A Week In Maine On A $101,000 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: a semi-retired educator who has a joint income of $101,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Roku TV.

Occupation: Semi-Retired Educator and Beverage Cart Attendant
Industry: Higher Education/Customer Service
Age: 37
Location: Maine
My Salary: $35,000 (I make $20,000 a year from teaching part-time. I also make $70 a week from May through September plus about $500-700 a week in cash tips from my second job. I make about $200/month in side gigs.)
My Husband’s Salary: $28,000 (he is paid by the project as a handyman and makes roughly this amount over a year)
Yearly Rental Income: $38,000
Net Worth: $750,000 (house/rental property and savings minus debt)
Debt: $220,000 on our mortgage, $48,000 on our home equity loan, $10,000 on our car
Paycheck Amount (My husband gets paid per project; I get paid bi-weekly. We are paid 1x/month for the rental property.): $3,416/month joint from all of our jobs and roughly $4,616 from our rental property
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $2,400 for both the house and apartment, all of which is paid by our rental income
Home Equity Loan: $306
Car Payment: $250
Hulu/Spotify: $11
Auto Insurance: $46
Electric: $100
Cell Phones: $119
Health Insurance: $592
Clothing Rental: $92
Savings: $300

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 there was an expectation or even a requirement to go to college. I did not want to attend college, but my parents told me I couldn’t live with them after high school if I didn’t attend higher education, so I went. They paid in full for my schooling. There was also an expectation to attend graduate school and they paid for that as well. My dad grew up in poverty and saw his education as his ticket out, which is why he prioritized education for me and my sisters.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents constantly told us stories of how poor they were growing up and when they first got married. Eventually, when I was in high school, my parents moved us to a huge, expensive house, and I was shocked that we could afford it. I never knew how much money my parents actually had or what they could or could not afford, but I knew my parents felt grateful for their position, so I did, too. My parents did tell us basics like find a job you love, work hard, and don’t buy anything that you can’t afford in cash. (In other words, don’t get into debt.)

What was your first job and why did you get it?
By high school, we lived in a wealthy area and my parents couldn’t stand some of the entitlement they saw in my new friends. My friends did not work and seemed to have plenty of their parents’ money to spend every weekend. While my family was well-off, my parents did not want to spoil me too much and would give me $5 a week for spending money after I completed my chores. I got my first job as a summer camp counselor so I could have spending money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. As often as my parents talked to us about their past living in poverty, they also harped on the idea that their hard work and good decisions got us into a better position. (I now know that privilege played a role as well.) I grew up knowing we were in a good position financially and that we could make it work if we lost it all since my parents had experience overcoming financial obstacles.

Do you worry about money now?
No. I am a huge planner when it comes to money and I have several spreadsheets that I enjoy updating weekly. I believe that you can worry or you can plan, so I’d rather choose the latter. I know where all of our money is coming from, our expenses, our goals, etc. Not to mention that if an unexpected issue came up, we could go back to working full time.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
26. At that age, I finished graduate school and, while I had already been paying my own rent, food, clothes, gas, phone, etc., the school payments from my parents ended and I also got on my own health insurance. My husband and I have a safety net in the sense that we can rent out the apartment that we own and live in which would give us a second rental income. We could then rent a place to live in a cheaper area. We could even sell our house if we absolutely needed to. Also, while I can’t imagine being given any money from my parents or sisters for my bills, wants, or needs, I’m sure any of my family would let us crash on their couch for a few weeks if we absolutely needed it.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. When my grandmother died, she left $5,000 to each of her six grandchildren. I spent that money to move to my first apartment on my own after college. Other than that, just my parents paying for my schooling.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I hit snooze at least twice. The next thing I know my husband, J., is bringing me coffee in bed, so I sit up to take some sips. This is our usual routine as he’s an early riser and I stay asleep until caffeine hits my bloodstream. J. joins me back in bed and we each read the news, Eventually, we get out of bed and I check my email for work even though it’s a Saturday. I teach online as a college instructor. After about an hour, I close my laptop and get ready for the day while J. takes our cat, H., outside for a walk on her leash.

10:30 a.m. — J. and I are in the car headed to his parents’ house about two hours away. We stop for Taco Bell on our drive. Neither of us had eaten there in about 15 years, but we randomly stopped there a couple of months ago while on a road trip and loved it. Now we make it a point to stop any time we drive more than an hour. We devour some tacos in the car, then continue our drive. When we arrive at his parents’ house, they tell us they made taco salad for lunch. Just our luck! We don’t mention our earlier stop and dive right into their delicious seven-bean dip while catching up with his parents, his brother and sister-in-law, and their children. $7.50

6 p.m. — After a few hours, we finally get up to say goodbye to our sweet nieces and nephew and the rest of the family. As soon as we get home, I collapse on the couch. J. tries to ask me something and I tell him I’m unable to talk for at least half an hour. I doom scroll on my phone while recuperating. I was a middle school teacher for ten years, so you’d think I’d be used to spending all of that time with children, but ever since I left in-person teaching last year, I’ve become exhausted when I spend time with kids. And, each time, I just feel even better about my own choice not to have children. J. usually feels the same need to recoup, but tonight he has more energy, so he cooks some pasta while I chill out. Then, we eat together and head to bed pretty early.

Daily Total: $7.50

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I immediately check the weather. I’m supposed to work at the golf course today, but I just do not feel like it. Rain will mean I have the day off. Shockingly, J. is still half asleep, so for maybe the first time ever, I ask him if he wants me to go get him some coffee. He responds that that would be amazing, so I grab us coffee from the auto-brew pot, make my classic Eggo waffle with peanut butter on top, and climb back into bed. Eventually, I text my boss who tells me the tee sheet looks pretty empty for the day, so I shouldn’t bother coming in. What a relief! I usually love this part-time summer job of driving the beverage cart at the course, but it’s too cold today, so I’m glad I don’t have to spend the whole day outside.

10:30 a.m. — J. and I head to Home Depot to return a couple of items and pick up another piece of wooden trim. Last year, J. built us an apartment that is attached to our house — similar to an in-law suite. This winter we moved into the apartment (even though it’s not totally finished), and we now rent out our house. Our town has changed a lot in the past couple of years, and we’re able to make about double the cost of our mortgage each month by renting the house. This is what allowed both J. and me to quit our full-time teaching jobs. While we still need to make a bit of income each month, we don’t need to make nearly as much as we used to, and we have the freedom to choose jobs we like and move on if they’re not a good fit. We also have a lot more free time and way less stress. Trading our house for a small, one-bedroom apartment is definitely worth that to me. $13

12 p.m. — J. will use the wood trim to finish trimming out the windows in our new home, but he probably won’t get to that until later this week. Today, J. has plans to get lunch with a friend. He quickly checks our budget on Mint, as well as his planner for next week to figure out his budget. We’d both rather go out multiple times a week and spend less each time than go out once a week, and we both know we’ll have just as good of a time if we spend $100 or if we spend $20 so it’s no sacrifice to make a quick budget before heading out the door. J. decides on $30 and heads out to meet his friend while I transfer money from our “apartment furnishing” savings account to our credit card to pay off the amount we just spent at the store. I do this every time we spend money that is not a part of our regular monthly budget. Then, I pull out my book and start reading. Book club is tomorrow night, and I’m only halfway done with the book!

6:00 p.m. — J. comes home and tells me about his day: They went for a hike and then got tacos. I ask him some more questions, then fill him in on my uneventful day of reading my book, eating leftover pasta for lunch, and cleaning up the house. Then, J. makes us dinner of tempeh, couscous, and broccoli, and it’s delicious. We eat together, then J. makes himself a White Russian, hands me a White Claw, and we settle in to watch SNL from last night. It was less political than usual which is a welcome change and I find myself laughing out loud. We turn in for bed soon after. $25

Daily Total: $38

Day Three

8 a.m. — J. brings me coffee in bed, and instead of reading the news today, I go on TikTok and try to find my personal style aesthetic. My friend and I have both recently cleaned out our closets, first trying to make a curated closet and now focusing on paring down our wardrobe to fit our own style aesthetics which are described in three words. Her style is feminine, fitted, and classic. My style is soft, relaxed, and… I watch TikToks to try to figure out my third descriptor and I’m stuck somewhere between southwestern and boho when I finally decide to get out of bed. It’s nearly 9 a.m. and I need to check my email and post an announcement helping my students navigate week two of the course. I heat my waffle in the microwave to make it soft, spread peanut butter on top, then fold the waffle in half like a taco. I eat and sip more coffee as I get to work.

10 a.m. — There isn’t much to do today for work. On Mondays, I just check email, make an announcement, and enter zeroes for the missing assignments. I usually start my grading for the week on Wednesdays. I make a new Pinterest board, pin a bunch of pictures, and finally realize that my third descriptor is “sun-faded”! I don’t wear bright colors; I prefer brown to black, and if I do wear black, it’s often muted and closer to gray. With this information in mind, I put in an order for my clothing rental which I’ve included in our monthly budget; I pick six items and get to keep them for a month for a total of $92 (in monthly expenses). I don’t usually shop other than this, aside from shoes and jewelry, which I buy maybe twice a year. I choose six items that all seem to fit my soft, relaxed, sun-faded vibe, and I’m more excited for this rental box than I have been in a while.

11 a.m. — I’m currently a part-time online English professor, but I’ve been obsessed with budgeting and finance for about 10 years — ever since my husband and I got married and I realized I’d be sharing his $100,000+ student loan debt. By educating ourselves on budgeting and finance, we (two middle school teachers at the time!) paid off that debt in seven years. We certainly have privilege and also do not have children, but it was still a huge accomplishment. Debt-free, we realized we’d be able to save $1,600 a month, so we built the apartment to save even more, then semi-retired. Now with more time on my hands, I enrolled in a BS in Financial Planning and take four classes a year for free at the university where I work. I jump onto my online course and work on my marketing class for the better part of the day. When I need a break, I heat up the leftover tempeh and read my book for book club.

4:15 p.m. — I complete most of my reading for marketing and I just have a paper left to write, so I’m at a good pausing point. I have thirty minutes left in the audiobook of Know My Name by Chanel Miller, so I decide to listen while working out. Then, I jump in the shower and get ready for book club.

6 p.m. — I bring two bottles of wine with me to my friend’s house, both of which I got for free. One of my other friends works in alcohol distribution and often gives me the bottles that can’t be sold. The other five women bring snacks and drinks, too. I get home after 10 and immediately go to sleep.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — J. is up and in the living room, which means he probably didn’t sleep that well. I hobble out of bed and grab a mug of coffee, then I read The Economist and try to better understand inflation and the current state of the economy. I understand about half of it. When I’m more awake, J. talks to me about his schedule for the week. This morning he’s headed to a nearby house to provide an estimate on a potential project. Tomorrow, he’ll be back to the bathroom renovation project that he started last week. We share a car, so it’s a bit of a pain planning out our days. I tell him I may as well use the car this afternoon since it might be my only chance, so I text a friend and make plans to golf this afternoon. I drink more coffee, eat my waffle, and check my work email. Then, I continue working on my assignments for my marketing course.

12:30 p.m. — I’m finished with my marketing work for the week. I don’t remember my assignments being this easy back when I was an undergrad 15 years ago, but times have changed. I eat two slices of ciabatta bread with goat cheese and kalamata spread on top, then I make a salad with edamame, chickpeas, and black olives. J. is back home from the estimate so he eats with me, and then we hang the window trim together, caulk, and then paint. As we’re almost done, I realize I’ve got to run or I’ll be late for my tee time.

4 p.m. — I get to the golf course right on time, run inside to check in, and grab a couple of White Claws. I don’t have to pay since I work here, which is really the only reason I got into golf at all. After watching everyone golf all of last summer while working the beer cart, I finally decided to try it myself and bought a pair of clubs off of Facebook Marketplace. I see my friend, K., arrive. We load up the cart then head out on the course.

6:15 p.m. — I play my best round of golf ever! Last year it would take me 14 tries to get the ball in the hole. Today, I got par twice! The best part about golf is being outside while talking (and drinking) with friends, but getting good at it makes it even more fun. I head back home where J. has made a delicious tofu stir-fry, and we eat together while talking. After dinner, I start my Spanish homework for my lesson tomorrow. Our cat is curled up between us and purring. It’s a nice evening. We head to bed a little later.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I make no attempt to get up. J. brings me coffee in bed and I grunt a thank you. He gets ready to head off to work on the bathroom renovation while I sip my drink and try to wake up. Eventually, he leaves, and I finish my Spanish homework while eating a waffle taco.

11 a.m. — My Spanish lesson ends and I get a reminder that I only have one class left before I need to buy more. I take lessons on Verbling, which is an online platform, and my teacher is amazing. I’m hungry after all of that thinking, so I heat up some leftover stir-fry and eat it while starting my grading for the week.

2 p.m. — I’m only teaching one college course this term (as opposed to the usual two), so I finish half of the grading for the week in no time knowing I’ll finish the other half tomorrow. I lead myself through a quick workout focusing on biceps and glutes today, then take a quick rinse-off shower. I snack on strawberries and crackers while I do some laundry. Then I take the cat outside on her leash.

3:45 p.m. — J. comes home while I’m still outside, says a quick hello, and then jumps in the shower. Then, he checks the surf cam and decides it’s not worth paddling out, so we are both free and it’s a beautiful day outside! We drive 10 minutes to a nearby beach and walk along the path above the ocean. After our walk, we pick up burritos. We take them home and eat at our small table in the kitchen. I am exhausted tonight, so J. and I watch three episodes of The Office and then turn in. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. $26

Daily Total: $26

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up as J. is finalizing an estimate for the potential house project he viewed on Tuesday. I pour some coffee, then read the news in bed. Soon, J. kisses me goodbye as he heads out to work. I get up, pour another cup of coffee, and start to clean up the house. We’re getting a carpet installed today so I need to clear the space. Once it’s clean enough, I make my waffle and do some work.

10:30 a.m. — Scratch that. I only work for about 20 minutes and then feel restless. So, I get up, do my usual 20-minute workout focusing on triceps and core today, and then take a shower. I do a couple of Spanish lessons on Duolingo while my hair dries, and then decide to procrastinate a bit more by cooking up some pasta and marinara sauce. Just as I finish eating, the carpet installers call to say they’re on their way. I scramble to do the dishes, then grab my laptop and the cat on her leash and head outside.

1:30 p.m. — As the installers work inside, I hang out in the yard. I grade a couple of assignments while the cat sniffs the plants and relaxes in the sun. Eventually, the carpet is installed and we go back inside. It looks so good!

3:30 p.m. — I finally decide to get back to grading and I work for an hour straight. This is the most focused I’ve been all day. I snack on almonds while I work. When the mail is delivered, I run to the porch and grab my clothing rental box. I try on every single item — a pair of jeans, quilted shorts, a short-sleeved V-neck sweater, a cream sweater with a quarter zip, a long, thin cashmere cardigan, and a white linen tank top. Everything fits perfectly and matches my aesthetic. I text my friend to update her, then put on my favorite combination and hang up the rest.

4:30 p.m. — J. comes home and loves the new carpet just as much as I do. We decide to go buy the TV we’ve been planning to put upstairs. We take a quick trip to Best Buy and buy a 55” Roku TV. We decided on this one because the size is what we measured for and it’s the cheapest one they have in stock. Every single TV they have is an upgrade from the TV that we bought 10 years ago, so we feel luxurious buying this one. $360

8 p.m. — J. installs the TV while I call my mom to wish her a happy birthday. Then, he makes dal and I make rice, and we eat the meal together at the table. As J. does the dishes, I jump on my computer to transfer $360 for the TV from our account to our credit card. I update our “apartment spending” spreadsheet, too. (We paid for the carpet last month when we ordered it.) We decide to have a pajama party upstairs on our new carpet. We don’t have furniture up there yet, so we spread out a ton of blankets and pillows, bring up a couple of beers, and watch Scary Movie on our new TV. The cat sits next to us on the carpet, and I swear she watches the screen, too. We head to bed after the movie, around 10:30.

Daily Total: $360

Day Seven

8 a.m. — J. brings me coffee and I check my work email in bed. Then, I do Wordle in English then in Spanish. Around 8:30, I get out of bed and get ready for my day of work at the golf course.

9:15 a.m. — J. and I leave the house together since he’s dropping me off at work before heading to the reno. I eat a waffle taco as he drives. I’ve packed several snacks for the day, but it’s hard to eat while driving the beverage cart.

10:15 a.m. — I stock the cart with 12 different kinds of beer, a million kinds of hard seltzers, turkey sandwiches, snacks, and Powerade and start driving out on the course. It’s a beautiful day and I can’t wait to get a tan while working. I watch some good putts, make mental notes on some good chip shots, and snack on my pretzels when I’m stuck behind a slow group.

5: 30 p.m. — J. and I have a little miscommunication about when he should pick me up, so he ends up waiting for me for about 15 minutes as I empty the cart and count up my tips. I made $320 which is not the best day I’ve ever had but not the worst either. What’s sad is I used to make $280 a day as a middle school teacher responsible for shaping the youth of our nation. While it’s great for me that I can make more money by handing a can to another person, it’s also really sad in terms of what it says about our society. J. and I stop at the bank on the way home and deposit the cash into our “income” savings account.

6 p.m. — As soon as I get home, I eat some leftover pasta and then decide to budget. I update my spreadsheet with my income from the golf course and the university and check our progress on our monthly budget. At the end of the month, I’ll transfer money from our “income” to our credit card to pay for these monthly expenses. I also check out our “holidays and gifts” account to determine how much we can spend on J.’s birthday tomorrow and decide on $150. Part of being semi-retired is knowing exactly how much money you have, how much money you need for your living expenses, and how much you’ll need if things go wrong. While this type of attention to detail isn’t for everyone, I enjoy the challenge, I enjoy budgeting, and I really enjoy not having to wake up at 5:30 a.m. anymore!

6:45 p.m. — After I finish checking all of our various savings accounts (13 in total), I put in an order for groceries. We do grocery pick-up at our local store because we can see all the items and prices online, so we can easily look in our kitchen to see what we actually need to buy and see the total cost before hitting submit. It’s $5 to do this option. We have $450 a month to spend on groceries, so I will not put an order through unless it’s $100 or less and, of course, I use online coupons. Tonight I add to the cart pepper jack cheese, soy milk, yogurt, waffles, peanut butter, seltzer water, broccoli, edamame, beans, capers, kalamata olives, trail mix, pasta, diced tomatoes, granola bars, tortillas, couscous, coffee, cereal, pretzels, lemons, apples, fresh ginger, tomatoes, a red pepper, lettuce, two onions, two zucchinis, tempeh, and tofu. I schedule the pick-up for Sunday evening. $90.80

8:15 p.m. — I’m tired of looking at a screen, so I do a little of my Spanish homework which involves reading a book. It’s about a crime that’s taken place in Barcelona and the writing is targeted toward intermediate learners. After a bit, I put down the book and marvel at the fact that while I had a busy week, only about five hours of it went to teaching and eight hours were spent working at the golf course. J. had a busier week, working three days in a row, so I give him a quick shoulder massage before resting my head on him and picking my book back up. We sit like that until it’s time for bed.

Daily Total: $90.80

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