A Week In Richmond, VA, On A $179,645 Joint Income

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Today: a librarian who has a joint income of $179,645 per year and spends some of her money this week on paddock boots.
Occupation: Elementary School Librarian
Industry: Education
Age: 25
Location: Richmond, VA
My Salary: $50,745
My Husband's: $128,900
Net Worth: -$16,750 (We have about $14,500 saved in a money market account. My husband has about $25,250 in his 401(k). I have about $3,750 in a 403(b) and about $1,750 in an IRA that I rolled over from a past job. However, we have more debt than assets.)
Debt: $62,000 (husband's graduate school loans, down from about $180,000)
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,620.42 (post taxes, healthcare, retirement)
Husband's Paycheck (biweekly): $3,572 after (post taxes, healthcare, retirement)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,615 (two bed/two bath apartment; includes water/sewer, trash, internet, and DirectTV)
Student Loans: $4,000-$6,000 (We send all our "leftover" money each month to my husband's student loans)
Electric: $65
Hulu: $11.99 (We use my in-laws Netflix and my parents' Prime accounts; we paid for three years of Disney+ upfront last year.)
Phone: $45 (I'm on a family plan with my siblings and we split the cost. My husband is still on his parents' plan and we're riding that train as long as possible.)
Savings: $250 to vacation fund
My Donations: $250 a month split between a local food bank, the National Park Foundation, Water Missions, the local branch of the Ronald McDonald House, and Goats of Anarchy.
Husband's Donations: $700 (tithing)
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?
It was always assumed that I would go to college. I'm the youngest of six kids and three of my older siblings went to college before me, so it was a pattern I wanted to follow. Neither of my parents graduated from college (my mom did attend but got no degree) so they would've been incredibly supportive if I had decided to go to trade school or just start working as long as I wasn't just sitting around. I paid for my first semester of a private, church-run school with a $3,000 student loan but then obtained a merit scholarship that fully covered my tuition. I worked 20 hours/week to cover room and board. For my masters, my husband and I paid for it in cash with our combined salaries with help from a small scholarship my second year.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom really controlled the finances in our house, so I remember having some conversations with her. She got me my first bank account when I was around 10 and helped me learn how to balance a checkbook. She helped me fill out my FAFSA when I went to college and fill out my tax forms from my part-time jobs in high school. However, we didn't talk much about money until I was already on my own and asking for advice.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked as a grocery store cart girl. I got it because it was expected (my mom had me pay for my own car insurance, gas, etc.), but I really hated it because it was creepy to be out there at night and honestly too physical for my size. I switched to a retail job after a few months and kept working there until I left for college.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, but I know my siblings did. There's enough of a gap between my siblings and me that I wasn't really conscious of the struggle that my parents had when all of us were at home. My mom stayed at home with us until I started middle school and my dad was not a high-income earner. I wouldn't say he was blue collar, but he still works with his hands. The only vacations we ever went on were road trips to visit family and we were kept on a tight budget. I know when my siblings were younger there were times they lived on ramen noodles, but things were relatively secure by the time I really started to be aware of my parents as individuals with their own dreams and problems.
Do you worry about money now?
Not at all. We have been very thoughtful with our choices, and life has been very kind to us.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I got married, I was on my own. Until then, my parents still paid for me to come home from college for summer or Christmas, covered my health insurance, and paid for my phone. When I got married, my mom gave me a couple of months to get settled, and then we had to reimburse her for every premium and bill that she got for me. I consider my husband a bit of a safety net and, I think to some degree, I am one for him. However, I know for a fact that if something catastrophic happened to either of us, both sets of our parents would step in for a reasonable amount of time. I don't know if they'd actually give us money, but we could go live with them until we recovered.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No. However, my husband did have his undergrad tuition and a basic used car paid for by his parents. That definitely helped him and it's helping me now.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — I wake up, but I am not about this on a Saturday. I roll back over and snuggle into my husband, N. He wakes up and asks me what time it is, but I tell him I don't want to talk about it.
9:30 a.m. — That's better! I scroll through my phone for a bit before we get up and have breakfast — sugary cereal for me because I am a child. After that, we get ready for a bike ride. It is a gorgeous day. You can feel fall in the air and the breeze slaps against my face as we ride down the hill to the Capital Trail. We ride deeper into the city along the Canal Walk and go off a couple of branches, crossing the river a few times before heading home.
1 p.m. — We get home and lock our bikes up at our complex's indoor rack. N. showers then I do. We laze around for a little while, eat a snack (for me, a Trader Joe's apple cereal bar), and chat about the book I'm reading, The Next Mormons, before we leave to run some errands. We both come from True Believing Mormon families and had the traditional Mormon wedding, but over the past couple of years, I've been trying to figure out my relationship with the church. My husband is super supportive of that journey even though he is still super faithful. I stopped paying tithing a couple of years ago, preferring to spend that piece of my income on charities where I can see the impact instead of funding things I no longer agree with.
2 p.m. — We drive up to Ashland to go to an equestrian consignment store. I just started horseback riding lessons after years of saying I wanted to do it and it's time to invest in some more appropriate clothes and shoes. This place is way out of my price range, though, so we leave empty-handed. They do have a shop dog that I got to pet, so it isn't a complete waste of a trip. Next stop, Tractor Supply — which also doesn't have what I want, so I go ahead and purchase what was in my cart online at Dover Saddlery. I get a helmet, two pairs of riding tights, and a pair of leather paddock boots. The total comes out to $173.62. On the way out of the store, N. spots a luggage tag that looks like a goat. I buy it because goats are my favorite animal and I need to believe that travel will be a thing again someday ($4.21). $177.83
3 p.m. — We leave Ashland to head home but first place a to-go order from Red Robin to pick up on the way. My birthday is tomorrow and I want my free burger! I actually don't eat beef, though, so it's a chicken sandwich. I order my sandwich, a burger for N., and fried pickles. Total with tip comes to $24 even. We head home after picking it up and eat while watching Fresh Off the Boat. $24
5 p.m. — After eating and zoning out in front of the TV, I finally force myself to get off the couch. I throw in a load of laundry and start baking for my family dinner tomorrow. I bake cupcakes from a box mix and also make the batter for lava cakes that I freeze in Star Wars mini cake pans to bake tomorrow. When I put my sugar jar back in its spot, it shatters. That should definitely not have happened. N. cleans up because I still have a bunch of batter to deal with.
6:15 p.m. — Baking is done and so is cleaning up. N. plays Zelda on his Switch while I lay on our bed and read. Eventually, I start scrolling Reddit and Facebook because that's my default position. We're pretty lazy for the rest of the night — watching TV, playing a couple of board games (Jaipur and Seven Wonders Duel), and finishing up the laundry. We had lunch so late that I don't feel like making a real dinner, so I just eat a cupcake. I also do my daily Russian Duolingo. I took two semesters of Russian in college and have forgotten almost all of it, but I'm trying to get at least the basics back.
11 p.m. — I feed our hamster and let her run around the house in her ball for 15 minutes. Hamsters are the best pets. They're super easy, you can leave them overnight, and they are adorable. Then it's lights out and time for bed! I pull the "but tomorrow is my birthday" card and N. gives me a back rub. I fall asleep in serotonin bliss.
Daily Total: $201.83

Day Two

8:15 a.m. — I wake up but keep laying in bed for a while scrolling through my phone and reading my book. I eventually get up, eat a bowl of cereal, and start going through my last few days of podcasts while working on a cross-stitch project. Currently, I'm finishing up my fourth National Park project (Zion) from a pattern I ordered from Etsy. I want to do a themed gallery wall with these and some park posters. I ordered the posters a few weeks ago and they haven't arrived yet, but I'm not worried because I know the USPS is doing its best. Visiting every park is on N.'s and my bucket list. So far we've been to 15 out of the 62, so we've got a long way to go.
9:30 a.m. — N. wakes up and gives me my birthday present. I turn 26 today. It's a pack of socks from Old Navy and I'm actually delighted. I wasn't planning on him getting me anything since we don't really do birthday presents, but my favorite socks finally bit the dust a little while ago and he was thoughtful enough to get me some more fun patterns. Now I don't have to wait until Christmas (you know, because everyone gets socks for Christmas) or actually go buy them myself.
10:15 a.m. — After N. eats breakfast, he sets up home church. Basically, we sing a song, do an at-home sacrament prayer, and then watch a five-minute video. I don't do anything churchy on the Sundays he works and we're not going back to in-person church anytime soon, but I wish I could stick to this permanently. I think it'd be a happy compromise! After “church,” we do our weekly budget meeting and pay last month's surplus to student loans (in monthly expenses). We kind of do the Dave Ramsey thing where all extra money goes to debt, but we still spend on things that aren't necessary like restaurants and entertainment. We also place an Amazon order for a VGA cable to hook up a monitor to my work laptop, a Tokaido expansion pack, and a package of pens. The total comes to $41.03 but we use some credit we got from returning a set of kayak j-bars that didn't fit my car.
12 p.m. — After eating another cupcake, we leave Richmond to drive about 45 minutes to my parents' house. My mom gives me a card with $50 to use towards my new riding gear! My parents have gotten extremely generous as they get closer to retirement and further away from having all of us at home. They're storing our kayaks for us now that we're in an apartment, so we take them out for a paddle at a local reservoir. I eat a banana on the way. It costs $3 per boat, but we only have a $10 so we drop the whole thing in the honor box. $10
4 p.m. — We get back to my parents' and take quick showers to get all the sunscreen and bug spray off. N. rinses all the mud off our boats and paddles and my dad helps him put them away. Then it's on to my brother's house for our weekly family dinner.
5 p.m. — Dinnertime! Three of my older siblings and their families live in my hometown near my parents, so we all gather together at someone's house and eat on Sunday nights. (We stopped during peak COVID but have recently restarted.) Honestly, I live for these dinners. N. and I moved to Virginia three years ago but up until a couple of months ago lived three hours and a $20 toll away so didn't visit very often. Before that, I lived out West for five years. Being so far from home made me realize how much I value my family and the East. My brother's birthday was on Thursday, so we're having a joint celebration. They grill some chicken and serve it with edamame, rolls, and mashed potatoes. My lava cakes disintegrated on plating — lame. Before we leave, my nephew and brother-in-law give me a $20 Visa gift card they say must be used on Beat Saber music packs. (I have an Oculus Quest.)
8:20 p.m. — We get gas on the way home ($21.43). After sitting for a while eavesdropping on N.'s weekly phone call with his mom in Utah, I decide to take a bath with a random bath bomb I have laying around from my Target Christmas clearance haul. Do these things expire? $21.43
11:30 p.m. — It's bedtime. Before I curl up, I finally decide to listen to the voicemails I have saved from my Grammie. She died in January and I've avoided listening to them, but today it feels right. The birthday one hits hard, and I feel her loss so deeply. She spent her last several months in an assisted living facility near my parents and I regret not visiting her more. In a way, I'm grateful she didn't have to experience coronavirus and that my mom and sister were with her when she passed. But I miss her. I really miss her.
Daily Total: $31.43

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — I wake up and have a huge headache from crying last night. I'm also feeling super anxious about school starting tomorrow, so I hide under my covers until 11. It's a bad idea because it wastes a lot of my day and doesn't make me feel any better. I get up and have a bowl of cereal. While I'm eating I order a shirt from ShopDisney that I've been eyeing for a while. I'm a big Star Wars fan (have a themed tattoo and a personalized license plate and also cosplay as two Star Wars characters) and I'm calling this a birthday present to myself. I use about $22 in rewards that I have from the Disney credit card we opened to get a bonus when going to Disneyland last fall, so my total is $22.38. $22.38
4 p.m. — It has been a terrible day. I've been mopey and that's caused friction with N. because he tends to ignore me (sometimes literally just not responding when I speak to him) when I'm upset, which obviously makes me more upset. I finally put an end to our arguing because I have a meeting. I'm a first-year teacher (I actually don't have a teaching degree, only a master's in library science) and we're also teaching virtually for the first nine weeks so I feel very overwhelmed and underqualified.
4:30 p.m. — N. and I are tired of arguing and I'm tired of laying on the couch and wallowing, so he suggests we get frozen yogurt. After all, we didn't eat lunch today. He always goes for the fruity flavors and tapioca balls but I'm about the chocolate, caramel, and brownie mix-ins ($12.20). After eating while standing on the sidewalk outside the shop, we take a short drive to some farmland and wander. A cow sneezes on me and that's pretty gross but otherwise, it's gorgeous. $12.20
7 p.m. — We get home and N. starts making dinner. He's making Mexican pizzas, which only serves to remind me of Taco Bell's betrayal by getting rid of my two go-to items: spicy potato soft taco and shredded chicken burrito. While he cooks, I check my email and see that my application to be a poll worker has gone through! I'll have to fill out another form and get it notarized but should be good to go. When I volunteered, I didn't realize it was a paid day and I also didn't realize that the work starts at 5 a.m. — boo. N. burns a tortilla, so I flee outside to our balcony to get away from the smoky smell and it's lovely. The cicadas are going crazy but the temperature is perfect. We eat dinner while watching Thor: Ragnarok.
10:30 p.m. — We go to bed earlier than usual because we both have to work tomorrow. I should've washed my hair today but I couldn't get the motivation. Don't you just love anxiety/depression spirals?
Daily Total: $34.58

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — N. wakes me up to say goodbye before he leaves for work. I always immediately starfish the second he gets out of bed and it's great.
7:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off, but I snooze it a couple of times before making the rounds through my social media apps to see what's up. I eventually get out of bed and do my hair (poorly because I didn't wash it yesterday) and eat a bowl of cereal. I'm a nervous wreck but I'm also ready to just get this first day over with.
8:20 a.m. — My first class is fourth grade and after a slightly delayed start where I'm stuck in the waiting room, I get in and start teaching. The students are lovely and engaged, and it immediately makes me feel better about myself and my career choice. I move through four 30-minute classes. The younger kids are a bit more of a challenge and ask me the weirdest questions, but with the help of parents and the classroom teachers lurking, I get through it. I don't have a kindergarten class today and my lunch period starts at 11:30, so I spend this hour before my class at noon recharging (aka lying on the bed and texting my sisters). Technically I should be using this half-hour for preparation, but I think the brain break is better. I'm also not eating lunch now because it's still morning and I just ate breakfast four hours ago.
12:30 p.m. — My classes are done! I survived my first day! That last class (first grade) was rough because the kids had some self-control issues, there was technical problems, and they had just had a lunch break so were full of energy. But I did it! I make myself some lunch (a turkey sandwich with a pickle and apple on the side) and mull over what I've learned while watching an episode of Black Sails. My throat is scratchy from using my customer-service pitch. I'll have to find a new teacher voice or something.
1:30 p.m. — We have a staff meeting. It drags on and I just don't want to be in front of the computer. Afterward, I read through some of the stack of children's books I brought home from my last trip to the school library. I'm trying to familiarize myself with our collection because reader's advisory is a large part of my job. I know that I won't have time to do this during the school day once we are back in person (if we are ever back in person), so I take advantage of it for now. I also go over the day on a phone call with my assistant.
3:45 p.m. — I leave for my horseback riding lesson. When I get there, the horse is already tacked and ready to go. Right now, since I'm new to horses, it's easier for them to have a more experienced student handle it. I don't love that, but I understand it. Hopefully, with time, I'll get to do more of that because I want to get the full experience. After a half-hour of practicing a two-point seat and posting, I'm glad my lessons are only 30 minutes. Who knew doing squats on horseback would be killer? They supervise as I untack my horse and hose him down. I squeegee him and bring him back to his stall, giving him several pats along the way. I put the tack away and put my payment in the dropbox before driving home. $40
6 p.m. — I'm back home and say hello to N. from a safe distance and shower right away because he is very allergic to horses. I start making dinner — a hot sauce and honey-glazed chicken recipe I saw on the Blue Apron site. I also saute some green beans and make dirty rice for my sides. I make a double batch so we can have leftovers tomorrow, and we watch Black Panther while we eat. The afterlife scene really affects me now that Chadwick Boseman has passed. What a shocking, deep loss.
10:30 p.m. — I feed and play with my hamster and then we head to bed. It's another early-ish night, but I'm exhausted.
Daily Total: $40

Day Five

7:15 a.m. — Waking up is hard to do. I snooze a couple of times before getting dressed and eating breakfast. Luckily getting ready every day is quick because I rarely wear makeup and only wash my face when I'm in the shower or when it gets sweaty. I really should wash my face more, though, to lessen some of this mask acne.
8:20 a.m. — My first class starts. In between my live sessions, I answer emails and take small stretch breaks. N. tries to silently make himself eggs for breakfast since I'm unmuted. Like yesterday, I don't take my “lunch break” at my normal time, but this time I spend it reading children's books so I guess that's an upgrade in productivity from yesterday. My last class of first graders goes better than yesterday.
12:30 p.m. — Second day is in the books and I'm drained. I eat leftovers from last night for lunch and watch Fresh Off the Boat with N. before he leaves for work. We watch another episode while I paint the Sterilite tote that I'm going to use as a rerun bin on the front steps of the school. I also take a look through my book order and add a couple of things that students asked about in my classes today.
2:30 p.m. — I pop into a virtual staff meeting and try to stay awake. I succeed for the most part. After that, I alternate between reading my book and cross stitching while listening to podcasts. I get a notification that I have a package waiting for me in the package room. My posters are here and so are my glasses from Zenni! I ordered a pair with their blue light blocking coating and they're pink because I can get away with that as an elementary school teacher. For dinner, I make spinach and ricotta stuffed shells and eat it with more green beans and a piece of Texas toast. Can you tell that green beans are my favorite vegetable? I eat while watching Black Sails and pretty much park myself on the couch for the rest of the night. I also eat a pudding cup that I had frozen, which is one of my go-to desserts.
10:30 p.m. — I climb into bed and pick up my book. N. gets home about an hour later and once he does, it's lights out for me. He has to open again tomorrow so he'll come to bed right after he eats something. I could not work his schedule.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — N. wakes me up to say goodbye on his way out and I try to stay awake instead of waiting for my alarm. I scroll through my phone for a while before getting up, getting ready, and eating breakfast. I'm going into the building today so there's no rolling out of bed and right into my desk chair.
8:05 a.m. — I arrive at school and head straight to the library. I'm a few minutes late because I'm still not used to the drive and can't guess how long it'll take. I should've left earlier! I spend the morning going through stacks of things with my assistant and checking items off my to-do list. Somehow I still wind up in front of my computer for the bulk of the day. My assistant gives me a vase of tulips as a late birthday present, which is so thoughtful!
12 p.m. — This is my only class today and I am grateful for that. I'm usually burnt out by the time my last class comes around, but this time I'm not and can be my best self. After class, I invite the art teacher to eat lunch (I brought leftovers) in the library. The music teacher joins us too. We all sit at our own large tables to keep social distancing. After they leave, I watch an online training about child abuse — an important topic but definitely a downer after the lighthearted lunch.
3:30 p.m. — I'm done with work for the day, so I drive over to the registrar for the city to notarize and turn in my poll worker application. They stamp all the right places and swear me in and just like that, I'm an Election Officer. I won't let the power go to my head. I then head over to Lidl for my weekly grocery shop. I get grapes, hamburger buns, olive oil, cereal, tortilla chips, crushed tomatoes, bbq sauce, ground turkey, mozzarella, cheddar, goat cheese, cage-free eggs, almond milk, butter, a frozen pizza, and frozen edamame. Since I've decided that fall will start the week, I also get pumpkin cookie dough, pumpkin spice caramel popcorn, and pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls. I wanted to get queso but couldn't find it, so I'll have to go somewhere else or just melt cheese on my nachos. The total comes to $47.43. $47.43
5:15 p.m. — Finally home for the day! N. gets home shortly after I do and we chat for a while before starting on dinner. Tonight I'm wanting breakfast for dinner, so I make waffles. I add a chopped apple and some chocolate chips to the batter. N. puts our trash and recycling outside our door for the folks to pick up on their rounds tonight. We settle down to eat while watching the pilot of What We Do in the Shadows. My sister calls me to complain about work before I can even finish my waffle, and we vent to each other for a little bit before I get back to TV. We finish the pilot but aren't really feeling it so switch over to Fresh Off the Boat. I eat some of the pumpkin spice caramel corn I bought and revel in the fall feeling despite the heat and humidity outside.
9:30 p.m. — I don't really like to shower at night, but I forgot to earlier. I make it quick before crawling into bed. I read until N. joins me. For the first time this week I have the energy to not just pass out the second the lights go out, and we... you know.
Daily Total: $47.43

Day Seven

6:15 a.m. — N. leaves and I snooze. We all know the drill by now.
7:15 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm and eventually drag myself out of bed, eat breakfast, and get set up for the day. This week has been so tiring, but I'm committed to finishing strong. I have all six grades today and while practice hasn't made perfect, it's certainly helped. I'm using my time much more efficiently and not getting quite as discouraged when there's little (or too much!) engagement. I also wear my blue light blocking glasses for the first time and I think that helps with the eye strain a bit. During my lunch break, I work on my lesson plans a bit.
12:30 p.m. — It's over. My first week of teaching is done! I eat lunch (more leftover stuffed shells and green beans) and finish up the last episode of Black Sails. No spoilers, but I always found myself conflicted on who to root for in this show and find the ending just so-so. I should probably reread Treasure Island now to refresh my memory on that story. I read some more of my children's books, finalize my lesson plans for the next couple weeks, and call it a day.
3:30 p.m. — N. gets home. We chat about our days before he sits down to watch TV and I go lay on our bed and scroll through social media to decompress. My sister calls asking for our Disney+ password so that she can watch the live-action Mulan (we bought it last week and she agreed to pay half) and we chat for a bit. I also talk to my nephews about how their first week of school went. While talking, I get a notification that I have a package. N. and I walk down together and say hi to a neighbor on the way up. It's my helmet and one of my pairs of riding tights. I try them on and they're a bit too small, so I think I'm going to exchange them. I'll wait to be sure that I don't need to return anything from the second package before boxing it up. This is why I hate online shopping.
5:15 p.m. — Back in the apartment, I play Beat Saber on the Quest while N. watches more TV. I buy the Imagine Dragons in-game music pack for $12.99, but I put it on my card since I can't use the gift card I got on Sunday. I pass the now-sweaty headset to N. and go sit on the balcony to read while preheating the oven for our Friday tradition of frozen pizza. $12.99
7:15 p.m. — N. put the pizza in the oven, so now it's ready. We eat while watching the next Marvel movie on our list Avengers: Infinity War.
10 p.m. — I play with the hamster for a little bit before N. and I head to bed. N. is working pretty much all weekend, and I haven't really made any friends here in Richmond (even if it was safe to spend time with people) so it'll be pretty low-key. I plan to decorate for fall, clean the house a bit, and keep plugging away on my cross-stitch. But for now, all I want to do is sleep!
Daily Total: $12.99
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