Money Journal: 1 Week In St. Paul’s Mac-Groveland Neighborhood On a $60K Salary
How far do the dollars of a 27-year-old communications specialist go?
8:25 AM CST on November 14, 2022
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: Communications specialist
Neighborhood: Macalester-Groveland in St. Paul
Education: Bachelor’s Degree
Salary: Almost $60,000
Partner’s salary: $73,000
Estimated net worth: -$144,634 or, with student debt relief, -$114,634
Student Loans: I have $21,070 in federal loans and $50,740 in private loans. My husband has $144,000 in federal loans (his parents took out the loans for his undergraduate, but he went to graduate school). With the student debt relief, I’ll have $20,000 taken off my federal loans (I received a Pell grant) and we will pay off the remaining balance. My husband will get $10,000 in debt relief for $144,000 instead of $154,000. Woo hoo!
(Editor's note: Since this Money Journal was submitted, federal courts have suspended applications for student loan forgiveness—what a country!)
Credit Cards: $84 at the moment. We tend to not carry balances on our credit cards.
Paycheck amount: $1,510 every other week for me and $2,527 twice a month for my husband so $8,074 per month (or about $9,500 on the lucky months I get paid three times!).
Family assistance: My husband’s parents pay $120 to help us with car insurance, which they have been doing during the federal student loan payment pause. His parents paid for his undergraduate loans, which is a huge help! They’ll probably stop paying for car insurance when the federal loan payments resume. We mostly use my sister’s streaming service accounts, and we use one that my husband’s brother pays for and one my parents pay for.
Rent: $1,653 per month
Daycare: $391 per week for three days of care for one infant, and that’s with a corporate discount. So about $1,690 per month. We have to keep her home a bunch because she’s sick from illnesses she gets at daycare, but you still have to pay for those days in most instances. It’s a vicious cycle.
- Health: $258 per month
- Dental: $54 per month
- Life and car: $250 per month for car insurance and life insurance. We have a 2015 Hyundai Accent and a 2017 Ford Escape, both of which are paid off. I had a loan for the Accent that we paid off, and we bought the Escape outright with savings. I have an additional life insurance policy through my work that my employer pays for.
401K/retirement: $288 per month
Student loans: At the moment, $650 per month for my private loans; total to be determined when federal loans resumed. My federal loans were an additional $250 per month before the pause and before student debt relief. My husband graduated during the payment pause and will do an income-driven repayment plan when payments resume.
College savings for our daughter: $85 per month
Phone: $149 per month
Gym: $20 per month for both of us—shoutout Planet Fitness!
Union dues: $42 per month
Savings: We put as much as we can per month into a high-yield savings account because we want to buy a house. We have $45,700 in that account. We deposit a range of amounts into that account whenever we can, from like $130 to $1,300. We’ve only been able to save so much because of the federal student loan payment pause. We took the $40,000 we had saved in our regular bank account and put it into the high-yield savings account earlier this year. We’re kicking ourselves for waiting so long to put it into a high-yield—right now, we’re getting about $80 a month just in interest! We keep about $3,000 in a regular savings account as an emergency fund.
That we pay for:
- Ipsy: $13 per month for a makeup subscription. I rarely wear makeup since I work from home and my husband doesn’t like it. And I’m lazy. I’ve been meaning to cancel this. I’ll probably do it now, while I’m thinking about it. (I did cancel it.)
Accounts other people pay for that we use (shhhh):
- HBO Max
- Amazon Prime
Money Talk Q&A
Did your family talk about money growing up?
No, beyond saying that we couldn’t afford something. Our real conversations about money came when we were all older. My parents never made much money, but they used credit cards to fill in the gaps. My parents also had some medical issues, which led to a good amount of debt (thanks, America). I didn’t know this until I was in college, when it created some issues. They’re doing better now with finances, but it’s been a bumpy road.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I’m sure my parents had hard conversations about money, but I wasn’t aware of them. I was frustrated when we couldn’t afford something, but I wasn’t worried about it. We always had secure housing as well, which is big. I started worrying about money when I signed my first college loan. It was like $20,000 for a semester at 9% interest (I had no credit and my parents had bad credit.) By the time I graduated, I had like $100,000 in student loans, all at like 9%. I was really depressed and worried at that time when I calculated how much my monthly payments would be and what kind of salary I needed. It didn’t seem worth it to try and scrape by. This is kind of an “it gets better” moment. I still worry about it but I don’t, like, want to die.
At what age did you become financially independent?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve had a job since I was old enough to work. My parents paid the interest on one of my loans when I was in college. I paid for everything else during college, but I supplemented my part-time income with my student loans. By the time I graduated, I was dating my husband and we shared expenses when we moved to the cities. We still get help from my husband’s parents. I’ve considered myself financially independent since college but reading through the help I’ve gotten, maybe never!
How did you learn how to budget your life?
My husband has helped a lot. He’s very responsible and we’ve worked together to track and eliminate expenses, and switch jobs to make more money or get better benefits when we can. We write down all of our monthly expenses, and check in with each other often on any purchases. He always tells me if he’s going to put something on the credit card and we pay off credit card balances before they accrue interest. I have so much anxiety about credit cards (though I’ve used student loans in the same way I worry about using credit cards). I used to make like $30,000 when he was in graduate school. That was not fun. We’re both still at the beginning of our careers and we’ve come a long way in the last few years (and even in the last year) so I’m hopeful for the future. We’re also motivated to buy a house in the next year or two and provide for our daughter, which has helped us save and be responsible. Our major vice is eating out. There are too many good restaurants!
Have you ever received inherited income, major financial gifts, or large insurance payouts?
I received $4,000 from my sister to use toward buying a car. I paid that back with no interest at $100 per month. My grandma gave us $750 when we got married. My husband’s parents pay the loans for his undergraduate degree, which is amazing. If we had my undergraduate, his undergraduate and his graduate loans, we’d be drowning. With my undergraduate and his graduate loans, we’re still in the water but we’re floating at least.
While it’s not a specific gift, it’s a big privilege to have families that are here for us. If shit really hit the fan, we have places we could live and people who could lend us financial support.
Do you worry about money now?
Definitely not as much as I used to, but yes. My husband really worries about money, so one of us has to be chill about it. I do worry about our student loans and about buying a house, especially with interest rates rising. But I also worry about our rent rising! We both want to do what’s best for our daughter and any future children in all ways, of course, but especially financially. We want to provide a secure and safe home for her and make sure she gets a good education. We also will do our best to make sure she understands money. Talking about money openly is really important, which is part of why I wanted to participate in the journal.
I also think my experience with money and what I’ve seen in America has changed my whole outlook on life. I think daycare, pre-K, and college should be free and public. I think secure housing, healthcare, and food are human rights. Everyone should get paid livable wages. I worry about income inequality and where our country is headed if we don’t take steps to improve people’s lives.
This is less serious, but I also hate the increasingly popular subscription model. Let me pay for things one time and never again, dammit! (Editor's note: You save big, big money by subscribing to Racket at the annual rates!)
How much do you think a person or household needs to earn to live comfortably in the Twin Cities?
Oh gosh, I don’t even know. With no children and no debt, maybe $60,000 for an individual and $120,000 for a couple. But who has no children or no debt these days?
This money journal is so long, I’m sorry! Goodbye!
8 a.m.: $20 for the gym.
10:30 a.m.: $124 for grocery pick-up, which is about nine meals and a few miscellaneous items.
3:30 p.m.: $44 for grocery pick-up from a different place, because I realized I didn’t get all the items from the first place. I text the first place and ask if I had missed a bag or if the items weren’t in stock.
9 p.m.: I get a text from the first grocery place that I missed a bag. I ask if they can refund those items to my card since I got them somewhere else, and they agree. So that’s a refund of about $44.
8 a.m.: $149 for the phone bill.
4:45 p.m.: $2 for air at a gas station to fill up my tires. It gives me five minutes of air, which wasn’t enough to fill up one tire for some reason. I decide to find an air pump that’s free later.
6 p.m.: $105 for Costco to get some additional groceries and dinner ($1.50 hot dog and soda, babyyy!). We like to get the huge bag of frozen chicken breast because it lasts forever. We use the air pump at Costco. If you have a Costco membership, use that air pump. It’s seriously the fastest tire air filling experience I’ve ever had (and I’ve had too many tire air filling experiences). Adulthood is being excited about great air pumps.
9:45 a.m.: $7 for a parking pass for a work assignment. I could probably get it reimbursed, but I likely won’t. You might be like “Oh, is she too hoity-toity to ask for $7 back?” No, but the reimbursement form is that bad. It is not worth it.
11 a.m.: $32 for gas station snacks and money to put on the laundry card for our apartment washer and dryers. I hate paying to do chores.
5 p.m.: $36 for dinner from the Naughty Greek. It’s just not a grocery week if we don’t eat out anyway and ignore all the meals we just got! The Naughty Greek is one of our absolute favorites—it always slaps.
8 a.m.: $391 for daycare, and she only went two days this week! Because she got sick from daycare! Lol!!
2 p.m.: $15 for peanut M&Ms and Starbucks. Got a movie from the library for movie night and a book for free. Yay libraries!
8 a.m.: $10 for Spotify.
10 a.m.: $7 for a parking pass to go hiking.
Noon: $49 for a pretty good lunch after hiking.
8 a.m.: $650 for student loans
Noon: $91 for entrance, food, and activities at a fall festival.
4 p.m.: $51 for a few items from Target that we had run out of, like eggs and dog bags.
$1,739. Woof! I shouldn’t have picked a student loan week to do this!
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