bottle didn’t clear her account until today ($13.99).

Dinner was prepped yesterday, so she ate at home ($0).

Him: Cell phone payment to Mom for the family plan auto drafted today ($47).  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all from home ($0).

Total spent: $118.15

Day three: Tuesday

Her: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all from home, plus her office has a pretty sweet snack set up and she takes advantage of the items provided at no cost to her. Can we say dream job?!

Her student loan payment auto drafted today, plus her extra contribution, for an even $200. She pre-paid for a yoga class tomorrow evening ($7.30).

Him: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all from home ($0).

Total spent: $207.30

Day four: Wednesday

Her: Breakfast and lunch were packed from home today ($0).

The end of the month (and pay day!) is approaching and she had some extra cash hanging around in her checking account, so she paid an additional $100 towards her student loans.

Tonight’s yoga class was already paid for and she fell asleep before eating dinner (whoops!).

Him: Breakfast and part of lunch were packed from home today, but he bought a side salad at the work cafeteria to go along with lunch ($2).

His 16GB iPhone was barely usable anymore due to storage limitations (thanks, Apple!), so he decided it was time to upgrade and bought a used iPhone 7 for $425.

Total spent: $527

Day five: Thursday

Her: She brought breakfast from home this morning and lunch was provided by work.

The Spectrum ($49.99) and Duke ($74.04) bills auto drafted from her account today.

She checked a Christmas gift for her brother off her list today and snagged free shipping, a $10 off coupon and 2.5% cash back through Ebates for a total of $54.28.

Him: Breakfast was provided by work today and then he had leftovers for lunch.

The mortgage cleared his account today, plus an extra $100, for $1,219.06.

They didn’t feel like eating leftovers again, so he ordered carryout from Sabor for $25.01.

Total spent: $1,422.38

Day six: Friday

Her: Breakfast was packed from home and lunch was provided by work.

A Nordstrom refund for an item that was never delivered processed on her credit card (+$35.52). She fell asleep before eating dinner (again).

Him: Breakfast was packed from home.

He stocked up on Nature’s Valley granola bars in bulk from Amazon for $25, went out to lunch with his coworkers ($11) and ate Sabor leftovers for dinner.

Total spent: $36

Day seven: Saturday

Her: She woke up STARVING (no wonder..) and made avocado toast and coffee at home before hitting the gym ($0).

After their workout, they stopped by Earl’s Grocery and he picked up breakfast while she paid for their iced coffees ($5.89 with tip). Side note: Earl’s hands down has THE BEST iced coffee in Charlotte! 

She purchased a Christmas gift for him ($54) and earned 5% cash back through Ebates.

Him: He had coffee and a granola bar at home before they went to the gym. They split a morning wrap at Earl’s for $10.80 with tip. He ordered a new lock and deadbolt set from Amazon for their front door ($59.83).

They went to an early movie and dinner. He paid for movie tickets ($23), while she picked up the tab at Midwood Smokehouse. Her beer was free (!) since there was a mix up ($25.76, with tip)

Total spent: $179.28

Total spent: $2,631.90
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $192.84
Bills – $1,690.09
Transportation – $60.09
Shopping – $658.58
Miscellaneous – $30.30

What we learned: 

Her – This was a pretty typical week for us. We generally try to meal prep on Sundays and eat at home (and eat clean!) during the week. We usually run into problems by Thursday when we are either tired of leftovers or we have run out (hence, the Sabor take-out) and we kind of slide downhill into and through the weekend.

Our bills are pretty concentrated towards the end/first of the month and my spending generally has to be very cautious. However, the holiday season and Cyber Monday deals kind of threw a wrench in my regimen that will likely continue through the holidays (‘tis the season!). The scarves definitely weren’t necessary but I usually allow myself a #treatyoself moment at least once a month. I work really hard to save, pay down my student debt, and contribute to my 401k, so I see no problem in rewarding myself here and there when there’s money leftover in the budget.

Him –  This was a pretty typical week aside from dropping $400+ on a new phone. I try to be frugal where possible and do plenty of research before making big purchases. We both believe in purchasing items pre-owned instead of brand new when possible (and practical). I have no problem paying a premium for quality things that are important to me, but finding ways to minimize unnecessary spending is essential to achieving my goal of retiring early.

We try to cook most of our meals at home but usually end up going out 2-3 times a week. If we are being completely honest, we probably would’ve dined out at least once or twice more if she hadn’t fallen asleep before dinner two nights this week. She talks a big meal prep game, but is the first to get sick of leftovers or suggest we grab something out!

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Build your financial know-how with free tools and information to help you make more confident decisions. Visit the Bank of America Better Money Habits site today.

Need 1:1 guidance on getting your finances in order? Schedule an appointment with a Bank of America specialist today or stop in your local financial center.

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Kylie Moore
Writer doubling as a travel, wine, and Oxford Comma enthusiast.