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A Week in Austin, Texas on a $42K Salary

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Money journey, dog walking

We all have different priorities, circumstances and money personas and this all gets reflected in the way we earn, spend, invest and feel about money. We are truly one of a kind! To complicate matters more, we most often don’t feel like we can talk about money and because we keep this very important relationship close to the vest, we don’t get to learn from the successes and mistakes of those around us. This is why I’m so excited to share another real life money journal with you. Enter an dog lover who’s navigating debt, love and money and moving out on her own.

INDUSTRY: Restaurant Manager
LOCATION: Austin, TX
# ROOMMATES: 2 (my grandparents – this feels semi-embarrassing to admit)
SALARY: $42K before tax
$ PAYCHECK: $1,272 (every two weeks and includes health insurance)
AGE: 26

MONTHLY EXPENSES
– Student loan payments: $937
– Car payment: $302
– Gym membership: $86
– Netflix: $9 (I actually cancelled my Netflix account to save a little extra money. I rarely watch and my boyfriend is letting me use his account!)
– Credit card minimum payment: $150 (total credit card debt of $5,680)

 

MONDAY

Head to house and dog sit for the restaurant group owner I work with. I occasionally dog/house sit for various higher-ups at the company. Hello surprise income! +$500.

Pick up a few essential grocery items nearby. $36.

TOTAL: $36 (+$464 if I took the groceries out of my bonus income)

MY FEELINGS: Starting a week off making money instead of spending it always feels good! Grocery essentials include almond milk, bananas, grapes, apples, avocados and eggs. That will last me the entire week because I mostly only grocery shop for breakfast and snacks. I get free lunch and dinner at work #perks. As far as the $36 goes, I definitely overpaid as I used the “natural foods” grocery close to their house, and should’ve just waited to go to my H-E-B as it is way less expensive.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: You have to love her side hustle! This is going to help her reach her biggest goal of paying down her credit card debt more quickly and easily. Putting hundreds of extra dollars toward your debt is an incredible feeling – she should celebrate it. Also love how she has cancelled her Netflix account since keeping her money journal. It’s a really powerful exercise because it gets your really conscious of your spending and where your money is going. An extra $100+ saved!

TUESDAY

I try and have a few days a week that I don’t have to spend any money 🙂

TOTAL: $0

MY FEELINGS: Even though I didn’t spend any money today, my car lease payment came out of my account.  It reminds me of the extremely stressful time I had trying to find a car. At the time, I didn’t have any savings so I wasn’t able to put money towards a down payment. When my lease is up in 2.5 years,  I want to have enough saved up. This would make my monthly payments lower. I’m currently debating whether I will purchase the car at the end of the lease (the balance due on the car will be about $15k), sign on for a new lease or purchase a different car entirely. Will definitely depend on how my other money goals are going.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: This gal’s got some major goals! We know she wants to pay off her credit card debt, build up a rainy day fund and tackle her student loans. She also has a big decision to make regarding her car in the next 2.5 years. When we have multiple financial goals, it’s important to prioritize. Which goal is most important? Am I going to tackle a couple at once or focus on one at a time.

As far as the car goes,  there are many factors that go into this type of decision so I always like to run the numbers. Which option would be most cost effective in the long-run? Here are some financial factors and differences to consider. Then you can take into account any more subjective factors that are important to you.

WEDNESDAY

Take the dog I am watching (who’s a marathon sprinter!) for a run before work. $0.

Grandpa calls and asks if I want to get lunch with them – a lovely treat! $0.

TOTAL: $0 !!!

MY FEELINGS: A lot of frugal joys today! Loved pushing myself to run faster – it is a major confidence booster to push past your limits! Lunch with my grandparents is always something I look forward to. A huge part of my move to Austin was to spend more time with them and to (selfishly) start saving some money and take control of my financial well-being. They are two of my biggest supporters and I feel very lucky to be able to live with them.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Yes! Frugal joys! The free or inexpensive things that make us really happy. Sounds like she values family, growth and wellness and was able to honor all of that today. Moving to Austin is allowing her to spend more time with her family and save some money. A win-win.

 

THURSDAY

Long work day, rainy week, and a celebration for my boyfriend’s success at work calls for ramen. We have dinner at the best noodle shop in Austin, Ramen Tatsu-ya. $45.

TOTAL: $45

MY FEELINGS: While I realize I could have passed on the glass and a half of wine ($12) and maybe not have picked such an expensive ramen shop, I really wanted to reward my boyfriend for how well he has been doing at work. It was also the first time in a couple weeks that we actually got to sit down, talk and disengage from work and outside stress. I was also proud that this was the first time I had paid for dining out in almost a month!

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: I love this honest reflection of a wonderful night. She enjoys quality time with her boyfriend, celebrating his success and unplugging. You can tell she experiences a bit of guilt for her choice of  restaurant and the wine but overall really enjoyed the special evening. When we do things less often, they often become more special and we end up saving a lot of money (by not doing them as often!). Despite her big money goals, she’ll want to allocate money in her happiness allocation (budget) for this  type of quality time!

 

FRIDAY

Another sprint with the dog. $0. FRUGAL JOY!

Grocery shopping with my boyfriend for the dinner we’re making for his friends. We buy a little extra so we can have leftovers. $59 (my half).

TOTAL: $59

MY FEELINGS: The grocery bill frustrates me because it is way more than I wanted to spend but I felt like I had to contribute that much to help out. Definitely need to reiterate to my boyfriend that saving money and paying down debt is extremely important to me. I am tired of feeling like I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck, especially when my fixed expenses are low. I should be able to pay off my credit cards quickly! I have briefly spoken to him about how having debt stresses me out and that I want to pay down as much as I can as fast as I can but sometimes it can feel as if he doesn’t really hear me. We have since talked at length about my plans to pay down my debt and why it is so important to me.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Love and money is a huge important topic. It can be really scary to open up about our money lives, worries and debt. Even worse, when after all of it, they just don’t seem to get it. Including your “why” can really help. Yes we want to save up for a rainy day, pay down our debt and start doing some meaningful saving… but why? The why is where the people we love can really get on our team. It’s how they can understand what that means to us and how achieving it will make all the difference. It sounds like she did this in the more recent conversation when they talked in depth. It’s a very important conversation so we don’t want to skimp on it. It can be tempting to say something in passing or pray that they have already fallen asleep when you share but set aside some time and put away the phones. Share your goals with your dream team, the people who are most important who you spend the most time with. Their support can make all the difference!

 

SATURDAY

Head home to spend time with my puppy that I’ve missed so much while I was house sitting. Snuggling with him is better than Christmas Morning. $0.

Get a call from another owner who needs their house/dogs watched. I’m tired, but know I could use the money +$150.

Date night. Boyfriend takes me out for an easy dinner and snow cones for dessert. $0.

TOTAL: $0 ($150 after bonus income)

MY FEELINGS: My student loan bill comes out of my account today it  feels like a punishment. I’m still trying to forgive myself for making an uneducated decision that would ultimately impact my financial well being for what feels like will be the rest of my life. On a positive note, I am watching another house. More bonus income! My boyfriend is also trying to be better about his money habits, so I really appreciate that he took me out.

ASHLEY’S  THOUGHTS: Debt and shame often come hand in hand. I wonder what part of her decision she’s regretting. Is it the terms of the loans, that she wishes she didn’t go to school or that she wishes she chose a less expensive school? Forgiveness is one of the most important steps of moving forward in our financial wellness. We can’t move forward if we are beating ourselves up. We have to dig up some compassion for why we are where we are and why we made the decisions we did so we can forgive ourselves and move on. It’s definitely a process and something we might have to remind ourselves often but it’s possible! Before we can do that we have to pin point what exactly about our decisions we are beating ourselves up about.

 

SUNDAY

Finally started reading the newest Harry Potter book. Finish it in 3 hours. $0.

Head to the Alamo to see Hell or High Water with my boyfriend. I pay. $22.

We’re naturally hungry after the matinee so head to a local favorite in town, he pays. $0.

TOTAL: $22

MY FEELINGS: One of my goals is to start reading more. I love to read, and yet I’m always find an excuse not to. My boyfriend got me a kindle for Christmas this past year and I just recently discovered that you can checkout e-books from your local library (thank you NYC cortado lover!).  I got a library card and have been creating time in the morning or before bed to read. I feel good about the movie purchase – it felt nice to get out of the house, and I was really proud of us for not ordering drinks or snacks while we were there (by the way, go see Hell or High Water – it’s a winner). It was really nice for my boyfriend to pay for dinner. He could tell spending some of the money I earned this week made me a little frustrated so he wanted to treat me. I love him for that.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Can’t beat a free hobby! I also like the language she uses here. She “creates” time to read because it’s important to her and she wants to. That’s all it takes isn’t it? Great work celebrating that she passed on the drinks and snacks in the movie. I wonder if she missed having them?!

 

BY THE NUMBERS

Monthly fixed expenses = $1,484
Monthly income (after tax) = $2,756 + $650 (bonus income) = $3,406
Monthly savings = $1,000
Monthly discretionary budget = Income – fixed – savings = $922
Weekly discretionary budget = $213
This week’s spending = $162

MY THOUGHTS: It felt great to earn some extra money this week. Normally, I would have just spent it on clothes, going out, or other useless items, but I really want to hold on to the money! It also gave me the idea to try and reach out to a website like rover or something similar where people are looking for someone to take care of their pets. The 30 Day Money Cleanse Challenge and now the 30 Day Money Cleanse, have dramatically increased my personal awareness of my spending habits. It has also made me a lot more confident to talk about money and my struggles with it. I don’t want to be the typical “millennial” that allows themselves to let their debt define. I don’t want to live with my grandparents forever (I love them, but, personal space – ya know?), and would like to start saving to move into an apartment. Before I can move, I want to eliminate my credit card debt, and put some major money into my savings account. It’s time I start taking control of my financial life instead of letting it control me.

I used $500 of my bonus income to pay down a credit card! I now only have two cards left – $4K total, down from $5K!

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