A Week In Atlanta, GA, On A $490,000 Joint Income

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: an account executive who has a joint income of $490,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an artificial Christmas tree.

Trigger warning: this diary mentions miscarriage.

Occupation: Account Executive
Industry: Software Sales
Age: 34
Location: Atlanta, GA
My Salary: $350,000
My Husband’s Salary: $140,000
Net Worth: $158,000 (Cash: $60,000 401(k)s: $330,000, House equity: $200,000 minus debt (see below). My husband and I share a joint bank account for household expenses (mortgage, utilities, insurance, housekeeper, etc) as well as a joint savings account. Everything else is handled independently.)
Debt: $380,000 outstanding on our mortgage, $18,000 auto loan for my husband’s car, $34,000 in student loans from my grad school.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,381 after taxes and deductions (I also get a quarterly commission bonus of about $50,000)
My Husband’s Paycheck(2x/month): $3,161 after taxes and deductions
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage/Insurance/Taxes: $2,300
Husband’s Car Payment: $400
Housekeeper: $352/week
Laundry Service: $120
Online Gym Memberships: $90 for Tracey Anderson, $40 for Peloton
Utilities: $300 (Atlanta has notoriously expensive water)
Subscriptions (Netflix, NYTs, NYMag, WSJ, HBO): $50
Dog Food: $106
Husband’s Mother’s Housing: $600
Cell Phones: $200
Internet: $50
Husband’s Monthly Savings: $1,200
Husband’s 401(k): $1,600
My Monthly Savings: $1,400
My Monthly 401(k) Contribution: $1,200 ($700 pre-tax, $500 post-tax)
My Quarterly 401(k) Contribution: $2,650 (pre-tax), $4,000 (post-tax)
HSA Contribution: $5,000 annually
Lump-Sum Savings: $50-$75,000 additional per year
Amazon Prime: $220 a year for two memberships

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?
Yes absolutely. Both of my parents put a big emphasis on education and the expectation was that I would go to college, which I did. My parents paid for about half of my college costs through savings and the rest was covered with financial aid and student loans. I also went to grad school, which was partially paid for by my employer, the rest through student loans.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I didn’t have many conversations with my parents about money growing up. My parents divorced when I was young and I primarily lived with my mom, who made considerably less than my dad. My grandmother always tried to drill into me lessons about frugality and paying off debt, which I appreciated, and my grandfather also shared lessons about the importance of investing.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working for a friend of my parents at his restaurant. I was about 14 and worked under the table for about $3 an hour, which sounds criminal, but felt like millions to my 14-year-old self. I got the job so I could afford to buy my own back to school clothes (I’ve always been to one to work to shop!).

Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn’t worry too much about money when I was growing up. I knew we weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. I was conscious not to ask my mom for things I didn’t think we could afford, so I never had the latest shoes or bags in high school.

Do you worry about money now?
I worry about money a lot now mostly because I’m the primary breadwinner in my family and I’ve been conditioned never to be satisfied with what I have. I worry about keeping up with my peers, who are extremely accomplished, and I probably suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome, so I’m always worried about losing my job and not being able to replace my current income.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself after college, which I was very proud of. Despite graduating during the Great Recession, I never needed to ask my parents for money, which was a huge blessing. I am lucky enough to have a financial safety net — my husband and I made a conscious choice to purchase a house well under our means so that one of us could handle the mortgage if need be. My parents also did a good job investing and saving in their working years, so in an absolute worst-case scenario (not tempting 2020 here) I know I could always get money from them or move back home.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Both my husband and I received small amounts of money that we used for down payments when we bought our first places (well before we met each other and not for our current home). Mine was a gift from my parents (sub $10,000) and my husband’s was part of an inheritance when his father passed away.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Even though it’s Saturday, for some reason I’m up very early this morning (I suspect this is the impact of my IVF drugs). I get up quietly to not wake my husband or our dog and make a cup of coffee and some muffins.

11 a.m. — Bum around the house for a few hours before our couples counseling therapy session. I forced my husband to do this as I think it’s important for the health of our relationship. Both of us were a bit skeptical of this new therapist at first but ended up really liking her. I get these therapy sessions free through my work health insurance.

12:15 p.m. — I’m feeling especially considerate of D., my husband, after our therapy session, so I invite him to tag along to a completely pointless Target run. I do like to shop when I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable. I end up finding some cute sweats that can also double as a Halloween costume and a couple of sweaters. I pretty much gave up on buying $300 sweaters a few years ago after realizing they pill just as much as the $20 ones from Target. $148.98

1 p.m. — Since it’s getting chilly, I decide to Uber Eats in some ramen, my favorite and so delicious! I get two bowls for me and D. After we finish lunch, I head to the post office to drop off some shoes I sold on Tradesy. I actually bought the shoes at an estate sale explicitly to flip, so I think I probably made about a $100 profit! $52.52

3 p.m. — I’m getting ready for an IVF transfer next week, and I’m throwing everything and the book at this one, especially since we lost a pregnancy last year. I decide to go get a fertility massage, my first since the pandemic. I was a little nervous, so I end up wearing one of my precious few N95 masks during the massage. It is incredibly relaxing. $125

6 p.m. — Back at home, I heat up some leftovers for dinner. Then it’s shot time! I’m at that fun part of IVF where my husband has to give me shots in the butt with a huge needle. I’m less than thrilled, to say the least, but you do what you have to do.

6:30 p.m. — Decide to keep it low key this evening and Netflix and chill. I’m easily asleep by 8:30.

Daily Total: $326.50

Day Two

7 a.m. — Another early morning — I have no idea why this is happening! I’m not pleased.

9 a.m. — Meet up with a friend to go on a walk and we end up grabbing a few coffees (my treat). Long walks have been my sanity keeper during the pandemic, as I’m still working from home. $13.72

10:30 a.m. — Head out to the burbs to go visit my extended family for a bit. Have a nice long chat with my aunt and then brave the Atlanta traffic back into the city. Grab some McDonald’s on the way home, silently cursing the fact that Chick-fil-A isn’t open on Sundays. I usually hate eating fast food, but here we are. $3.33

11:45 a.m. — Drive by one of my favorite stores on the way home, hoping to just pop in and see what they have, but there is a massive line to get into the store. No thank you. I make a U-turn and get back on the highway.

1 p.m. — Make it home and since the fall weather is GLORIOUS, I decide to go on a walk with D. to go get some ice cream. Very very good decision. $8.06

5 p.m. — Decide to do an outdoor, socially distanced porch hang with my best friend and her husband. I’m so glad they live around the corner. They order in some Chinese food, which I gratefully devour, along with some wine.

7:30 p.m. — Make it home. First D. gives me my injection (fun), then he spends some time in his office doing work. Meanwhile, I binge a little Emily in Paris on Netflix and end up buying some hiking boots on Tradesy as we are headed up the mountains in a few weeks. $132.52

Daily Total: $157.63

Day Three

4:30 a.m. — Whhhyy? I keep waking up earlier and earlier. And what’s worse, today is the day we do an embryo transfer for my IVF. I flick through my phone for a bit and try to get a bit more sleep in before we have to go to the doctor. End up giving up after about 45 minutes and head into the shower.

8:30 a.m. — Headed to the doctor. The whole thing takes less than 20 minutes. I end up being rather emotional and crying to D. in the car home. Maybe it’s the valium the doctor gave me before, but this day has been a long time coming, especially with the pandemic throwing a wrench into everything. Now we wait two weeks before we know if it worked (fingers crossed).

10:30 a.m. — Make it home, a little groggy but feeling good. Climb into bed and do a little internet-ing. I remember to buy a book our therapist recommended we read. Spend $12.99 on my Kindle app. $12.99

12:30 p.m. — I order in a healthy-ish middle eastern bowl for me and D. I love eating in bed and watching TV, which is exactly what I plan to do all afternoon. I’ve also been getting the sweetest texts from friends, checking in on me. I’m avoiding work email like the plague, though usually I’m that person who sends emails, even when I’m on vacation (I know, horrendous). $32.40

6:30 p.m. — Spend most of the afternoon in bed, taking lovely naps and Netflix. D. heats up some chili. It’s the perfect comfort food for a fall evening.

8 p.m. — I’m already counting the days down to Christmas. I’ve been thinking about investing in a really nice artificial Christmas tree this year and have done a ton of research. I love love love Christmas and with everything going on this year, I’ve already decided I’m putting my Christmas decorations up right after Halloween. I end up ordering an amazing tree from Balsam Hill. Hope it gets here in time. $979.02

Daily Total: $1,024.41

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Whhhhy??? I’m off again today to do some R&R post-transfer and I still manage to wake up naturally super early. I end up doomscrolling on my phone a bit and then D. goes downstairs to make me my usual coffee (decaf) and peanut butter toast. I enjoy some time snuggling in the bed with my dog.

7 a.m. — I have a niece who is a fast-growing toddler and I absolutely adore her. My sister and her family don’t have nearly as much as we do, so I try to ease the burden when I can with Costco runs, birthday gifts, etc. I noticed last time I had my niece that her car seat seemed a little too small, so I decide to order them a new one on Amazon. I use my points from my Amazon rewards card to offset the cost (normally it would have been $59.99), so I’m able to get it for just $9.29! $9.29

10 a.m. — Time for my weekly therapy appointment. I’ve been seeing therapists for a few years now but just recently started seeing a therapist who specializes in fertility issues, which has been a godsend. She’s pricey, as she doesn’t accept insurance, but I think my mental health is well worth it. Paid through my Health Savings Account. $190

11:30 a.m. — While I’m still on “bed rest” following my transfer, I decide to get ahead of my holiday shopping. I get a few books for my niece from a local, black-owned bookshop. Can’t wait to pick them up! $85.29

12 p.m. — Sweet D. takes time from his workday (we are both working from home right now due to the pandemic) to cook some frozen dumplings for us for lunch. Yum.

2 p.m. — Get a little stir-crazy just staying in bed, so I decide to bake some cookies. I raid my pantry for the usual items, only to realize D. used the last of our vanilla extract last week when he made creme brulee. I pop out to the local market to grab some more — damn, vanilla is expensive and we’re going through it like crazy with all of our pandemic baking. $23.64

2:30 p.m. — Since I’m nearby, I decide to peek into a shop that I know my mom loves to see if they have a dress she mentioned she really liked on Instagram a few weeks ago. I’m able to get the dress, plus another outfit for my mom, which will go toward her Christmas presents. I’m really bummed that I haven’t been able to see my mom all year and it’s still up in the air if I’ll get to see her for Christmas. I’m also trying to make a conscious effort to shop at black-owned stores for holiday gifts this year, which ends up being a bit more expensive, but infinitely better than giving all my money to Jeff Bezos. $370.15

3:15 p.m. — I mix up my cookie dough to put into the fridge until after dinner. I last about 10 minutes before I have to make at least a few to get me through the afternoon. I have no regrets. God, is there anything better than a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie?

6:30 p.m. — After wasting a few hours relaxing and listening to podcasts, I whip up my favorite kale and sausage soup for us tonight. We follow up dinner with yet more chocolate chip cookies and snuggle by our fire while binging on some Netflix.

8:46 p.m. — Can’t help but look at my work email, as I know the rest of the week is going to be bananas. I also try and log into our mortgage payment system. We just recently refinanced our house to take advantage of lower interest rates and our loan just got sold to a new provider. Getting a little nervous that I haven’t yet been able to log in to pay our mortgage, as it’s past the first of the month.

9:15 p.m. — Before I get in bed, I pull out my favorite serum from Dr. Sturm. Her products are pretty expensive, but I’m trying one of her travel sets for now before I commit to a full bottle.

9:41 p.m. — Being at home 24/7 has me really going after home projects. We are going to have our hallway repainted, so I order a few stick-on samples from Clare Paint. Start making a PowerPoint with my existing color palettes and the furniture I have to make sure everything feels cohesive. Yes, this is how I like to relax. $27.80

Daily Total: $706.17

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Of course, the morning that I actually could use some extra time, I don’t wake up early. Go figure. I gulp down the myriad of medicines I’m taking and D. brings me coffee and toast in bed while I start to tackle my ungodly inbox. Time off is great, but it sucks playing catch up on email. Also nothing like kicking off your day with an injection in your stomach!

9 a.m. — Early emergency meeting with my team regarding a multi-million dollar deal we have in the works. Our partners are getting a little skittish, but we are able to hash out a strategy that feels like it will work. Never thought I’d love sales, but I really enjoy the thrill of the pitch and the sweet, sweet victory of winning a big contract.

10:05 a.m. — Check my new mortgage provider (again) and I still can’t find my loan to pay my mortgage! This is ridiculous! I just want to pay my bills.

1:27 p.m. — Mid-video conference, I hear my doorbell ring and my dog starts barking like crazy, go figure. D. is nowhere in sight, so I have to run to the door to let in my housekeeper. With both D. and I working from home now, this is more of a marriage saver than ever.

7 p.m. — I finally surface from a day of back to back meetings. While I’m wondering why my Amazon Fresh order hasn’t arrived yet, I realize I forgot to actually check out my order in the app. I end up getting some more milk, bread, and basic staples for the next few days. $48.35

7:25 p.m. — I end up chatting quickly with a vendor about putting together gifts for my clients this holiday. Normally, I’m traveling almost every week, going to meetings and taking clients out to lunch/dinner, but obviously, this year is very different. I want to get something nice for my clients since I know it has not been an easy year for anyone.

7:30 p.m. — Injection #2 of the day! My butt is incredibly sore, but so far I have managed to keep my anxiety down as I count down the days to my pregnancy test. After D. gives me my shot, we heat up some leftover soup for dinner.

8:45 p.m. — After dinner, D. and I cozy up by the fire with our dog to catch up on some Netflix. Like mother, like daughter, my mom texts me to ask if I’ve bought the amazing hot chocolate for Williams Sonoma yet, which of course I did earlier in the week. I offer to order a couple of tins for her. My mom mostly raised me as a single mom, so I love treating her whenever possible. $52.19

11 p.m. — Finally make it to bed after watching the VP debate. I slather my face in serums and moisturizers because it’s starting to get a little chilly here, and my face feels like sandpaper. My beauty routine has really suffered during the pandemic. I used to get monthly facials and see my hairdresser every two weeks, but I just can’t justify the risk of exposure now especially while going through fertility treatments, so DIY it is!

Daily Total: $100.54

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — I wake up early and can actually be productive! Usually D. brings me coffee in bed, but I decide to let him sleep and head downstairs to make my own coffee and get cranking early on some work. I also enjoy scrolling through Instagram getting the hot takes from the debate last night — memes are my favorite.

8:30 a.m. — Rush out of the door on my way to a doctor’s appointment at 9. Of course, I’m running late and when I get in my car, I see I’m almost on empty. Fill up at the gas station close to my house. $34.79

9:10 a.m. — With all of the fluctuating hormones from pregnancy losses and IVF, my hair has also started to fall out (when it rains, it pours), so I’ve been getting PRP treatments on my scalp to hold back the tide, so to speak. Ends up being a pretty relaxing treatment as my dermatologist’s staff is super sweet. I’ve prepaid for the sessions, so don’t have to pay anything today.

10 a.m. — I’m really hoping that I’ll get promoted this month. My boss assures me I’m a shoo-in. If the promotion does go through, I’ve decided I want to buy myself a new (to me) car. I’ve always been pretty frugal with my cars, but I think this is the year I go for it. I stop by a luxury car dealership on the way home, just to get a feel for the new cars. It’s a really intimidating process. I feel like everyone is judging me or wants to trick me into spending more money. I immediately regret my chipped nail polish and scuffed up shoes. I end up checking out a beautiful new Mercedes SUV, but I don’t think I’m a fancy Mercedes person just yet? And the $55,000 (starting) price tag seems out of control to me. My wallet gives a sigh of relief when I walk out of there.

2:45 p.m. — I’ve been in back to back meetings since 11:30, but since my last meeting ends unexpectedly early, I take a minute to do some online shopping. D. complimented me today on my outfit, which I’ve coined “work-leisure” (polished enough for Zoom calls, but comfy like pajamas), and he’s been in dire need of clothes. More often than not, he’s in his pajama pants all day since we are working from home. I decide to order him a few pairs of comfortable pants and shirts from Banana Republic so he can jump on this “workleisure” train as well. $343.96

4 p.m. — Walk around the corner to my local coffee shop to pick up a matcha latte with oat milk. One of the things I’ve really loved about quarantine has been exploring my own neighborhood. I rarely went to this coffee shop before, but now I walk here almost every day. I manage to make the walk productive by also having a call with my team to discuss some of our upcoming client meetings. $6.15

5:30 p.m. — Finish up work emails and then D. and I head over to our friend’s house for a socially distanced BBQ. Fall really is the most beautiful season in Atlanta. The weather is great, everyone is relaxed.

8:45 p.m. — I spend the evening making a spreadsheet to compare some of the different cars and also calculate the cost to own a new car vs. a used car. There seriously must be a better way to do this than just plugging numbers into a spreadsheet, but I haven’t found it yet. This will be a big purchase for me, so I want to make sure I’ve covered all of the numbers and get a good deal.

Daily Total: $384.90

Day Seven

7:15 a.m. — I told my sister that I’d babysit my niece today while she and her husband go out of town for the day, so I’m out of the house early. Of course, the line at Chik-Fil-A is bonkers, so I end up arriving at their house a little late. $6.75

9 a.m. — Trying to juggle a rambunctious toddler and work emails is hard. Props to all the mamas out there doing this juggle 24/7 during these crazy times. My niece and I hang out on their patio while I try to keep on top of emails and get ready for a call with my client this morning. I definitely need a coffee, but my sister only drinks regular and I drink decaf, so I end up UberEats-ing a single cup of ridiculously expensive, mediocre coffee. I love the convenience of delivery and the coffee need was dire, but I still feel shame for spending $13 for coffee! $13.70

10 a.m. — My call with a client goes well and I take a break to hang with my niece. She’s so sweet and cuddly and I’m completely obsessed with her. She’s at that curious, questioning age, which I think is adorable. She asks me when we can go apple picking — a girl after my own fall-loving heart.

11:30 a.m. — Here I am, an hour and a half later, putting in yet another Uber Eats order, this time for lunch. I order Chinese food from my favorite takeout spot. I also do a little online shopping — I’m thinking about buying an adorable, handcrafted bassinet for my brother-in-law and his wife, who just announced they are expecting. Honestly, hearing baby announcements is really hard for me while I’m struggling with infertility, but I try to be generous with my friends and family who are expecting. Figure it puts good energy out into the world and it’s not like I have kids of my own to spend my money on. $25.32

5:30 p.m. — Arrive back home finally after my sister and her husband finish up their day. In all honesty, I wasn’t super productive with my work today. I grab some leftover pasta and cookies and call it dinner. I’m so excited to see the boots I ordered on Tradesy arrived — they look like they’ve never been worn and are super cute! Can’t wait to wear them in the mountains in a few weeks. Opening my new boots helps me squelch the desire to buy a cute plaid dress I found on Etsy. I’ve pretty much decided I’m going to buy a new car in the next month, so I need to get a handle on my shopping.

6:30 p.m. — D. orders dinner in, our new pandemic ritual to close the end of the week. We get delicious vegetarian Indian food and the servings are enormous! Continue to feast on cookies from earlier in the week; I definitely need to plan to make these again. $54.92

8:15 p.m. — D. and I close out the day relaxing by the fire. I make an appointment for tomorrow morning to go take a look at a few more cars, so I can get a feel for them before I make a decision. So glad the week is over, even though it was a short week for me. Getting to bed super early because I feel beat.

Daily Total: $100.69

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