A Week In Houston, TX, On A $93,892 Joint Income

·20 min read

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Today: an associate counselor who has a joint income of $93,892 and spends some of her money this week on a peanut butter stout.

Occupation: Associate Counselor
Industry: Mental Health
Age: 29
Location: Houston, TX
My Salary: $45,892
My Husband’s Salary: $48,000
Net Worth: -$121,953 (Equity: ~ $12,000 in retirement accounts between the two of us, $33,218 in mutual funds, $2,000 for our wedding rings (I used a net worth calculator, don’t @ me if I’m including things I shouldn’t), $5,000 in household items, $3,000 in checking/savings, $5,200 in my car, $17,140 equity in our house. All of our finances are combined.)
Debt: $189,011 left on mortgage, $1,500 for flooring, and ~$9,000 on my car. No student debt for me or my husband, he worked full time and paid as he went for his undergrad.
My Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,394.50
My Husband’s Paycheck: varies due to things like reimbursement for food and travel
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,675 (My husband and I own a house which we thankfully bought right before the housing market went crazy. Even then, we couldn’t afford to buy in the city and moved to the Houston ‘burbs after five years of renting in the city.)
House Loan: $200 (new floors installed last year)
Car Loan: $245 (my husband drives a company car).
Disney+: $7.57
Hulu/Spotify Bundle: $10.81
Netflix: $19.47
Youtube Premium: $11
Water: ~$40
Pet Insurance: $105.87
Auto Insurance: $103.01
Gas Bill: $30
Phone: $70
Home Security: $40
Amazon Subscribe And Save: $108.24 (Probiotics, sparkling water, razor cartridge refills, dog treats/supplements/food)
Electric: $75
Internet: $35 (My husband gets a $50 stipend from his job that pays the rest of this)
Curology: $20
Charity: $130
Health Insurance: Fortunately, my work covers my health insurance. My husband’s comes out of his paycheck and I don’t pay attention to how much it costs, gotta have it.
HOA: $400
Flood Insurance: $476

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, my father made it clear that this was seen as the path to success. My parents were both the first in their immediate family to get a college degree and I’m the first in my immediate family to get a graduate school degree. I was very blessed that my father’s insistence on college meant that he planned for it financially and set up a guaranteed tuition plan for myself and my sister. This plan does not exist anymore and basically meant that my tuition cost me what tuition cost when the plan was set up (while I was a child) and the state paid the difference. This paid for my entire undergraduate education and part of my grad school. The rest of grad school costs (about $12,000) were paid as I went by my husband and I working, before we had credit cards, and occasionally having a $0 balance in our bank. I drew a little money out of my inheritance (see below) to cover costs but tried not to because I always meant for that to help with a down payment on a house.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
There were conversations that weren’t overly helpful. My father was very black and white about it. “You go to college and get a good education or you might end up begging on the street.” I’ve had conversations in therapy about this. The actual financial planning aspect of this wasn’t covered very well aside from teaching me how to balance a checkbook, a skill that I no longer remember or need.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a job as a lifeguard when I was 15. It was at a summer camp I worked at before as an unpaid intern. I just thought it was fun to work there and even better when I got paid. I then got a job in sales at a shoe store in the mall when I was 16 and haven’t been unemployed a day since. I wanted to move out at age 18 and started working towards that. I also didn’t think that my family had much money (see below) and wanted to be able to have spending money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes and no. My father was extremely frugal and this led me to believe that we didn’t have much money, but I never worried about it too much because we never went without necessities. We just didn’t get to do some things we wanted, like dance lessons. As an adult, I realize that this is because my grandparents grew up during the Great Depression and my father graduated college in the 80s with a finance degree that he was never able to get a job with. He’s worked at the post office doing machine maintenance my entire life. I now realize that supporting a stay-at-home mom and two kids, while owning a house and three vehicles outright and being able to afford vacations was fairly well off. This was a result of my father’s frugality, which I appreciate much more now.

Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I worried about the possibility of losing our jobs at the beginning of the pandemic, but I think my husband and I are both well-established enough in our fields to be re-employed pretty quickly. I know that we are blessed in that both of our families would be able to come through if we ever had to ask for help.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out at age 19 and became mostly financially responsible at that point other than being on my dad’s health insurance and phone plan until age 26. I paid him for my phone and a portion of the monthly bill, it was just cheaper that way. Our financial safety net would be our families if needed, but of course, as a last option.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. Other than the tuition plan, I didn’t know any of this was coming to me until my parents divorced when I was 17 and my dad told me about it. My sister and I each had an investment account set up by my dad with my grandmother’s money. It was intended to make profit and go to her if she needed it while she was alive or to us if she never needed it. She did not need it and I had $15,000 that I lived off of while I was in college. I worked part-time at a restaurant then, but it wasn’t enough to cover my bills. When my grandmother passed, I inherited another $35,000 (at age 21) that I put into the same investment account. Most of that money (minus grad school payments here and there and $1,000 for a broken tooth) stayed there until we made a $20,000 down payment last year when buying our house. I’ve had a lot of guilt about the privilege of this money that I didn’t earn and how I stay weirdly quiet when my friends are commiserating about student loans. I also got $5,000 from my dad as a wedding gift at age 23 and some of that money also went to my grad school.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — Good morning world! Feed my pups and have my usual breakfast: a cup of coffee and yogurt with probiotic powder mixed in, along with birth control, Zoloft for anxiety, and a gummy vitamin. I sit outside with my coffee while reading news articles.

8:30 a.m. — WFH time! Log on and go through my e-mails. I am a counselor on a research study at a hospital. My job is a dream job and it sometimes still amazes me that I landed it so quickly.

12 p.m. — Eat lunch while doing documentation. Weekday lunches are always a quick Amy’s frozen meal or soup and grilled cheese (really enjoying being able to make a stovetop grilled cheese during WFH)!

2:30 p.m. — I usually eat while I’m working so that I can take a lunch break nap, which is my absolute favorite thing about WFH. Fall asleep to rain sounds on the Google home. Wake up 30ish minutes later with an alarm (who knows what I might sleep through otherwise). Make another cup of coffee. Daily afternoon coffee is a (probably bad) habit that started in college when I’d be in class all day and then have to study and it has stuck with me.

4 p.m. — Snack on a couple of kiwis and dark chocolate almonds while I’m doing documentation from more appointments. After work, I do 30ish minutes of YouTube cardio (Jessica Smith’s channel) and 15 minutes of yoga for hips (Cole Chance yoga). Yoga is my main love in terms of exercise but I’ve increased my cardio lately. My husband, Y., got a haircut today. His haircuts cost more than mine, but I figure it balances out since I also get pedicures! $76

8 p.m. — I eat leftovers for dinner and chat with T. I’m hit in the feels when he tells me that he has a reminder on his phone that goes off every month on this day to reach out and check on loved ones. One of our friends died by suicide on this day of the month a few months back and being reminded of this and how it’s impacted us is a gut punch sometimes. Worn out and in bed around 11:30.

Daily Total: $76

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — In the words of Rihanna, work work work work work work! I’ve had my coffee and it’s go time.

12:30 p.m. — Take a lunch break after completing some appointments with patients. We’ve had some issues with ants in the house recently and have an appointment with an exterminator to do their thing during my lunch break. $86.55

3 p.m. — Have been catching up on documentation from my earlier appointments. Do a check-in call with a patient who’s been struggling with depression. He is outside enjoying the weather and reports feeling much better than he has lately. Always happy for good news on my patients! Take my laptop outside to enjoy the weather myself and keep working with an iced coffee and some chocolate almonds.

5 p.m. — Hop on the exercise bike for half an hour. I stalked Next Door last year when all the exercise equipment was sold out and found this for $60, such a great buy. Y. gets home around the time I finish exercising. Eat dinner while watching the last episode of the Middleditch & Schwartz comedy special on Netflix. We’re between shows since Wandavision ended, sigh.

8 p.m. — I build a fire in the chimenea and sit out with some red wine. I’m sure this will be one of the last fires of the season before Texas starts heating up for the hot, hot summer, gotta make the most of it while I can. Scroll through Insta and end up in an Etsy shop to buy an enamel coffee mug pin for my sister’s upcoming birthday. Since I am a sucker for free shipping and this shop is really cool, I end up ordering greeting cards to hit $35. I have a $20 credit in Paypal as well. Now I’ve supported a small business and am stocked up on cards for mother’s day and a couple of upcoming birthdays, win-win. Shower and sleep around 11. $17.37

Daily Total: $103.92

Day Three

7 a.m. — Up and at ’em before the sun. Sit outside with coffee/news articles and enjoy the sunrise before starting work.

11a — Early lunch between appointments. This last appointment was an intake with a new patient who’s really sweet. We got on the subject of travel and now I’m dreaming of Europe. Can’t wait to travel again!

1 p.m. — Finish up my last appointment for the day and take a couple of hours off for a follow-up appointment with the surgeon who extracted my wisdom teeth last month. Get in my car to find… that I have a flat tire. Call Y. freaking out because this appointment is really important (making sure an infection in one of the sockets is cleared out). Ask him if I could air it up and still go, but he says that’s a bad idea because the appointment is about 30 miles across the city.

3 p.m. — I move my appointment with the surgeon to Monday and take my car to a tire shop down the road. While I wait, I go over to a coffee shop I never noticed before. Sit outside scrolling Insta with an iced cinnamon latte and a piece of carrot cake ($2 tip). The tire shop patches my tire for free and I got deliciousness from a local business that I will definitely return to, guess this afternoon wasn’t too bad! $9.74

4 p.m. — Return home and work outside while completing some documentation/e-mails. Work late to make up time that was missed, decided not to use PTO. Y. is going out this evening (probably a good time to mention we’re both fully vaccinated), so I’ll be doing my own thing, anyway. My introverted self does not mind at all and this is what things look like for us pretty often because he has a lot of work events at bars during normal times.

7 p.m. — Tired for no apparent reason and am falling asleep while doing documentation. Wake myself up enough to manage 15 minutes on the bike and then eat leftovers for dinner while watching To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. I tend to watch heavier things like documentaries about mental health, prisons, etc. but with this *waves arm in general direction of world​* happening right now, I’m sticking to lighter things within my emotional bandwidth.

12 a.m. — Y. was working across the city today and hangs out with some friends who live in the area after finishing work. I put up some laundry while listening to Lady Gaga, shower, and scroll through Instagram while drinking red wine and making plans for tomorrow. I remember that I am tired when he gets home and flop into bed. Y. spends money on dinner and drinks. $43.98

Daily Total: $53.72

Day Four

9 a.m. — Well, that was a nice sleep-in. Coffee while sitting outside and picking a book to start. After perusing my Goodreads list, I land on Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know by Samira Ahmed. Happy Women’s History Month! Love that my birthday is the cherry on top at the end of this month. I read the first couple chapters and then go inside to do some general picking up/organizing. $11.74

11 a.m. — I listen to Billie Eilish while unloading the dishwasher and wearing a clay/avocado/oatmeal face mask. I love her and Gaga both not only for their music but for being so open about their mental health. Lady Gaga is my hero. It’s a beautiful day and Y. is helping our neighbors replace their back fence today. They did the section in between our yards recently and today he’s helping out on a section we don’t share just to be neighborly.

12 p.m. — Eat lunch and then snuggle with the pups while I start putting together a curbside grocery order. The extra time spent with my dogs is definitely a silver lining of quarantine and one of the perks of WFH. I see an e-mail about a $10 credit promo on BeanBox.com that I obviously have to use. One bag of espresso blend beans and one bag of dark roast beans are on their way to me from small roasting companies in Seattle! $27.75

2 p.m. — Hop on the exercise bike for half an hour and then do a 15-minute cardio video on YouTube. Take a quick shower, braid my hair, do my make-up (mostly Tarte with a couple of tried and true CoverGirl items), throw on a denim shirt, black leggings, and black booties. Drink another cup of coffee while figuring out why pet insurance didn’t cover something on my last vet visit. It’s a bit confusing sometimes, but pet insurance is a lifesaver, y’all. One of our pups had heartworms when we first rescued her and pet insurance saved us about $1,000 on treatment.

4:30 p.m. — Head out for a sunny drive while listening to City and Colour. Meet my mom and my sister at a winery. I have a glass of red (free because I’m with my sister who works there) and get to use her food discount on a bread bowl of crawfish etouffee. Add sister’s hummus plate to my tab as thanks, and of course a tip for her co-worker. Sit outside enjoying the weather by the grapevines until the sun sets and it gets chilly. $15.30

7:30 p.m. — Head home, listening to Megan Thee Stallion (did I mention I’m from Houston), M.I.A., and Cocorosie (if you don’t know, now you know). Y. is finishing a movie when I get home, so I snuggle up on the couch with another glass of red and my book. We go to sleep around midnight. Y. ordered Chinse food on UberEats while I was out. $30.39

Daily Total: $85.18

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — What else would I be doing right now? Sitting outside with a cup of coffee and my book. Loving this book! It’s set in France and giving me major pastry cravings. Consult the interwebs about when to try to plant a couple of spring vegetables in my tiny garden. I first tried my hand at this in the fall and nothing sprouted. I think I need to try seedlings instead of seeds this time.

10:30 a.m. — I vacuum the house while Y. mows the yard and then I go to pick up the curbside order from H-E-B. Y’all non-Texans are missing out on this grocery store, sorry! I get bread, creamer, iced coffee, sparkling water, yogurt, cheese (sliced and sticks), oat milk, guacamole, frozen meals, fro yo bars, chocolate almonds, soup, chips, granola bars, some cleaning supplies, and cereal. I put up the groceries, then put on make-up and braid my hair (my go-to until I chop off all this quarantine mess next week and donate my hair for the fourth time). It’s a little warmer today and I go with a long dress, denim vest, and Keds. $119.50

1:30 p.m. — Y. and I meet up with another couple at a restaurant. We order pistolettes, po’boys (popcorn fried shrimp for me), boudin balls, and tip. We end up with fried alligator instead of the boudin balls and decide to roll with it instead of complaining. Never had alligator before and it was actually really good. Something new! $69.29

3 p.m. — We all head to a local brewery near the restaurant. I have an IPA and a peanut butter stout. I bask in the sunshine and the fact that this is the first time I’ve been to a brewery in over a year. Side note: my life looked nothing like this pre-vaccination. My anxiety is largely health-related and this pandemic has been an anxiety nightmare for me. Therapists, they’re people too. Hallelujah for science and vaccinations! Y. also has a few beers and always tips well. $63

6:30 p.m. — Home and sleepy from day drinking. We start watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend since I’ve heard a couple of good reviews of it lately. Watch a couple of episodes before Y. calls it. I read for a little bit and then hit the hay around midnight.

Daily Total: $251.79

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Coffee and reading outside! It’s my late morning into work because we each do a late evening once a week to accommodate patients who need evening appointments. I rake up grass clippings for the compost bin. Buying a house right before lockdown was so well-timed for me as someone who needs to keep busy. We’ve replaced all the light fixtures along with most of the blinds in our house and painted all the bedrooms/bathrooms with the money we normally would’ve spent on traveling!

10:30 a.m. — Log in to work. I watch a couple of webinars before a team meeting where they tell us they are going to try to lighten our caseload to avoid burnout. Bless. I have the best team.

2:30 p.m. — After lunch and a cup of iced coffee, I head to the post-op/oral surgeon appointment (for real this time). It’s not good news — the infection may not be entirely gone and I need another round of antibiotics. Ugh. Since I’m in the city, I pop into a Lebanese bakery I’ve been meaning to try. I get a flaky meat pastry and a Nutella-filled pastry for tomorrow’s coffee, plus tip. Houston has a really diverse food scene that I haven’t done justice in this diary, but after all, it’s crawfish season! $14.26

5:30 p.m. — I’ve picked up the antibiotics (about $10 put on my FSA card). I’m home and eat the meat pastry as an appetizer because I hate working out while I’m hungry. 15 minutes on the exercise bike is all I can manage after my bad news today. Y. is out at a work event and I spend the evening, predictably, drinking a couple of glasses of red wine and watching To All The Boys: Always and Forever. I make a HelloFresh meal of chicken curry, yum! What I’ve been eating at home for dinner has been all HelloFresh, some of them were just leftovers because I ordered multiple portions of one dish. Go to sleep around midnight because I am a night owl, no matter how hard I try otherwise.

Daily Total: $14.26

Day Seven

8 a.m. — Up and at ’em after a cup of coffee. Brush my teeth and wash my face (Cetaphil wash with Neutrogena moisturizer in the morning, Curology concoction and Olay cream at night #drugstorequeen). I do an appointment with a patient and then watch a couple of webinars. It feels so nice to have a break from having appointments stacked up all day.

12 p.m. — I eat chips with guacamole and grilled cheese for lunch. Catch up on some documentation, do a 20-minute cardio video on YouTube, and I’m in the kitchen around 6 making HelloFresh Citrus chicken bowls for dinner.

8 p.m. — Dinnertime! These meals always seem to take longer than they should, maybe I’m just not a fast chopper. I’ve canceled HelloFresh moving forward. We eat dinner and watch a few episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. We also make an order from Freshly because I have a promo code, plus I’m ready for some heat-and-eat meals. I want to spend my long summer evenings outdoors, not in the kitchen! My sister calls around 10 and I accidentally stay up until 1 a.m. (whoops) since I also have to shower and clean up the kitchen after we talk. $81.09

Daily Total: $81.09

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