Cash Confessional: A week of spending for a couple with 4 kids earning $98,000

Cash Confessional: A week of spending for a couple with 4 kids earning $98,000
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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 or fill out our Survey Monkey.


The basics

Age: Her, 39. Him, 40

Industry: I work part-time as a freelance writer and project manager in a couple of different industries, including healthcare and agriculture. He works in horticulture.

Position: Depending on the client, I do anything from marketing and communications to overall project management for team managers. For some clients, I just write content or training materials. He is upper management.

Salary: She makes $39,000 before taxes and expenses. He makes $59,000.

Living situation: Two adults, four kids over the age of 10 (they eat like adults), one dog, one cat, fish, four hamsters, one guinea pig, one snake, two goats, three donkeys and one pony.

Neighborhood: Indian Trail

Mortgage: $900

Car payment: $0

Student loans: $0

Credit card debt: $0

Utilities: $400-ish

Kids’ sports: Average of about $200 a month if you spread it out over the year. Maybe a little more when we have to travel for out-of-town tournaments.

Insurance: $7 (with a crazy-high deductible)

Groceries: $1,200 (ideally)

Dining out: $400 (max)

Animals: $100 (give or take)

Donations: $2,000

Cable and Internet: $45

Netflix: I don’t even know what that costs. $10?

Language Learning app: $12

Circle (internet filter): $4.99

Are you putting anything into savings? Her: No

Him: I have a 401k that comes out of my paycheck before I get it.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever spent money on?

Her: Our house, for sure. We built our own house more than 10 years ago and designed it the way we wanted for our kids.

Hm: My phone. It’s specially made to be virtually indestructible.

What’s the most frivolous thing you spend money on?

Her: I don’t really spend money frivolously, I just buy things that I need. I really can’t remember a frivolous purchase, but gourmet food would be a potential suspect.

Him: Robux. They are virtual dollars you can spend on a computer game. I bought them for my son to keep him entertained. It was cheaper to buy the Robux than to pay for a babysitter.

How would you feel if you had to show a friend your checking account?

Her: I don’t think I would mind. It’s not that impressive, but it’s not empty, either. Now if they could see things itemized, I might be slightly embarrassed at how much I order from Amazon. I don’t overspend, but I certainly make use of two-day delivery.

Him: I have no emotional reaction. I guess if I had to show them, there would be a good reason.

Would you rather show a friend your savings account or your Google search history?

Her: As a writer, I would probably rather show them my savings account. Writers have crazy search histories.

Him: My Google search history. I was raised to not show people your money, and I don’t have anything to hide on Google.

What’s something you’d love to purchase but can’t afford to yet?

Her: I’d like to purchase a house to either rent or run as an AirBnB.

Him: I’d like an RV or camper trailer so our family can go on vacation more easily.

If money was no object, what would you buy?

Her: First I would buy a lot of things for our favorite nonprofit. Then I’d start collecting that real estate.

Him: A really fancy RV.

What’s the biggest expense in your life right now?

Both: Food

In my opinion, the average American spends too much money on:

Her: Entertainment like cable TV, movies, etc.

Him: Going out to eat.

Three financial goals:

Both of us: To pay off all debt from the house.

Him: To have enough money saved up to retire on and keep the same standard of living.

Her: I’d love to have some extra money to invest in real estate.

How we spent our money this week:


We bought groceries at Harris Teeter. The total was $232.75. This was good because I try to stay at or under $300 a week for groceries. But as we will see later on, I ended up having to supplement that due to some activities that required us to bring food. We didn’t buy anything else that day.


On Tuesday we had to go to Petsmart and get small animal bedding, food for the snake and hay for the guinea pig. The total was $96.02, but these items will last longer than a month.


The snake had a weird spot on its tail, and we had to take him to the vet. The total for an exam, x-ray and medicine was $134.00.


Today was my birthday. My husband went to Lowe’s and bought salt for the water softener for $25.32. I was given a couple of twenties by relatives, so we (my husband and I) went out to eat at a local mom ‘n pop restaurant. We purchased two dinner plates, one water and one tea. We then purchased a third dinner plate to-go and a slice of pie. (I wanted to spend my birthday money on food, so I bought extra for the next day.) The total was $47.00. But since $40 of that was birthday money, it didn’t come out of our regular budget.


We didn’t spend any money on Friday.


I gassed up the car for $24.62. For dinner, we went out to eat with the kids to celebrate my birthday with the whole family. On the way, we bought some diesel for our van and spent $36.70. We had dinner at Burger 21 in Ballantyne and spent $70.81. That was after a $10 discount from my rewards app.


Today we had a special lunch event after church where we had to bring food. We ended up spending $27.89 on food, but some of that came back home with us so we can eat it later.

Weekly total: $648.11

What we learned:

I feel like we spend a lot on food, but we don’t go out to eat excessively. This was a birthday week, which made it different. It’s expensive to feed four kids in a healthy manner.

We did well hitting our grocery budget this week, but I know there are weeks when I have an Amazon Subscribe and Save order come through which bumps that up.

I think incidentals are also usually higher because we often buy books or random items from Amazon.

This week wasn’t very spendy. I think we could do better with saving money. Maybe I should put some back to spend on that real estate.

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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