Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a combined $161,000 salary

Cash Confessional: A week of spending in Charlotte on a combined $161,000 salary
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Our Cash Confessional series, in partnership with Bank of America, takes a personal and anonymous look into how people of all ages and incomes spend their money in the span of seven days. 

To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. If you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Kylie at [email protected].

This week, I spoke with a married couple in their thirties who makes a combined $161,000 a year. Here’s how they spends their money. -Kylie

The basics:

Him – Financial Services
Her – Nonprofit
Him – Operations Manager
Her – Counselor
Combined salary: 
Extra income: We received a combined $14,000 in year-end bonuses last year. Including the bonuses, our annual household income is $175,000.
Who do you bank with and why?: Charles Schwab for both checking and savings.The accounts are free with a direct deposit and they’re linked to our brokerage accounts too.

We do all banking online for ease and convenience. We pay all bills online, deposit checks through their mobile app and can use any ATM worldwide at no cost to us. They don’t have dedicated ATMs, so they rebate any ATM fee charged at the end of the month.

Him – I contribute $500 a month to my employer 401(k). My company contributes 4.5% of my salary to the account regardless of whether or not I contribute. We contribute an additional $500 a month to our joint brokerage account to be used as a general emergency fund. We keep one month’s worth of expenses liquid in our savings account and all other non-retirement money goes to our joint brokerage account. We systematically contribute to low-cost index funds in our respective employer retirement plans and in our investment accounts at Charles Schwab.

Her – The nonprofit I work for contributes to my pension each year. I contribute $500 a month into my 403(b) account with my employer. Between the two of us, we’re currently saving $1,500 per month.

Ages: 37 and 31

Monthly expenses:

Mortgage: $1,905. This includes principal, interest, taxes and insurance.
Roommates: 0
Neighborhood: Uptown
Life Insurance: $113.97 (two 30-year term policies)
Utilities (Electric/Gas/Water/Internet): $300 on average
Student loans: $205 (we plan to pay this off by year’s end)
Health Insurance: $0. This is paid for by her employer.
Credit card: We charge all daily expenses to a joint cash rewards credit card and pay it off each month.
Car payment: Both cars are paid off, so none.
Cell phone: $139.68/month for two Verizon iPhones.
Security System: $24.99
Transportation costs: $70 covers gas for two cars on average each month.
Charitable Gift: $450
House cleaning/yard maintenance: $240
Netflix: $8.57. We also have Amazon Prime, but it’s drafted once a year for $99.
Gym: $50
Spotify: $10.71

Three financial goals:

Be debt free by the end of the year with the exception of our mortgage.

Increase total savings to $2,000 per month beginning in 2017.

Increase total giving to $1,000 per month beginning in 2017.

Money Diary: How we spent our money last week

Day one: Sunday

8:45 a.m. I stopped off at Starbucks for coffee which is generally the only day I get coffee out. I enjoy this Sunday morning tradition before I shop for the weekly groceries. $2.65

9:45 a.m. Picked up the weekly groceries at the Metropolitan Target so we can make breakfast and lunch all week. This trip was lighter than the normal weekly grocery buy because we shopped at Trader Joe’s on Friday night, so this trip was really just to subsidize that one. $88.83


12:45 p.m. We were hungry for lunch, but didn’t feel like making it at home so we walked from Uptown to Rhino Market. Great place for sandwiches, beer and eclectic music. We each bought an egg salad sandwich and split some chips and a diet Coke. $17.11

Rhino Market

2:30 p.m. We needed some supplies from Lowe’s on South Boulevard for a home project. Adulting – SMH. $107.29

4:20 p.m. Lenny Boy Brewery has Kombucha refills on the cheap on Sundays, so we stopped off to fill our growler. $11.81

6:39 p.m. Stopped at Publix and bought a six pack of Sam Adams Summer Ale… cause Monday’s coming. $11.25

Total spent: $238.94

Day two: Monday

6:30 a.m. Breakfast for each of us is the same every day during the week. We blend smoothies and drink coffee at home with supplies from the grocery store. $0


8:30 a.m. She met a friend at Nova’s Coffee before work … so, more coffee. $2.22

9:17 a.m. Co-worker is getting married soon, so he looked up his wedding registry at Crate & Barrel and bought an item on the list. $53.57

12 p.m. He brown bags his lunch each day, so no money gets spent on eating out. She decided to be disciplined since we’re doing this project this week, so she packed a wrap (good job, sweetheart!). $0

1:51 p.m. He logged into the joint bank account and see several items drafted today: our monthly charitable contribution ($450), life insurance ($113.97), student loan payment ($205) and the house cleaning service ($90).

6:20 p.m. We made dinner at home with ingredients purchased earlier in the week. Yum, veggies. $0

Total spent: $914.76

Day three: Tuesday

6:20 a.m. Same breakfast each day (smoothies and coffee) at home. Yeah, we’re boring that way, but at least it’s one less thing to think about before the workday starts. $0

12:00 p.m. He ate the lunch he brought from home, so no money spent eating out again. She took leftovers. $0

6:40 p.m. Dine Out For Kids is an annual program that allows local restaurants to donate a portion of their proceeds that evening to Communities In Schools to help all CMS children can be successful. Alexander Michael’s in Fourth Ward was one of these generous restaurants, so we ate dinner there. $40.02

8:15 p.m. We walked around Uptown after dinner and decided to stop at King’s Kitchen for desert. The total bill was $10.82 so we left a $20 bill and walked home.

King's Kitchen

Total spent: $60.02

Day four: Wednesday

6:20 a.m. Same breakfast (smoothies and coffee) at home. Later, she made scones from things we already had at the house. $0

8:30 a.m. He logged into the joint bank account and saw the final bill for Time Warner Cable for internet service cleared. $61.33

11:45 a.m. He went out to lunch for a work meeting, but it was paid for by the company. $0

12 p.m. She took lunch from Firehouse to a friend who was recovering from a short stay in the hospital. $22.58

5:30 p.m. He had a haircut appointment scheduled after work, so he stopped off on his drive home in South End. $36

6:45 p.m. He ate leftovers for dinner, and she had to work late and snacked when she got home. $0

Total spent: $119.91

Day five: Thursday

6:10 a.m. Same breakfast (smoothies and coffee) at home. $0

1:10 p.m. He brought his lunch to work like he does most days. She had a working lunch, so it didn’t incur any costs. $0

2:00 p.m. Filled up his gas tank… which he only does about once a month, unless they go on a road trip. $37.76

2:30 p.m. He logs into the joint credit card account and sees they were charged for monthly home security monitoring. $24.99

7 p.m. We decided to have dinner at Copper on East Boulevard, which is one of our favorite restaurants in Charlotte. We split all items ordered and didn’t get drinks. $35.23


8 p.m. Allergies are going crazy, so she goes to CVS pick up medicine, but comes home with cosmetics and greeting cards as well. $43.79

Total spent: $141.77

Day six: Friday

6:25 a.m. Same breakfast each work day (smoothies and coffee) at home. $0

12 p.m. He brought lunch to work and ate it at his desk and she took leftovers. $0

1:30 p.m. Out of butter, milk and other essentials we’d need for the weekend. She made a stop at Aldi. $16

6:30 p.m. Some friends treated us to dinner and a performance Uptown, so no money was spent. $0

Total spent: $16

Day seven: Saturday

7:00 a.m. He logs into the credit card account and see our monthly Spotify subscription fee has been charged. Worth. Every. Penny. $10.71

10:20 a.m. He needed to return an item to SouthPark Mall and stopped off at Lush to pick up one item. $13.89

1:30 p.m. At home Saturday afternoon and logged into Amazon to buy some car maintenance items. He spent $85.24, but had a $50 gift card for Amazon, meaning that the actual amount spent was $35.24.

6 p.m. We picked up Chinese food for four from Taipei Express on Providence Road. Best Chinese takeout in the city! $36.02

8:30 p.m. That new brewery, Blue Blaze, is having its grand opening in West Charlotte. We walked down the greenway to check it out. Very nice place with great ambiance and delicious beer! We spent $23.00 for four beers/tip.

Blue Blaze

Total spent: $118.86

Total spent: $1,610.26
The breakdown:
Bills – $945.29
Food and drink – $326.72
Transportation – $73
Miscellaneous – $265.25

What we learned: We’ve been keeping a monthly budget for over eight years so we weren’t surprised by any of the weekly expenditures. Spending that much on discretionary items during the week is very good for us, as it’s generally a higher amount. We ate at home more this week which kept the amount spent down from a normal week. We’re excited about upcoming vacations and the opportunity to pay off a student loan soon, so spending a little less during the workweek is worth the extra planning and sometimes boring menu!

Need personal finance education? Visit Better Money Habits. Build your financial know-how with free tools and information to help you make more confident decisions. It’s a simple way of getting real, practical knowledge, brought to you by Bank of America in partnership with Khan Academy.

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