Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a combined $125,000 salary

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a combined $125,000 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 in their thirties that make a combined $125,000. Here’s how they spend their money. -Kylie

The basics:

Industry: 

Him – Professional Services
Her – Architecture

Position: 

Him – IT Auditor
Her – Business Development – Marketing

Yearly salary: 

Him – $100,000 plus bonuses
Her – I’m part-time (24 hours a week) plus any overtime needed, and brought in about $25,000 last year.

Extra income: We own a condo in Winston-Salem that we rent out and make about $140 a month in profit that we put away for future repairs. It is nice having someone else paying the mortgage, but we plan to sell in the near future as we have learned that we just do not enjoy being landlords even though we know it is good passive income.
Who you bank with: Bank of America, PSECU and Capital One
Savings: We try to max out all saving opportunities. We both max out our 401k, Roth IRA and HSA amounts and invest all extra money into a managed investment account. We have a personal advisor managing our funds using our long term goals to allocate our investments accordingly.
Ages: 

Him – 35
Her – 39

Monthly expenses:

Mortgage: $1,025
Number of roommates: Zero, except for our dog. We’re child free by choice.
Neighborhood: Montclaire
Utilities: We got rid of cable, and use family logins to watch things instead.

Internet – $65
Electric – Last year, it averaged to about $70 per month, plus the $25 for the separate service that our detached garage is on
Gas – $45
Water – $52

Student loans: $125 a month, but these will be done at the start of next year. Because of the tax breaks and the lowest interest rate of all our debts, we are just paying it slowly. We could really pay it off at this point, and might do that with some of the money from our home sale.
Car payments: Both cars are paid off. She’ll only buy a car if she can buy it outright and his has been paid off for years. We are hoping, once moved, to become a single car family to lower expenses even more. We also just love to walk.
Car insurance: We pay bi-annually at $655 for two cars, so roughly $110 per month
Transportation: He works from home, but we do like to take road trips, so it averages out to about $75-$80 on gas per month.
Phone bill: $115, but his job reimburses up to $65, bringing it down to about $55 per month.
Insurance:

Yearly homeowner’s assurance – $605 (roughly $50 per month)
Health and dental insurance – This comes out of his paycheck at around $90 per month. This is the biggest expense we worry about in the future, given the unknown nature of health care and insurance, which is especially concerning with our goal of no full-time jobs.

Any extra costs not previously mentioned: We do have some monthly charitable giving. We pay for our membership to Sustain Charlotte ($3) and give a little to our alma mater ($5). We also give about $10 per month to the church on top of a yearly end-of-year donation.

Three financial goals:

To have no mortgage on our next home, or as small of one as possible. We are getting ready to put our house on the market and make a move to be closer to family. We should make a good profit on our home in Charlotte, as we bought during the recession.

To not be tied to a full-time job. We jokingly call it retirement, but it is not true retirement. Our goal is, by the time he is 40, to be at the point that we no longer “need” to make as much money as possible. We do not want careers – we want jobs that interest us, but that we feel comfortable leaving when they are no longer interesting or fulfilling. We also want to be able to have our “job” be volunteering if we are drawn that direction. We just want to make enough money to live on and let our nest egg keep growing.

See the world. This is the most important goal. We love to travel, and when we spend money, it is on trips and experiences. We do not travel extravagantly, but instead spend more like we live regularly. We find low-key accommodations at a reasonable price. We buy food at grocery stores, cook for ourselves and learn where the locals go to hang out. We are also not afraid to find the fun, free things to do…and she is especially skilled at finding them. We try to use points when we want a nicer stay and put as much of our spending on credit cards as possible and pay off the balance each month to get reward points.

Money Diary: How we spent our money last week

Day one: Sunday

Our typical Sunday morning routine is working out, laundry and taking a long walk with the dog. We ate brunch made of items we had around the house and left around noon to run a couple of errands before attending a lecture with some friends.

The first stop was Office Depot to get five pounds of shredding done for free with a coupon found online on tax day ($0).

The next stop was Home Depot to return some flowers we did not need when sprucing up the yard the day before.

Then it was to Panera to get a free bagel. She has a free bagel month at Panera for being a rewards member, and anytime we drive by one we try to pick one up this month.

After that was a Target run to get some staple items. They still had Easter Chocolate on sale so we scored some deeply discounted M&Ms. We spent $44.14, but used a Target Gift card he received when he bought his new iPhone so actually spent nothing.

At the lecture there were some refreshments, so it was snack time.

Afterward, we ended up meeting someone to exchange a sledgehammer we were selling on OfferUp, so we put another $20 in our pocket.

When we got home, we took the dog on her afternoon walk. We tend to spend Sunday cooking a big meal/meals that we can eat on during the week, and today we used a protein from our freezer that we had bought while ago on sale. This week was a pork loin and salmon. We also roasted broccoli and baked potatoes before we portioned our meals up for the week and put them in the fridge, ready to be pulled out when needed.

We spent the evening getting ourselves ready for the week, while watching some TV.

Total spent: $0

Day two: Monday

We got up and hit the ground running. We like our routine, where he does a little early work (benefits of working from home) while she works out (benefits of having a home gym). She leaves for work at 6:30am and he starts his workout. She works until 2pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and noon on Tuesday and Thursdays.

All of our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were made with food we had at home. $0

We did say we are getting ready to put our house on the market, and today we had a cleaning crew come out to clean everything from top to bottom. This is the first time we have ever paid someone to do this, and it took them 2.5 hours and the total was $150 (our home is 2300 square feet). They did a fine job, but we will probably never do this again, as we just don’t like paying for services we can do ourselves (hence the reason we cannot force ourselves to hire someone to mow our yard). But it was worth at least trying out a cleaning service especially when you are in a time crunch.

Total spent: $150

Day three: Tuesday

Normal routine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all made with food from home. $0

In the morning, we had someone come out and service our cooling system so it would be in top shape for listing. It ended up needing Freon, so it cost us $214.40.

We spent the day getting the yard ready for listing and did the final mow, leaf blow and all other outside tasks that needed to be tackled. We bought a flower to put in a pot for the upstairs hall table, as she decided she would rather spend money on a live flower that she could take with her instead of flowers that would just die. $4.29 for a Gerbera daisy.

Total spent: $218.69

Day four: Wednesday

Once again, she picked up a free Panera bagel on the way to a morning meeting… why not? It was free. $0

It happened to be Professional Administration Day, so she also was treated to lunch in thanks ($0). He, once again, had breakfast and lunch at home ($0).

That afternoon, our realtor and a professional photographer came to take photos and get the key for the lock box.

That evening, we attended the Sustain Charlotte Awards Gala. We got a few nibbles and a couple of drinks while supporting a good cause. Our entry was free as a thanks for our support.

Total spent: $0

Day five: Thursday

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all made with food from home. $0

We did our normal workday routine and then staged our house. Once it went live on MLS, we hit the road.

We decided it would be best to get out of town the first weekend our home went on the market, so we headed to his dad’s house. We had filled his car up the week before and can make it there on one tank of gas. We packed road snacks for dinner, plus had coupons for free chicken biscuits at McDonald’s so we thought we would give them a try and got two for the road ($0).

Total spent: $0

Day six: Friday

He worked from his dad’s house while she caught up on a few life tasks and read a book. Breakfast was stuff we had brought from home, and we picked up some Wendy’s for lunch using coupons his dad had around the house. We bought his dad lunch ($13.78).

After lunch, we took our dog and his dad’s dog to the dog park.

Dinner was leftovers from home and lunch. We just chilled around the house that evening watching TV and spending time together.

Total spent: $13.78

Day seven: Saturday

After taking the dogs for a walk, we ran a couple of local errands.

First stop was Panera for another free bagel and Dunkin’ Donuts for a free coffee (birthday reward we had not yet used) before going to one of our favorite used bookstores to trade in a whole load of books/CDs/DVDs that we wanted to get rid of (trade value around $38, cash $18). We took the trade value because one of our nephews had some books he has been looking for. We spent about $20 of the trade and still have another $10 to use on another trip.

That afternoon, we went out to lunch with family. His dad likes to pay when we all get together because it was something his mom did, and now that she has passed, he likes to keep up the tradition. We tend not to argue, and then take him out to lunch or dinner before we leave. This way, in our minds, we come out even because we know that we don’t need him to do it, but let him as it makes him feel good.

That afternoon and evening, we went out for drinks and dinner with friends. Each time we’re in town, we try to meet up with these friends – we actually met at their wedding. They have two little girls, so they also like to drop the kids off at the in-laws’ and have a grownup night with us. This time, we decided to try the local beer scene, which has just stated to grow. We ended up hitting five breweries, a distillery and a pizza place for late night food. We ate and drank our way around town for $63.98.

Total spent: $63.98

Total spent: $446.45
The breakdown:

Food and drink – $77.76
Home improvement – $368.69

What we learned:

She has been keeping track of her expenses since she was in high school, first writing down everything in a little notebook and now tracks every expense in a spreadsheet.

We can go a long time without spending any money. We try to keep things reasonable, know what is important to us and spend our money on experiences, not stuff. We have goals that we are working toward and try to keep those in mind with every purchase we make.  We often ask, “Does this get us closer to our goal?” before making what could be considered a splurge purchase. Some weeks are easier than others, but we have learned to keep a good balance of fun and goals.

She has a lot of trouble on nights like Saturday because she sees the value in going out with friends, but also finds it difficult to spend money on things that she knows she can get cheaper.  She is very much cost/value aware. She refuses to spend $6-10 on a glass of wine when she knows she can buy a bottle she likes at that price. She is also fine going along with the crowd, and she recognizes that the constant cost/value analysis is her challenge. She is working to not make him feel guilty when he does want to spend money. You might think what we spent on Saturday isn’t exorbitant, but the reason it isn’t is because she purposely limits herself to keep the bills lower. But as we said, it is an area we are working on to find the right balance.

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