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A Week in Westchester on a $600K Salary

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money journal, week in the life, family

I am excited to share another real life, one of a kind money journal with you. This money journal represents a week in the life a new family with a 20-month-old baby. I hope this sparks some new and powerful conversations around money!

INDUSTRY: Finance- Husband; Entrepreneur and Full time Grad Student- Wife
LOCATION: Chappaqua, Westchester Country
# ROOMMATES: Hubby and 20-month-old baby
SALARY: $250k with bonus of $300k-$500k (have no clue what it will be this year)
PAYCHECK: $10,890 ($5,445, 2x per month)
AGE: 30

MONTHLY EXPENSES
529 Contribution: $833
Charitable Donations: $400
Homeowner’s Insurance: $125
Car Insurance: $84
Jeep payment: $460
Optimum (cable / wifi): $165
ConEd (electric):$600
Water: $50
Verizon: $152
WSJ Subscription: $30
Train Parking: $50
Train Pass: $45
Lawn Care: $289
– Dry Cleaners: $370
Gym: $119
Alarm: $25
Therapy: $400
Mortgage: We were incredibly fortunate to buy our house completely in cash. Both my husband and I started our jobs on Wall Street at the peak of the financial recession in 2008. We watched so many of our colleagues who were incredibly hardworking and smart get laid off without warning. We were conditioned to be big savers due to the economic times when we began our careers and also because we grew up with this mentality. I grew up in an Italian household where debt was not a good thing and to avoid it was the best decision you could make. My husband also grew up with a saver mentality and always wanted to have the resources to create the life he dreamed of. Once I had our daughter I decided I didn’t want to work in the industry anymore and between the two of us we had saved so much that I was able to quit, go back to grad school full time and invest money into my own company.

FRIDAY

Get an iced coffee. I do this probably around 5 times a week. I love it because it was something I always did when I was in corporate. It was how I began my day and there is something nostalgic that happens for me that makes me want to continue the habit. I think in some weird way for a brief moment I feel like a professional again and that feels good. $2.95

Babysitting for the week changes dramatically based on my client and school schedule. I would say on average I have a babysitter for about 12-ish hours a week. I schedule it during times I know my daughter is awake that way I can also cash in on her nap hours and work during that time. Every day is I bring her to my gym where there is free daycare and I get my workout in and then three days per week my sitter comes for 3-4 hours. It’s not enough. With school full time this is such crap, so I am enrolling her in full time daycare in the fall which will be $1,800 a month for a 40 hour week. $150.

Salads for babysitter and myself. $22.55.

Check to painter for redoing the deck stain and repairs. $1,000.

Takeout dinner for me and my mom because I didn’t have time to cook. $41.88.

TOTAL: $1217.38

MY FEELINGS: I knew I could have made a sandwich for lunch but it was nice taking a break from work and walking outside to get a salad for me and the sitter. I try to only eat out twice during the week for lunch. Dinner out felt fine because I hosted a play-date earlier in the afternoon, was shot and didn’t want to cook. Thought that was a good decision. I at first felt kind of bad for doing that but I realized cutting some corners occasionally is fine if it keeps me sane. $1k on the deck was the least expensive option. We were debating redoing it or putting in a patio but we just did a power wash, repairs and stain removal. Happy we chose the least expensive option for now and we can see what happens in the next few years.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Wow! What an inspiration. I’m completely blown away by her and her husband’s saving ethic. Being able to change careers, go back to school and buy a house on savings is ultimate financial freedom. I also think it’s incredible to see how much money they are putting towards their daughter’s 529 plan and charitable donations. You can really get a sense of their values and what’s important to them. I love what she threw in about her family’s culture and how it affects how she looks at debt. So interesting and we all come from our own money cultures micro family money cultures. I 100% agree with the way she gives herself a break on getting dinner out with her mom.

SATURDAY

Round trip train ticket to NYC expensed to my business account. $20.50. This is what it costs each time I go into the city. We had our daughter for the first ten months she was born in downtown Manhattan right next to Union Square. We were in a one bedroom apartment, I had severe postpartum depression and hated being in the city with a newborn. At the time I didn’t enjoy a lot of things but felt my living situation made things worse. There was one time when my daughter was around 4 weeks old and I had to go to the dentist because I had a cavity. His office was super far uptown and it was pouring. I was faced with a difficult decision – I have no idea how to handle a huge ass stroller down a subway with a brand new baby that I still don’t know what I am doing with or get a cab. After having two taxis taken from me by other people WITHOUT babies, I threw in the towel and walked around 20 blocks. I finally got a cab but I arrived at the office dripping wet (you can’t hold an umbrella and push a stroller at the same time) and in tears. It was then I decided I couldn’t F*ing do this anymore. I need a car. We need to get out of this city. I am so not cool enough anymore ha

Taxi to dinner. $19.55.

Dinner and drinks at a wine bar in the East Village. $34.84.

Celebratory drinks in Dumbo. $28.67.

Taxi to the train. $27.80.

TOTAL: $131.36

MY FEELINGS: I never spend money on entertainment so it feels good to be out and have fun with girlfriends after completing a big goal. I did my first large public speaking event on my story and about my business and my vision. It was a really big deal. It was given TED like style- no notes/ 20 mins long. I definitely view the money I spent today as a celebration. I feel the money I spent today was for me and me only. That so rarely happens and it feels good to treat myself after working so hard.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: So excited for her and love that she celebrates this big milestone and feels great about it! It’s so important to celebrate our wins! And it’s also very important to do things for you and you only. Amazing! Isn’t she an incredible storyteller? I can see her dripping wet, in tears at the dentist with the giant stroller. So vivid!


SUNDAY

Spent no money

MY FEELINGS: This is bizarre!!! I can’t remember the last time this happened. My parents came over to visit and treated us to brunch. We spent the rest of the day going to church, hanging out at the house, and playing outside. It’s nice to know we can have a fun time as a family without spending any money. I would like to repeat this.

People might wonder why none of my husband’s info is in here! Did he actually not spend ANY money over these 7 days? I took a look and he spent around $15 a day on breakfast/lunch Monday-Friday. That was it ha. Typically my husband is a serial saver. He is not cheap with his family or friends but he never buys anything unless he ABSOLUTELY needs it. In our relationship we are both savers, but because I take care of all household expenses/stuff for our daughter, I am the spender in the family. His idea of “treating” himself is not a night out with the guys/ having drinks. He just wants to come home, unwind, have a good dinner and beer and be with his girls. This is different than my idea of “treating myself.” I like to go out and be with girlfriends, have drinks etc… I think this mostly stems from the lack of social interaction I have being a full time mom and solo founder of my business.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Big “aww” to her hubby treating himself by coming home to be with his girls. So cute! <3 Such a great feeling when you experience a day of fun family time without spending a dime! And that makes total sense that she’d want some social interaction after a day working alone and hanging with the baby. I am so happy she brought up how each of them “treats” themselves. Many times we value spending money on different things than our partner whether it’s because we have differing lifestyles, interests or hobbies. He or she might think, “why does she / he need to go out and spend money on a treat when I can enjoy myself at home?” This can cause resentment on both ends if it’s not discussed and agreed upon!


MONDAY

Iced coffee. $2.95.

Four days’ worth of groceries plus toiletries for both me and my daughter. $161.45.

Iced tea. $2.95.

Babysitting. $30. The first day I spent 5 hours travelling to NJ volunteering at the homeless shelter I partner with to help homeless moms and their babies transition into independent living. The tough thing about this job is it’s obviously pro-bono but I spend around $100-$120 every time I go because someone needs to watch my daughter.

TOTAL: $197.35

MY FEELINGS: Even though it is not a lot of money I realize I spend money almost every day on caffeine. I always drink coffee at the house in the morning, but when I am out and about I like to grab something. I am struggling to figure out if this is something I should cut back on. Is this wasteful? Or an act of self-care because I enjoy doing it?

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: These are the types of spending decisions we all get to weigh in on on a daily basis. Is it worth it? Do I really enjoy it? And like she mentions, even though it doesn’t add up to a significant expense for her, we can only use each dollar we have once so we want to maximize it. One way to do this is to look at the annual impact and decide if you’d rather allocate it elsewhere. Is there anything she’d rather spend $1,077 on ($2.95 x 365). There’s no right or wrong answer here. We just want to take an honest look so we can allocate our money in the way that makes us the happiest in the short and long term.


TUESDAY

Gas. $53.13. We have two cars. One is a borrowed car from my parents. They have four cars, all old and two are not being used really ever. When we moved to the burbs we 100% needed two cars. We lease one new car – a Jeep Grand Cherokee. This is our family car. Anytime we do anything with our daughter we take this car. Because I am with her most of the day it is the car I have during the week. Her car seat is strapped in this car only. For a toddler car seat, you don’t want to be switching it in and out of different cars because it’s so so so difficult. The other borrowed car from my parents is a 2004 Acura MDX. It is OLD but it runs well. My husband drives it to and from the train station and that’s about all we use it for. We decided it made no sense financially to lease two cars when we didn’t have to.

Iced coffee. $2.95.

Babysitting. $90.

Dinner takeaway. $37.59.

TOTAL: $183.67

MY FEELINGS: I was unable to cook dinner tonight because I had night class. I always think that there’s a possibility I can cook while my daughter naps and just refrigerate it. However, do I want to spend the time I have to get work done for my business and school or make dinner? I feel it’s always a push and pull. Typically I find myself choosing to do work because I feel slightly resentful of falling into the classic homemaker role. For the first year of my daughter’s life a homemaker was my only job and it was really tough. I am finally happy that I have both my baby, work, and school. I think I would feel better about not getting takeout if my business was making good money, but I need to get over that.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: YES! I’m so excited for her that she’s been able to find a way to have her baby, work and school and it makes complete sense that she resented having a tough year at home. She’s ready and excited to prioritize her career again and is not interested in spending her time on traditional homemaker tasks.

If we are just trying to save as much money as possible, a lot of our expenses can end up feeling guilty. But she might decide that there is a certain amount she wants to build into her spending plan each week so that she can spend more hours building her business, especially because she’s also spending time in class, doing school work and spending time with her daughter. One thing that she’s working on that’s going to make all the difference is the financial plan for her business. Then she can decide how much she wants to invest and will know when she can expect to start making money. It takes time to build a business and understanding the amount you plan to invest in your business can remove the guilt!


WEDNESDAY 

Iced coffee. $2.95.

Babysitting. $60.

Donation to cancer event. $51.12. My husband and I really value giving back: both in time and money. We donate at least $400 a month to our church which we are really active in and other random things that come up that our friends promote / we care about.

Iced tea. $2.95.

Frozen yogurt with my daughter. $6.47.

TOTAL: $123.49

MY FEELINGS: So I was supposed to see clients in another town all day and two cancelled, so I had to reschedule the whole afternoon. So I was stuck with the dilemma should I cancel my sitter or keep her. I have plenty of school work to do and it would be amazing to take a one hour break and just relax. I decided to go for it and kept the sitter. I went outside and did work while enjoying the sun and then spent one hour just sitting and hanging out. No one was bothering me. This $20 for an hour of just resting was money well spent. I felt so refreshed after. This is something I would want to do more often. It definitely is way better than going out to eat or a manicure or some other way to blow the $20.

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: You can really tell that she’s maximizing her happiness per dollar here. I love that she compares it with other things she might spend $20 on and it confirms that it’s so worth it for her. It sounds like an hour of the babysitter is the opportunity cost of her spending. Putting any expense in terms of babysitting helps her decide if it’s an expense that’s worth it. It’s such a great way of looking at things. You can do this by looking at expenses in terms of the things that bring you the most joy.


THURSDAY 

Iced coffee. $2.95.

Oil change. $68.80.

Snack while oil change was being done. My daughter and I split a meal of chicken fingers, fries and an iced tea hehe. $15.20.

Ink cartridges on biz account. $66.45

TOTAL: $163.90

MY FEELINGS: The fact that I spent $67 on ink really annoys me ha. That’s over three hours’ worth of babysitting. As I was debating purchasing the ink I debated “do I really need to print things?” Unfortunately the answer was yes because I have to bring papers into class so I had no choice. However, it really irked me how expensive it was for stupid ink!

ASHLEY’S THOUGHTS: Here’s the opportunity cost again! She’s looking at the ink in terms of how many hours of babysitting it is. It doesn’t feel worth it to her so she looks for alternatives. At the end of the day she ended up buying the ink but she wasn’t thrilled, to say the least. A new solution might come to her between now and next time it’s time to buy ink but regardless, she took an honest look before making the purchase.


BY THE NUMBERS

Monthly fixed expenses = $4,197
Monthly income = $10,890
Monthly savings = Not saving for anything except 529 plan for daughter which is included in monthly expenses
Monthly discretionary budget = Income – Fixed expenses – Savings = $6,693
Weekly discretionary budget = $1,545
This week’s spending = $2,092 (includes $15 per weekday for her husband)

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