Cash Confessional: A week of spending on a combined $165,000 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 Lauren at lauren@charlotteagenda.com. This week, I chatted with a couple in their 30s who are parents to three kids. They’re focused on building a solid financial foundation for their family’s future, beefing up their philanthropic efforts, and taking the steps necessary to purchase a lakefront home. Here’s how they spend their money.

The Basics

Industry

Him: Engineering

Her: Consulting

Position

Him: Director

Her: Operations Specialist

Annual salary

A combined $165,000. She works part-time, and her salary varies depending on her hours each week.

Extra income

He has an annual bonus potential of 25 percent, and they have a cash rewards credit card that earns around $80 a month. She’s also a sitter on Rover, but does it infrequently.

Savings

He maxes out his employer retirement savings plans at $18,500 per year. She contributes 15 percent of wages each paycheck. Additional savings include a kids 501(c)(3) plan at $450 per month, a health savings account at $475 per month and a few accounts where they set aside money each month for periodic large purchases. This includes escrow for property tax and homeowners insurance at $425 per month, car replacement savings at $600 per month, vacation savings at $500 per month and saving for Christmas shopping at $100 per month.

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $0, it’s fully paid off.

Number of roommates: Three kids (ages 5, 3 and 1) and a cat

Neighborhood: Highland Creek

Utilities

Electricity: $143
Natural gas: $106
Water: $180
Internet: $50
Security system: $40
Student loans: $0
Car payments: $0
Car insurance: $590 every six months
Transportation costs: $100-$150 for gas
Phone bill: $110, but $50 is reimbursed by his employer, so net $60

Insurance

Health insurance: $90 per month
Dental insurance: $50 per month
Vision insurance: $11 per month

Subscriptions and services

Amazon Prime: $119 per year
Costco: $60 per year
House cleaning: $200 per month
Childcare: $196 per month for preschool and $120 per week for babysitter
Kids’ activities: $80 per month for gymnastics

Three financial goals

1.) Lay a solid financial foundation for our family’s future through wise saving and investing.

2.) Increase our giving to organizations that provide resources and support for those who are not as fortunate as we are.

3.) Have capital available to purchase a lakefront lot or home when an opportunity presents itself in the future.

How we spent our money

Sunday:

We ate breakfast at home before heading to church ($0). During the service, I gave $1,800 for our monthly giving. We usually go out to lunch after church, but today we needed to get the younger two kids down for earlier naps than usual, so we ate lunch at home. The kids had sandwiches, and we had grilled cheese and soup ($0).

After nap time, I took the older two kids to a birthday party. I was on top of it and had bought the birthday gift last week, so I was spared a frantic last-minute Walmart run.

When we got home from the party, the kids were exhausted, so getting them fed and ready for bed was top priority. I heated up fish sticks and paired those with some macaroni and cheese and green beans. Normally we like to eat as a family, but tonight we waited until the kids were in bed to have our dinner. We almost decided to get takeout kung pao chicken from our local Chinese place, but ended up nuking frozen burritos instead to save the money and the trip out of the house ($0).

Over dinner, we talked about our charitable giving and where we wanted to give more. He remembered that we have a friend who got married yesterday and had asked for donations to charities in lieu of gifts, so I donated $50 to one of the suggested organizations. I packed lunch for our kindergartener so she will be set in the morning, and I got out chicken I had in the freezer to thaw for dinner tomorrow.

Total spent: $1850

Monday:

He skipped breakfast and got coffee at work ($0), and the kids and I had breakfast bars at home before getting the oldest to the bus stop for school. I took the little kids with me to the gym and dropped them off at child watch.  Then I did a yoga class, ran a couple miles on the treadmill and showered before getting them (taking full advantage of the two hours of child watch I get per day with the membership).

I fed the kids PB&J for lunch at home, then I made a green smoothie for my lunch once they were down for their naps ($0). He had a pack of crackers that he brought from home for lunch at work ($0). I sold some toys on Facebook Marketplace and got cash when they were picked up this afternoon (+$17). I worked for an hour while the kids were napping, then started prepping dinner before I took the oldest to her gymnastics class. After gymnastics, we finished cooking dinner and ate as a family ($0). I packed lunches for all the kids for tomorrow and did my nails while I watched “The Voice” before going to bed.

Total spent: $0

Tuesday:

Breakfast bars at home again for me and the kids, and my husband skipped breakfast again ($0). I was feeling fancy and made a soy latte instead of hitting up the Starbucks drive-thru on the way to preschool drop-off. After drop-off, I had to get some blood work done for an out-of-network doctor. I paid the $40 fee with our HSA card. While I was out, another toy I sold on Facebook got picked up and paid for (+$5).

Today is one of my work days, so I paid the babysitter for the week ($135) when she got to the house. It was a little more than usual because she’s watching both the little kids on Thursday due to preschool fall break.

I made another green smoothie for lunch ($0) and got back to work. The kids’ lunches had been packed the night before and taken to school ($0). My husband got some snacks from the vending machine at work ($2.10) to tide him over until dinner. After he got home from work, we heated up leftovers from last night for dinner ($0), then I went to Zumba at the gym. Since tomorrow is a teacher workday, there are no lunches to pack for the morning. Score.

Total spent: $177.10

Wednesday

I made coffee at home and ran out the door for a parent-teacher conference while my husband and the kids had breakfast – the usual cereal, breakfast bars, and/or frozen pancakes ($0). He left for work when I got back from the conference, and I finished a sleeve of graham crackers for my breakfast. I loaded up all the kids and went to the grocery store to get stuff for meals through the weekend, plus some staples we were getting low on ($59.60).

I fed the kids Lunchables ($0) while I scooped the guts out of two pumpkins. Once the little ones were down for naps, I had a pack of crackers and La Croix for lunch ($0) then carved the pumpkins with the big kid (well, I carved while she worked on reading on the iPad).

We had an early dinner of hot dogs before trick-or-treating and eating way too much candy ($0). We finally got the kids in bed, and I packed lunch for the oldest.

Total spent: $59.60

Thursday

We were scrambling to get everyone ready this morning thanks to a late night last night. The oldest got breakfast at school ($0), my husband went without, and I fed the little ones the usual cereal and frozen pancakes again. When the sitter arrived, I made coffee and grabbed a breakfast bar and got to work ($0).

For lunch, the kids had PB&J and I heated up some soup. He got Chick-fil-A while he ran errands over lunch ($6.69). My Amazon subscribe and save order went through today – vitamins, kids’ medicines, eye cream, face wash ($61.24). My brother was in town, so he came over for dinner. I made chili and rounded up four individual bags of Fritos from the recesses of the pantry to go with it. The oldest is buying lunch at school (she gets to pick one day a week to buy), so no lunches to pack tonight.

Total spent: $67.93

Friday

My husband took the day off, so he helped get the kids their breakfast of frozen pancakes, cereal bars, and Cheerios before taking the oldest to the bus stop. I made another soy latte to go with my breakfast bars ($0). I went to spin class at the gym and took the kids to child watch. When we got home we did some chores and had sandwiches for lunch.

Tonight we had tickets to Hamilton, so we headed to Uptown once the sitter arrived and had dinner and drinks at Duckworth’s ($64.10). I bought the tickets when they went on sale in August, and I had prepaid for parking, so our only spending today for the show was my husband’s coffee at intermission ($3). When we got home I paid the babysitter ($75).

Total spent: $142.10

Saturday

We decided to take advantage of our NC Zoo membership and packed some snacks and drove to Asheboro. On the way, we got gas ($37.14) and breakfast at McDonald’s ($11.77). Throughout the day we ate the snacks we had packed, but we also grabbed a soft pretzel around lunchtime ($4.80). Before we left we hit up the gift shop and let each of the kids choose a souvenir ($29.40), and I donated $2 to animal conservation. Since we hadn’t had a solid meal all day, we decided to go out to an early dinner at Zapata’s on the way home ($27.43).

Total spent: $112.54

Total weekly spending: $2,409.27

What I learned:

We did really well this week with resisting the urge to impulse buy or eat out when we could eat at home, maybe because I was tracking everything. Our gym membership is expensive, but I try to use it frequently to get the value out of it. We don’t go on dates or take family day trips often, but it’s good for us to connect as a couple and as a family, so the times we do that sort of thing it’s worth it to us. Overall, we are good at controlling our spending and still want to be more intentional with what we are doing with the money we save.


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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Lauren Levine
Lauren Levine is a freelance writer who's contributed to publications like American Way, Charlotte's Got a Lot, Thrillist, U.S. News & World Report, and more. She's also the co-host of The Margarita Confessionals podcast. Say hi on Twitter and Instagram, she's @lifewithlauren1.