Money Journal: 1 Week in Minneapolis’s Standish Neighborhood on a $160K Salary
How far do the dollars of a 33-year-old IT contractor go?
9:21 AM CDT on August 28, 2023
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Job: IT contractor (I don’t know what to call myself. I’m just a white collar temp worker. You hire me when there is a shit show.)
Salary: ~$160K before taxes
Partner’s salary: $79K
Estimated net worth: $216K (do you include a house when you have to pay mortgage on it?)
- Cash: $71K
- Retirement: $125K
- House: According to Redfin my house is worth $320K
- Vehicle: 2015 Subaru now worth $12K. I got a car loan for $22K in 2016
- Cello: $5K
- Electronics: $1K
- Household Furnishings: $2K? I don’t know who would want my junk, there is cat hair on everything. The expensive Moroccan rug is the cat’s favorite puking spot.
Credit cards: I pay off the balance every month
Home mortgage: $164K left of my $219K loan
Paycheck: $4,500 every two weeks. I am an hourly W2 so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.
Rent: $400. My girlfriend pays me rent.
Mortgage: $1,850. It’s technically $1,300 but I put an additional $550 into it. I’m told by my A+ capitalist white friend that it’s not the smartest decision to put extra in the mortgage compared to buying government bonds. I’ll get on that… soon.
Utilities: Girlfriend pays utilities
- Health and Dental: $276.50
- FSA: $254.16
- Car: $122.29
- Cello: $13.33
- 401K: 8% of my pre-tax salary every pay period goes into my 401K; my employer matches 8%.
- IRA: $550. A few times a year I will rebalance and buy more ETFs. I had a wealth mgmt. internship in college so I feel pretty comfortable with analyzing funds.
Cat: $110. My cat is 19 years old and lives that sweet fat cat life. He gets a $80 monthly arthritic pain antibody shot. He has kidney disease so needs special food and extra litter. I am a giant sucker and he knows it.
House cleaners: $230. They come once a month.
Lawn mowing: $45. I pay this kid (he’s actually starting college which is crazy to think about) to come out and mow my steep hill.
Giving: $75. $10 to Clowns Without Borders and then various one time donations throughout the year that average to $65/month. Instead of buying a trashy romance novel, I borrow one and donate money to the library.
Coffee: $150. This is insane, I know. I work at various coffeeshops as my coworking spaces. I get more done and it’s cheaper than an actual coworking space.
Medical costs: $400. Turns out having a bad time growing up is expensive later on. I see a therapist once a week which is $120/month in copays. I also see a PT for a lingering shoulder injury every other week which is $60/month. The rest is averaged out in meds and expensive psychiatric appts. I’ve been seeing a new psychiatrist and doing ketamine assisted therapy. It’s been a good (and ungodly expensive) thing.
Monthly subscriptions (I broke down yearly stuff into monthly amounts):
- Fitness: $300
- NYT: $20 for the unlimited online subscription. I also pay for a friend’s access.
- Spotify: $11
- Racket: $8 (Editor’s note: Hell yeah)
- Dropbox : $10
- YNAB: $7
- People Magazine: $8. I want to put down Twitter and read trash on paper.
- Cello lessons: $292 (Will I ever be able to play a Hozier song on my cello? Probably not.)
- Calm App: $3
- Standard Heating HVAC maintenance: $20
CSA and flower share: $57 per month in the summer
Credit card fees: $595 per year for two credit cards. I get most (if not all) of the value back from these annual memberships.
Money Talk Q&A
Did your family talk about money growing up?
Yes and no. I’ve always been fuzzy on how much my parents made and what assets and liabilities they had. It always seemed like we money but also everything felt precarious. We never talked about budgeting but I knew that there were bills to be paid and we would have to go the bank to deposit checks. I was around money but I didn’t understand spending or saving.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I knew that sometimes money was tight but I was never restricted on what I could and could not buy. I never asked for extravagances but if I need a pair of jeans at JC Penny, it wasn’t an issue. At the same time, when I saw my parents buy things we didn’t need, I got really worried if we had enough. I think it’s too bad I didn’t have hard numbers and security that we were making more than we were spending.
At what age did you become financially independent?
This is a really hard question, how do you ever pay back what you was given to you? I got a high-paying ($60K in 2012) job out of college so I was able to support myself by 23. I paid off my $35K in student loans when I was 25 or 26. At the same time, I never paid my parents back for supporting me.
How did you learn how to budget your life?
I don’t know how to budget. I try to hide as much money as I can away from myself. A lot goes to retirement and automatic withdrawals to high yield savings accounts. At my wealth mgmt. internship, it was made clear to me that money is feelings. My bosses’ jobs were to manage people’s anxieties and hold their hands in times of panic. Most client’s portfolios were a standard mix of large cap mutual funds and bonds. Their job was to reassure the client that it was going to be OK. For me, I am risk adverse and I don’t have a lot of energy to comb through my finances—so not thinking is my preferred strategy.
I keep track of my checking account and try to stay in the positive by $2K. If some months get leaner than others, I cut back on eating out and any unnecessary purchases.
I use You Need a Budget (screw Intuit/TurboTax). I go through every transaction and at the end of the month I look at each category to see where my money goes. It’s not a hard budget but something to be mindful about.
Have you ever received inherited income, major financial gifts, or large insurance payouts?
Again, how do you count everything that was invested into you? Upon graduation my parents gave me $2K and a death rattling Park Avenue Buick.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. My biggest active worry is my 1924 house. It is a money pit—but with south Minneapolis charm! There is always something major I have to spend money on: water heater, sewer line, HVAC, roof, garage, etc. It’s less about keeping up with the Joneses and more keeping things running.
In general, I have the normal millennial/American anxieties about not having a social safety net: retirement, health insurance, inflation, etc. I used to watch Hoarders and something one of the professional organizers said really stuck with me—we are all two bad decisions away from squatting in someone’s backyard.
At the same time, I know I am incredibly privileged. I can go to the corner shop and grab some milk without thinking about how much it is going to cost me. I can buy stupid band merch for myself without a second thought. I treat my friends/family to dinner. Not going to lie, I am scared of the oncoming comments/judgment but I am trying to be as transparent as possible about my money.
How much do you think a person or household needs to earn to live comfortably in the Twin Cities?
Um, $70K for a person? I don’t know what comfortably means to any one person. Life is expensive. Do you want to go to concerts and buy a treat/book/houseplant whenever you want? Or do you want to bike around River Road and knit at home?
9 a.m.: $6.13 for coffee. I work remotely and I cannot focus at home where there is a nice bed and a soft cat. The noise/body doubling of others really helps with my productivity.
2 p.m.: $10.47 for salad bar lunch at Lunds
4 p.m.: $64.82 for work continuing education exams. Every few years I need to take an exam and prove that I know what I’m doing in the computer system. I get it but it’s annoying. My company got bought out by hedge funds so it’s unclear if I’m going to be reimbursed for the tests. Fuck private equity.
Evening: $5.50 for light rail passes downtown and back. A friend is in town for a concert. She was kind enough to buy me a beer at the show since she’s staying with me.
9 a.m..: $6.70 for coffee. I do this most mornings. In the afternoons, I work from home.
1 p.m.: $12.58 for empanadas at Bulado
5 p.m.: $19.22 for dinner at Crisp & Green. Yes it’s bougie, yes I’m a millennial, and yes I’m a sucker.
9:30 a.m.: $5.67 for coffee
2 p.m.: $30 for a therapy co-pay
7 p.m.: $4 for light rail passes downtown and back
8 p.m.: $13.20 for an overpriced tall boy. Thanks First Ave conglomerate. [Editor's note: It seems, based on the evidence below, that this was the National's recent show at The Armory, which is run by Live Nation not First Avenue; H/T to commenter staciaann!]
8:30 p.m.: $35 for a Sad Dad hat. I couldn’t resist, I’ve been a sad dad since I was 17. I’ve dated/fucked so many sad dads in my 20’s.
8:30 a.m.: $7.78 at Everett’s. My girlfriend ran out of milk and I got a snack for the walk back.
9:30 a.m.: $5.15 for coffee
1 p.m.: $18.65 for lunch at World Street Kitchen
Noon: It’s mid-month and a couple of my subscriptions get automatically charged to my credit card; $10.79 for Spotify and $20.17 for the NYT
10 a.m.: $230.64 for the house cleaners
6 p.m.: $33.97 at Cub for groceries for dinner and a couple of things for the rest of the week
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