A Week In St. Louis, MO, On A $165,000 Joint Income

·28 min read

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a receptionist who has a joint income of $165,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a wooden jewelry box to hold weed.

Occupation: Receptionist
Industry: Veterinary
Age: 29
Location: St. Louis, MO
My Salary: $17/hour (I work 30-45 hours per week depending on what my job needs, which comes out to about $30,000/year)
My Husband’s Salary: $95,000 plus $40,000 bonus
Net Worth: $4.479 million ($145,000 in a personal high-interest savings account (we just set this up to invest $1,000/week until it’s down to $100,000 as we realize this is too much to have in savings), $290,000 in a savings account connected to my husband’s trust fund (we just set this up to invest $3,000/week until it’s down to $50,000. We get $80,000/year paid into this account from the trust fund automatically but never touch it so it just built up over time), $42,000 in my 403(b), $102,000 in my husband’s 401(k), $95,000 home equity, $3.9 million in husband’s trust fund invested in various ways and managed by an executor. My husband and I have totally combined finances.)
Debt: $305,000 (mortgage)
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $700-$900 depending on how many hours I’ve worked
My Husband’s Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,845.92
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,500 (This is about $500 more than we actually need to pay but we’d like to pay off the house early.)
Car Insurance: $183.80 for both cars
Utilities: $200-$350 depending on the season
Book Of The Month: $15.85
Spotify/Hulu: $23
Disney+: $8.47
HBOMax/Netflix: $0 (we use a friend’s account)
Internet: $62.22
Donations: $150 split between three charities. We do know our monthly giving should probably be higher and this is something we’d like to sit down and run the numbers on soon. We also donate to campaigns as we see fit.
Cell Phone: $0, as we’re both on our family’s plans. I don’t know, they keep telling us it’s cheaper to keep us on them so who am I to argue?

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
There was never a question of whether I would go to college. In fact, I wanted to take a gap year after high school because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, but I was a bit of a wild child and my parents were worried I wouldn’t end up going back to school so they wouldn’t allow it. My husband and I met in college; we went to a small, very expensive private liberal arts school. We both got small academic scholarships (I believe mine was for about $5,000/year and his was around $7,000/year), but our parents paid for everything else in full so we graduated with no debt, which has really helped us get ahead early in life.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents both grew up in rural poverty and pretty much lived the American dream. They both went to a state college on scholarships where they met and got married quickly after graduating. They lived in a trailer park before I was born, but by the time I came along they were living in a small house in a middle-class suburban town and my mom was a stay-at-home parent. By the time I was in high school, we were upper-middle class. My parents always emphasized saving and have always lived far below their means. They buy everything in cash (including million-dollar houses) because they don’t believe in owing anyone anything. I know that taking debt avoidance to that level is generally not recommended (you’ll make more money putting that million dollars in the stock market and having a mortgage) so I don’t take it quite to that extreme, but aside from our house we don’t plan on having any debt. My parents also drilled it into my head that credit cards are not for buying things you can’t afford, they’re for building credit and need to be paid off in full monthly, which I’ve always done.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was babysitting neighborhood kids. My first real job with an actual paycheck was working as a cashier at a grocery store when I was 16. I was getting into a little bit of trouble (normal teenage stuff but my parents were strict) so to keep me on the up-and-up, my parents said I had to either play a sport, do an after-school activity, or work a job every day after school. I played basketball and on the days I didn’t have practice, I would work at the grocery store. I think I earned about $7.25/hour and probably used my money on clothes and fast food.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Not at all. I feel like I didn’t even really understand the concept of money until I was making my own purchases in college. My parents definitely didn’t give us everything we wanted, but I don’t ever remember being told I couldn’t have something because of the cost. It was more like they wanted us to actually consider whether it was a wise purchase.

Do you worry about money now?
I have some weird clingy anxiety about money, I think because saving was SO heavily emphasized in my family. It’s gotten better over the years as I’ve grown up and began to really recognize how much money I have access to compared to most other people. Marrying someone who also has family money helped too. I know that realistically we’d REALLY have to make a lot of mistakes to ever be in any kind of financial trouble and that it’s not likely, but everything in the world feels so tenuous… maybe I’m just an anxious person, I don’t know. I definitely don’t get joy out of spending money, but I’m working on letting go a little bit and at least making sure I’m comfortable spending on experiences and travel.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I guess technically I’m still not since I’m on my parents’ cell phone plan. They’ll also take me on vacations where I don’t have to pay for anything at all. Also, I’m not able to live solely on the $17/hour I’m making so I’ll probably always be supported by my husband. And yes, both of our families could support us if somehow we really screwed up and lost all our money.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
This is a big, fat yes. Both of our colleges were fully paid for by our parents. Our parents also bought us both cars in our first year of college, which we still drive today so not ever having a car payment has been a huge advantage. My parents gave me $600/month for rent for the first two years after I graduated college, which was insanely generous. We got about $20,000 from various friends and family when we got married. My parents give us $10,000 for Christmas every year. My grandmother gave me $6,000 a few years ago as a gift. I’ve already mentioned my husband’s trust fund. Between the two of us, we stand to inherit between $10 and $15 million someday (I’d give it all to make our parents immortal obviously). The advantages we have been given in life are absolutely insane. I’ve never listed them out like this, but I know how lucky we are.

Day One

7 a.m. — We’re starting off on a happy note because today is my Friday! I don’t work a typical Monday-Friday job so it’s actually the middle of the week, but whatever — tomorrow I get to sleep in, so that makes rolling out of bed today a little easier! I still mess around on my phone for about 20 minutes before actually putting my feet on the floor though.

7:20 a.m. — I throw on a little concealer and blush to make myself look alive. The pandemic has actually weirdly really helped with my self-image. I used to NEVER leave the house without a full face of makeup because I thought I looked terrible but after bopping around the house makeup-free for months on end I’m used to my natural appearance now and wear a lot less on my face.

8:40 a.m. — I eat some Lucky Charms for breakfast, pack my lunch, kiss my husband (H.) and four (I know, I have a problem) cats goodbye, and then I’m out the door for the 15-minute drive to work. By the way, just for brevity, I’m not going to mention masking up and distancing, etc, but know that I take COVID seriously and wear a mask anytime I’m indoors or around anyone I don’t know. I’m also fully vaccinated, as is everyone I know.

9 a.m. — Clock in at work and get started answering emails and voicemails and getting paperwork ready for appointments today. I work at an animal emergency clinic, so we have both walk-in emergencies and scheduled surgeries on any given day. It’s hectic and fast-paced but I get to learn so much about animal care, so I really do love it.

12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime! I brought leftover pasta from last night. I eat it while watching YouTube videos on my phone (I’m loving travel content right now since I haven’t been anywhere in forever, thanks COVID). I have about ten minutes left once I’m done eating so I pop outside to sneak in a few pages of my book and get some fresh air. I’m currently reading Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which was my Book of the Month pick (included in monthly charges). H. texts to let me know he got a haircut ($18.80 + $10 tip). $28.80

7:30 p.m. — Time to clock out! I drop off some medication for a regular client on my way home.

8 p.m. — Since it’s my Friday I decide to treat myself and get some takeout for dinner. I stop at a local fast-casual Korean fusion place and get a spicy chicken sandwich on an extremely delicious squishy steamed bun and a side of pickled veggies. It’s a 20-minute wait for my food so I find a spot under a streetlight and read some more of my book while I wait ($17.70 + $5 tip). $22.70

8:30 p.m. — Arrive home and say hello to H. We talk about our days; his was stressful, mine was normal. He also lets me know he went to the grocery store today for iced coffee, dryer sheets, sour cream, clementines, and a few other random things we needed. I hop in the shower before touching pretty much anything (working around sick animals is kind of gross sometimes). When I get out, I throw on a big t-shirt and shorts and put some leave-in conditioner in my hair. Then I roll a fat joint and go sit out on the deck to relax and listen to music. This is my post-work routine pretty much every night tbh. I’m a lady of habit, what can I say. $26.42

9:30 p.m. — When I’m sufficiently stoned and hungry, I head inside, reheat my takeout, and plop myself on the couch to stuff my face and watch the first Star Wars movie (or the fourth? I don’t really get it but it was the first one that was made but is somehow the fourth in the series). I just signed up for Disney+ (included in monthly charges) and don’t want to keep it forever, so I’m trying to watch something new on it as frequently as I can.

10 p.m. — I make it through about half an hour before I start falling asleep. I head upstairs and get in bed, do some window shopping on the Anthropologie app, and pass TF out.

Daily Total: $77.92

Day Two

4:45 a.m. — One of the cats has climbed on top of me and is licking my ear. Cute yet gross way to wake up! Their automatic feeders are in our bedroom and they drop their breakfast every day at 5 a.m., but this guy hasn’t figured out yet that I’m actually not the one magically making the food fall from the sky. I don’t mind though; he’s being sweet, so I enjoy the 15 minutes of snuggles.

5 a.m. — The food drops and it’s a mad cat dash to gobble it up. I keep their feeders in our bedroom so I can make sure no one’s being a greedy bastard and bullying anyone else out of their breakfast. Everyone seems to have gotten their fair share so I drift back off.

8 a.m. — I’m out of bed and head down to the kitchen for another Lucky Charms breakfast. I need to stop buying sugary cereal because it’s the first thing I reach for any time it’s in the house.

8:30 a.m. — After fueling my body with sugar and caffeine like the health goddess I am, I take some time to clean the kitchen and then get dressed and package up a few returns.

9:30 a.m. — While cleaning the kitchen I start to smell something… dead. Our house was built in 1880 and we live in the city so there’s a lot of ways for mice and other creatures to get in and occasionally this is a thing. We’ve had two dead mice since we moved in two and a half years ago — so not great, but not the worst. I start opening cabinets and realize the smell is coming from where we keep the cats’ food. I find a can that must have gotten punctured in transit and has rotted and has actual live wriggling maggots on and in it!!!!!! I can’t help but scream and H. interrupts his work call to come running down and make sure everything’s okay. Everything is CLEARLY NOT OKAY but I tell him I’ll handle it. I bag up the disgusting abomination, throw it in the outside trash can (thank god it’s trash day), check every other can for holes, and sanitize everything. I am now going to be itchy and feel like I have bugs on me all day.

10:45 a.m. — My little sister calls and we catch up. I say hi to her partner and dog on FaceTime.

11:30 a.m. — I head out to go to the post office to drop off the returns and stop at Ace Hardware for a utility knife. We have wall-to-wall carpeting in a few rooms of our house and we want to remove that and have the hardwood that’s underneath resurfaced and stained to match the rest of the house. We got quotes recently and it looks like it’ll be about $2,000 plus $600 to remove the carpet. I feel like I can remove the carpet myself and save us some money so I’m going to attempt to do that in the guest room and see how it goes. Neither of us are very handy but now that we’re homeowners I’m trying to learn to do things myself when I can.

12 p.m. — H. calls to let me know he found a utility knife in the basement so I don’t need to go to the hardware store after all.

12:30 p.m. — I eat a cookie dough-flavored Larabar and make the 15-minute walk to the park to swim laps at the public pool. I’ve been doing this twice a week all summer and it’s been really fun and great exercise! I have a routine I do and it used to take me 40 minutes but I’m down to 30 minutes now so I’m clearly getting fitter. It’s also free!

2:30 p.m. — Back home and showered. I make a Caesar salad with Morningstar veggie chicken nuggets cut up on top and eat while watching YouTube. My mom texts me a picture of a bill of mine that somehow showed up at their house. It’s for some bloodwork I had done at my annual check-up recently. I log onto the online portal and pay the bill. $21.92

4 p.m. — I just had a bunch of art framed (I put it off for forever because frames are expensive but I finally pulled the trigger a few weeks ago) and now I need to figure out where in the house I want to hang everything. I’m not the best at getting the measurements right and I also can’t stand if something is slightly off-center so this is kind of torture, tbh. It takes me approximately three holes in the wall for each piece before I finally get the placement right.

7:30 p.m. — I lay on the couch, finish my book, and then add a few things to my Amazon cart. We need to order a new TV stand because we’re moving the TV to our bedroom. We don’t use it enough to justify it being so central in the house (plus, it’s ugly). I also impulsively add a pair of biker shorts that are supposed to be Lululemon dupes to the cart. $65.20

8:45 p.m. — Pop two 2.5 mg gummy edibles and throw some Bantam Bagels in the oven to eat along with my leftovers from last night.

11:30 p.m. — As I’m lying in bed scrolling on my phone, I realize I’m hearing dripping coming from our master bathroom. I go to investigate and lo and behold, there’s water coming from the ceiling! Upon further investigation, it turns out there’s something wrong with the AC unit on our roof and it’s leaking into the house. Fabulous. It’s also one of the hottest weekends of the year with a 106-degree heat index on the weather report for tomorrow. Thankfully, we have two AC units, so it’s still cool on the first and second floor of the house, which means the cats are fine. It’s past midnight at this point and, of course, the guest room sheets are in the laundry and I just don’t have the energy to deal with that right now. I turn the roof AC unit off and prepare for a very hot and restless night of sleep.

Daily Total: $87.12

Day Three

8 a.m. — I check the thermostat and it’s 84 degrees in our bedroom, UGH. I head straight downstairs to call the repair company. Thankfully, I saved a coupon flyer we got in the mail recently for a heating/cooling/plumbing company. They’re able to schedule someone to come out to fix it tomorrow so I’ll just set up the guest room for us to tonight. I sign up for their yearly membership, which means they’ll check both units in the summer and winter, flush our water heater, check our air ducts, and perform a couple of other services. It also gets us all service fees waived and 15% off parts and labor if something does need to be fixed. $348

9:30 a.m. — I have an iced coffee and Lucky Charms breakfast, run the dishwasher, and get dressed. I’m supposed to swim laps at the pool again today but it’s so hot I’m thinking I might skip it. I don’t really have anything else on the schedule so I decide to go thrifting just for fun.

11 a.m. — H. texts to tell me I got a parking ticket for parking in our own driveway which is annoying. Technically, I think I’m supposed to have a permit to park there because there are no parking signs but I was hoping my car being registered to our address would be enough to avoid a ticket. I was kind of testing the waters on this and apparently, I need to get the permit! The ticket is for $52 but I’m not counting this as a charge because I plan to go downtown and explain the situation and see if they’ll dismiss it.

2:30 p.m. — I find some fun things at the thrift! I get a set of six adorable pink drinking glasses that look like they came straight out of an Anthropologie catalog, a dainty little gold choker necklace, a gorgeous wooden jewelry box that I’ll use as a stash box, a board game, and 10 books. $52.11

3 p.m. — I arrive home and have leftover Hamburger Helper for lunch. H. helps me continue hanging some of the art around the house and I attempt to fix a set of wind chimes that fell down and broke last week.

6:30 p.m. — It’s storming super dramatically. The streets are flooding and oop! What do you know, water starts pouring out of the OTHER bathroom ceiling. H. grabs a pot to catch the drips. We actually got some quotes in the spring for a new roof because it clearly has some issues. Unfortunately, since we have a roof deck, it’s going to cost about $50,000 to replace it. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to drop that kind of money on a house we just bought so we decided to do some patching and think on it. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll need to bite the bullet. I think at some point we’re going to need to recognize that we kind of bought a $400,000 fixer-upper. This is when I’m extremely grateful to have the money in the bank that we do. I know for some people this kind of thing could be devastating and cause so much stress. It’s in no way fun for us but I know it could be so much worse.

8 p.m. — I realize I somehow lost the cute necklace I bought at the thrift store. I check the car and everything and think I must have dropped it in the parking lot. I also just realized it’s Friday the 13th and suddenly all this bad luck makes sense!

8:30 p.m. — H. says he wants sushi for dinner. Sounds good to me! We order an aggressive amount for delivery. We always go ham on sushi orders for some reason and have a ton leftover for lunch the next day ($85 + $17 tip). $102

11:30 p.m. — We’re sleeping in the guest room tonight since it’s 90 degrees upstairs and one of the cats apparently has a major problem with this! He continues to come in and meow very loudly in my ear about every hour all night. I get up multiple times to try and figure out what his deal is but he has everything he needs and I come to the conclusion that he just isn’t a fan of change.

Daily Total: $502.11

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — Roll out of bed after another restless night of sleep. I head downstairs, have some iced coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, and catch up on some emails.

10 a.m. — Go for a walk in the park with H. and stop at the drug store to pick up his medicine. We also get a Gatorade and Sour Patch Kids. $8.47

12 p.m. — Someone comes from Facebook Marketplace to pick up a nightstand that I’m selling so that’s $35 in the bank!

1:30 p.m. — The AC repairman comes and informs me that it’ll be $199 to fix the AC today but apparently our unit is 19 years old and we should start budgeting for a replacement that will run about $10,000 and we’ll need a crane to get it on top of the roof. Fantastic. I guess that makes the $50,000 roof fund a $60,000 roof fund. $199

6 p.m. — I spend a good chunk of the rest of the day fretting about these semi-unexpected costs and talking to H. about the finances of it. I know we can afford it but… I don’t know, I have anxiety about spending such a large sum of money at once even though it’s for something totally practical and necessary. I stress-clean a little and do some laundry. It’s finally starting to cool down upstairs now that the AC is back up and running, though, so that’s a big positive! I decide to take a break and read on the couch for a while to take my mind off things.

8 p.m. — H. is out with friends (he gets pizza and beer, $44.27) and I’m generally feeling anxious and bummed out. And sweaty. I’m going to have a relaxing night to try to set myself up for a happier day tomorrow. I pick up dinner at Panera ($10.68) and bring it home, then eat a 5 mg edible and take a loooong shower with all the fixings. I even bring my tangle teaser brush in to give myself a scalp massage. We’re really going the extra mile here! $54.95

9 p.m. — I pack the bong and bring it out to the deck to chill out with some music. It’s still hot AF but way nicer now that the sun’s down.

9:30 p.m. — I grab my book from downstairs with the intention of reading a bit in bed but honestly I’m a little too stoned to want to put in the effort. Instead, I turn on South Park, turn my brain off, and fall asleep after a few episodes.

Daily Total: $262.42

Day Five

9 a.m. — I wake up and am feeling more positive today. I pop downstairs and make egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches on English muffins and iced coffee for H. and me. After eating and waking up a little, we head out for a walk in the park.

11 a.m. — Someone comes to pick up a rug I had for sale on Facebook Marketplace. If you can’t tell, I’m still in the process of figuring out what works, furniture-wise, in our house. I often buy things secondhand and try them out for a while and if they don’t work, I’ll just try to sell them for whatever I bought them for.

12 p.m. — I make a salad for lunch. While I eat, I chat with my parents on the phone about going to visit my grandma over the upcoming holiday weekend. When we get off the phone, I book an airline ticket; I have credits from canceled COVID trips so it doesn’t cost anything.

2 p.m. — This is shaping up to be a lazy Sunday, which is just fine by me. I clean the kitchen and vacuum until the battery dies, then plop on the couch to read for a while.

6 p.m. — I’m getting antsy from not moving for hours, but it’s been nice to dive into my book for so long! By the way, I’m now reading Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. It’s a thriller and the characters are very one-dimensional, but the cat-and-mouse plot has me flying through it. I head outside to water the plants and end up repotting a palm that I’m desperately trying to bring back to life.

7 p.m. — I’m getting hungry for dinner so I make pasta puttanesca and a caprese salad for both H. and me.

8 p.m. — It’s “spa day” for the cats, which is slightly less unhinged than it sounds. It’s just the time I set aside each week to brush their fur and teeth and trim their nails. There’s a lot of upkeep to do when you have four cats! Everyone gets Greenies afterward and I head back to the couch to read some more.

10 p.m. — I have work tomorrow so I figure I should head to bed soon. I pack the bong and relax on the porch for a while before coming inside and eating some pre-bedtime ice cream. Then I pop a melatonin and am out by 11.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Up and at ‘em! I roll out of bed, do my morning routine, and head downstairs. I don’t have time for breakfast right now so I put some oatmeal packets and yogurt in my bag for later. I make an iced coffee and I’m out the door.

9 a.m. — I clock in and get to work answering emails and messages that built up over the weekend.

12:30 p.m. — Time for lunch! I brought a small frozen lasagna which I make in the microwave while chatting with a coworker. I also eat the yogurt I intended to eat for breakfast but never did. H. lets me know he filled up his car. $42.37

1:30 p.m. — It’s been a slow day but just as one of our appointments arrives to check in, another person shows up with a cat in severe distress. It’s extremely hectic for a few minutes while we triage the cat. Never a dull moment in emergency medicine.

3 p.m. — I sneak out to take a call from another roofing company about scheduling an estimate. This company thinks they may be able to replace our roof without completely removing the roof deck which would save us a TON of money. Like, $30,000. This company has excellent reviews too so I’m hoping this works out.

7:30 p.m. — Clock out and head home! I’m listening to 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do on audiobook (borrowed from the library) and it’s a little basic but has some nice reminders sprinkled in. On the way home, I stop at CVS to pick up a package (it’s a UPS drop-off site I use sometimes to avoid packages getting stolen off our porch). When I get home I shower right away, and then watch the second episode of Brand New Cherry Flavor on Netflix with H. I missed the first episode but he catches me up and I really like the second episode. I’m very fickle with TV and movies (and tend to default to watching 30 Rock and The Office over and over) while H. is basically a walking IMDB.

9 p.m. — I have leftover pasta for dinner and fall asleep around 11 after watching too much TikTok on my phone.

Daily Total: $42.37

Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — Oops, I overslept! Luckily, it’s not enough to really put me behind. Morning routine, iced coffee, cornflakes for breakfast, and I’m out the door.

9 a.m. — Clock in at work and start sorting through and scanning files. We’re in the process of going paperless so I’ve been doing this a lot lately.

12:30 p.m. — Lunch is a frozen Indian meal from Trader Joe’s and a mini Butterfinger. I sneak outside for the last 10 minutes and read a few pages of my book.

5:30 p.m. — Ughhhh work is slow and I’m bored. This doesn’t happen very often so I should really enjoy the break, but I’m honestly just ready to get out of here. H. texts to tell me he went to the grocery store for a few things (instant coffee, kombucha, popsicles, eggs, deli meat, lettuce, and a few other random things). $55.20

8:30 p.m. — I’m home, showered, and it’s time for dinner! I’m feeling lazy and hungry so I throw a frozen pizza in the oven. H. and I each have a few slices and catch up on our days. Afterward, I lay on the couch with some cats and finish my book. I give it four stars. I’m really looking forward to reading some other books from the author.

11 p.m. — I take a melatonin and am out like a light!

Daily Total: $55.20

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