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 email@example.com
This week, I chatted with a newly single mom in her thirties who works as a call center manager in the software development field. She’s focused on getting out of “survival mode” so she can increase her savings and tackle some much-needed home upgrades, plus enjoy some overseas travel. Here’s how she spends her money.
Industry: Software development
Position: Call center manager
Savings: $30/month for the kids, 3% to 401(k), $80 to HSA
Number of roommates: A first grader, a toddler, and a crazy dog
Utilities: Roughly $70 a month
Student loans: None, thanks to family investments
Car payment: $250
Daycare: $115/week is my half
Duke Energy: $60
Car insurance: $90
If I had to show my friends my checking account I’d feel:
I think I would feel OK about it. Most of them are more well off than me, but they also don’t have the added expense of motherhood – nevermind single motherhood – to deal with and I think that anyone who is in this experience and even has $1 left in their pocket at the end of the week is doing alright. They know what a spender my ex was, so the fact that there is any amount in my savings account with all my additional expenditures right now is pride-worthy.
The biggest expense in my life right now is: Besides the mortgage – is daycare. C’mon little one! Let’s go to kindergarten at age 3!
Two Financial goals
Right now I feel like I’m in survival mode, but my goals for the future are:
- To increase my savings so that I can do some much-needed home upgrades
- Have a safety net in case something happens
- And eventually some overseas traveling would be nice
Money Diary: How I spent my money last week
I am still attempting to stick to my New Year’s resolution of eating healthy, so hopefully I continue to set myself up for success this week after going quite off track over the weekend. So far I am off to a good start and remember to grab the chef salad I prepped for lunch today out of the fridge on my mad dash out the door. Forever grateful for the free coffee at the office. Two cups will be all I will need for “breakfast.”
Normally I get the kiddos back on Sunday if it is his weekend, but because he kept them for MLK Day so I could work, they are returned shortly after I get home. And they are sick. No one is interested in eating dinner.
The big kid is super sick, so we drop the little one at daycare and then stop at Food Lion for the essentials: a new thermometer, Pedialyte, chicken soup, and crackers ($21.19). The rest of the day is spent binging cartoons on Netflix and napping in honor of self-care and healing.
After the boys are in bed, I check my rebate apps to see if there is any money-back to be earned from the Food Lion stop or this weekend’s Trader Joe’s and Aldi trips. I use Shopkick, Ibotta, WalMart Saving Catcher, Checkout 51 and – when I remember to print them from my email – some regular coupons. It never amounts to much due to the fact that I am totally OK with buying off-brand, but it adds up throughout the year and I cash in at Christmastime for a nice “free” Amazon or Wal-Mart gift card.
The ex is sick now too, so instead of both of us missing work, he picks up the kids so all the snot and fevers can be together. I make another salad for lunch and head off to work.
I check my account and Hulu auto-drafted (just $1.05 – thanks to the promotion I signed up for on Black Friday). I also transfer funds to the joint account for my part of daycare and some miscellaneous shared expenses that we are still in the process of splitting ($324).
Wine Wednesday! I meet up with my girlfriends for a couple glasses of cabernet at Vin Master. Wednesdays are half-price glasses at this adorable woman-owned and operated establishment in Atherton Mill ($22.50 after tip).
Continuing to take full advantage of the “free shipping with no minimum purchase” Amazon promo going on through the end of the month with a bonus lightning deal coupon. The dog bed I ordered last week is shipping so that payment hit the account this morning ($7.99).
During my lunch break I speak with my divorce attorney regarding the custody and separation documents that are still being drafted. I try to get as much accomplished during these interactions as possible, since every moment deducts from the $5,000 retainer I paid her last year. At this point, I am not even sure if it will be enough to fund this entire process, which is yet another reason I need to bolster my savings. The first payment came from a withdrawal on a beneficiary IRA – probably not the thing Grandma thought I’d be spending money on!
Leftovers for lunch and dinner.
Hello, paycheck! The scheduled mortgage ($940), water bill ($42.43) and biweekly transfer to savings ($30) draft in conjunction. I split from work early to regain custody of the kids and stop at Family Dollar for tissues since I forgot to grab more the other day ($4.29). They are still a bit under the weather, so we quarantine ourselves to the home and do leftovers and snacks whenever they feel like eating.
I am so lucky that my parents live super close and love taking my kids to do things. So a mid-day break for me and an afternoon at Marvel Live complete with snacks and souvenirs with their grandparents comes at no cost to me! They are wiped afterwards, so we bum around the house and cook off of last weekend’s groceries.
More bumming around the house and cooking from the groceries for breakfast and lunch. We go to a playdate in the afternoon and then my parents bring over dinner.
Weekly total: $1,363.45
What I learned:
I feel like I spend an insane amount of money at the grocery stores – even after the bit of couponing, rebate apps, and shopping at places like Aldi and Wal-Mart. However, after seeing that we were able to survive an entire week on that food, have leftovers, and not have to go to the store this weekend, while still being more than set for the coming week, I feel better about that cost.
The weekends where the kids are with their dad do have a bit more personal expense around them, as I counterbalance kiddo home-life with catching up with friends and things like shopping, brunches, or nights out. It is a constant balance between “be prepared in case something awful happens” and “treat yo self!!”
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