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Money Journal: 1 Week In the Southern ‘Burbs On a $87K Salary

How far do the dollars of a 32-year-old IT engineer go?

Many of the things featured in this stock image are mentioned in this week's Money Journal.
Towfiqu Barbhuiya via Unsplash

Welcome to Racket’s Money Journal series, where you can snoop on the finances of an anonymous Twin Cities neighbor. Interested in submitting your own? Email jay@racketmn.com for instructions on over-sharing the monetary details of your life! H/T to Refinery29 for pioneering a tremendous concept that we’re excited to localize.

Personal Info

Job: IT engineer
Age: 32
Neighborhood: South ‘burbs
Education: Technical school, unrelated to current career
Salary: $86,600
Partner’s salary: $75,000
Dependents: Zero human, One medium-maintenance dog
Estimated net worth: $680,000

Debt

Student loans: None

House: $208,000

Vehicle: None

Assets

House: A 2,400-sq. ft. single-family home, built new in 2019. If you remember the before times, that means the old house sold for an inflated value but we built this house before new construction went crazy.

Vehicles: 2013 Nissan,  2015 Jeep. Loans paid off in 2018.

401K & IRA: $280,000

Non-401K savings: $95,000

Monthly Income

Gross income: $12,910.96

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage & insurance: $1,581.36

Utilities:

  • HOA: $40
  • Electric: $50
  • Gas: $50
  • Water/Sewer: $40
  • Trash: Included in HOA
  • Phone: $130.88
  • Internet: $60

Insurance, per two 2-week pay period:

  • Health: $151.38
  • Dental: $21.24
  • Life: $8 (Supplemental to policy provided by employer)
  • Auto: $40

Gas: Less than $40—I have been fully remote since 2020, I fill my tank roughly once every five to six weeks.

Groceries: $440

401K/retirement: $150 to various IRAs, 15% to 401K with 5% employer match

Other savings contributions: Per two-week pay period, $50 to joint account for emergencies, $384 to personal savings (amount of previous car payment)

Monthly dog expenses: $24 Food, $65.95 Insurance, $55 Grooming (nail trim monthly, full-groom bimonthly)

Monthly subscriptions: $16.59 Netflix, $13.92 Spotify

Annual subscriptions: $50 Racket [Editor’s note: Hell yeah], $160.68 HBO, $128 Amazon Prime, $39.99 Ring doorbell, $85.69 Disney+, $120 Costco

Money Talk Q&A

Did your family talk about money growing up?

Not really. My parents are both older and came from very hard-working, rural families, so I was taught that working hard was all you need. It was hard to reconcile that with the fact that we were objectively poor. We were a single-occasionally-no-income household and in hindsight there was about a decade where things were pretty grim financially. As kids it was noticeable that we didn’t have what our friends had. If we asked for things like snack foods or clothes, we were just told we didn’t need it. There was a clear amount of stress and tension when it came to spending money, but it wasn’t discussed; we were supposed to know better than to ask for things we didn’t need.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I worried about most things growing up (thanks anxiety!) but I didn’t ever worry directly about money. I worried that I would ask for the wrong thing at the wrong time and make my parents angry. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in; I worried about food because I was a picky eater, and while we always had food, it was usually hunted or harvested.

At what age did you become financially independent?

At 22 I moved from a bad cohabitation relationship into a one-bedroom apartment. I was paying for everything on my own except for health insurance, which my employer did not offer. My parents continued paying for my insurance until I married into an insurance plan a few years later (America!). Beyoncé never said anything about paying for your own insurance, so I’ll claim 22 as the year of my independence.

How did you learn how to budget your life?

Honestly, kind of by accident. I was always pretty good with math, at least simple math anyway, and I mostly worked with cash in my early money-handling years. I was never able to see credit cards as not-real money, it was still cash to me. I had an accidental Dave Ramsey envelope system: rent, groceries, gas, utilities—cash goes in, bills get paid, leftovers get saved and/or spent. I needed a certain amount of money to survive, and lucky for me, that amount was less than what I made each month. Also lucky for me, my income increased at a faster rate than my living expenses increased, so I could save money.  

Have you ever received inherited income, major financial gifts, or large insurance payouts?

I received $2,000 upon graduating high school, the largest amount of money I had seen at the time. This combined with savings from working during high school allowed me to not work during the year of tech school I completed.

Inherited $150,000 unexpectedly from a relative. Combo lucky and devastating.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes and no. I worry that because so much luck is involved in financial success, I have no real control over it. I worry that having money will turn me into a weird movie villain. I worry that I don’t really know what I’m doing. I worry that I DO know what I’m doing but there won’t be a planet left to retire on. I worry that society will collapse and I will have to convert my dollars to some other currency at a terrible conversion rate.

How much do you think a person or household needs to earn to live comfortably in the Twin Cities?

A single person living alone at least 65K. With roommates less, with kids I feel like 100K is a minimum? I don’t know, kids sound expensive. 

Day 1

Spent nothing. 

Total: $0

Day 2

Spent nothing again. Take that, capitalism!

Total: $0

Day 3

5:15 p.m.: Parking in downtown St. Paul, event rates. $20.

7:00 p.m.: Buy dinner for a friend at Kincaid’s. $119.71.

7:30 p.m.: Friend and I have tickets to the Ordway. Friend buys refreshments. $0.

Total: $139.71

Day 4

7:15 p.m.: Cub for groceries. $104.53.

Total: $104.53

Day 5

Capitalism strikes back!

9:20 a.m.: Amazon, Christmas shopping. $106.

9:55 a.m.: Costco. $72.30.

10:00 a.m.: Partner buys gas at Costco. $45.26.

12:00 p.m.: Partner buys me lunch. $29.73.

4:00 p.m.: Jeep battery threatening to die, buy a replacement at AutoZone. $245.

4:45 p.m.: Barnes & Noble, Christmas shopping. Somehow half of this is for me. $108.92.

5:15 p.m.: Cub again, this time for Christmas shopping. Partner saw a gift idea yesterday, decided to go for it since we were already out. $25.

Total: $632.21

Day 6

Spent nothing.

Total: $0

Day 7

Spent nothing.

Total: $0

Weekly total: $876.45

This is more or less a typical week, holiday notwithstanding.