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Money Journal: One Week In Minneapolis’s Phillips West Neighborhood On a $84K Salary

See how far the dollars of a 41-year-old grants manager go.

Giorgio Trovato via Unsplash

Welcome to Racket’s new 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: Grants manager
Age: 41
Neighborhood: Phillips West
Education: Bachelor’s Degree
Salary: $84,000
Partner’s salary: N/A
Estimated net worth: No significant debt, property worth $120,000, and retirement assets of $325,000—down from $500,000 in January.

Debt

  • Student Loans: None
  • Personal Loans: None
  • Mortgage: None. I super lucked out and was the beneficiary of the 2008 crash. My condo was bank-owned and sold to me for $27,000 total. (I realize that this is less than most new cars!) Because the purchase price was too low for a mortgage, my mom fronted me the money and so far I have not needed to pay her back. This may be because she helped pay for my brother’s wedding (with none in sight for me) and I believe helped him and his wife with a down payment on their initial townhome.

Monthly Expenses

Paycheck amount: $4,140 per month total

Family assistance: $1,000 per month (this has started in the last five years)

Rent/mortgage: $875 paid monthly for the association fee and parking. Association fees also include property taxes, internet, heat, and water (basically everything but electricity).

Insurance:

  • Health & Dental: $27 (pre-tax from my paycheck; this is the actual cost, and I cannot believe it is so low!)
  • Life: $17 per month
  • Car and the co-op condo equivalent of house/property insurance: $190 per month

401K/retirement: $648 per month

Phone: $34 (for the device itself). I paid my mom’s phone bill for over 10 years, and now she pays for mine.

Car: My 2016 car is paid off, and a hybrid, so my gas costs are thankfully pretty low and I can go a couple weeks without refilling.

Subscriptions:

  • Spotify, Audm, Audible
  • NY Times premium/all-in-one, Racket (Editor’s note: Hell yeah), Defector, multiple Substacks/Patreons, magazines (New Yorker, New York, Wired)
  • Hulu/HBO Max/Netflix, YouTube TV
  • Monthly coffee subscription
  • AMC Movie Pass

I generally make as much as I spend, with a little bit of breathing room. And that is only due to the money I get from my mom. I want to save that up to be able to do things like a kitchen remodel or other improvements, but I can’t seem to keep those funds around.

Money Talk Q&A

Did your family talk about money growing up?

Yes. Definitely a Great Depression kind of mindset that my mom (single parent) inherited. Nothing was wasted, everything was essential. Coupon clipping, close attention to how much everything cost, and going out was rare. “Back to school shopping” was not a thing growing up—you just used what you had.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, very much. My dad left when I was in middle school and my mom did not want us to have to move. So it was a struggle to pay the mortgage and there wasn’t too much left. I went to college but graduated in three years because I could not afford four. I would have liked to have gone to grad school, but my student loans gave me a ton of anxiety and I wanted to get them paid off, so I went into the workforce at the age of 20. Luckily that paranoia around debt made it so I never got underwater with credit cards.

At what age did you become financially independent?

I got my first job in high school so I could go on an academic trip, so I was used to paying for things fairly early on. I would say definitely after college—I was paying all my bills and student loans. Because I lived in a different city (with good public transportation!), I didn’t need a car or have any of those costs until I moved back to Minneapolis.

How did you learn how to budget your life?

I think I need to learn! But I also am too cheap to pay for those lessons and think that I’m doing OK enough where I don’t need extra help. I should move beyond the “as long as I’m not overdrafting, I am being financially responsible” mindset. I think I should have a lot more to show for myself financially after being in the workforce for 20+ years. It probably doesn’t help that there have been times when I have taken significant pay cuts to move industries. It has not been a steady upward trajectory in pay. (The first thing I did after I paid off my student loans was quit my job and go to work for a non-profit!)

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

No. No inheritance, insurance, etc.

Do you worry about money now?

On the day to day, I try not to. I veer wildly from “maybe I can skip a meal to save some money” to going on spending sprees where my credit card bill will be $6,000 for the month. I don’t really have a good idea of a budget and have caviar tastes on a Chex Mix budget.

I used to carry around anxiety of having to provide for my mom when she got older, but luckily she is way more responsible with money than I am, so I don’t see that happening in my future. Now I worry, with no partner and no kids, how to make sure I have enough to retire comfortably and provide for any of my needs as I get older.

I think because I am a single person with no kids I have a more “freewheeling” style with money. And it seems in comparison to some friends that I am able to spend more. But I also have a group of friends who are straight-up rich and subsidize me when we go out to dinner, go on vacations, etc.

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

Probably $70,000 for a single person and $120,000 for a family. But I also think that can vary wildly, especially if you were able to find reasonable housing before everything got so expensive! If you’re locked into a decent mortgage or rent, I think those are good numbers. But as someone who takes home about $5,000 per month, there really aren’t any houses that I can afford in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or even first-ring suburbs. I do feel a bit locked in to where I live.

Day 1

10:15 a.m.: There is a piece of bedroom furniture I have had my eye on for a little while. Do I need it? No. $294.

1:35 p.m.: Bought a ticket to a performance in November. $26.

6:30 p.m.: Went to a (not good) movie. AMC subscription made it $0. Even though I pay a monthly fee, it makes movies feel like they are free, so I’m not too upset when they suck.

Total: $320

Day 2

9:30 a.m.: Morning farmer’s market run. $80.

4:30 p.m.: Went so see a friend’s kid play soccer and had dinner afterwards. (Friends paid the bill, so $0.)

Total: $80

Day 3

Lund’s and Byerly’s runs to prep for a potluck the next day. $33.

Total: $33

Day 4

2 p.m.: Went to a pickleball class I had prepaid for.

7 p.m.: Went to a potluck in the evening.

Total: $0

Day 5

12 a.m.: Midnight online shopping. Bought a couple T-shirts. $50.

2:30 p.m. Couldn’t resist some Prime Day deals on gift certificates (AMC and Panera). $100.

2:35 p.m.: Also bought a storage carousel for my Nespresso Virtuo pods, $33.

Total: $183

Day 6

10:45 a.m.: A monthly subscription I have kind of forgotten about, for a local brewery. $45.

1 p.m.: Signups for a pickleball league and class. $103.

3:30 p.m.: I have a kind of fancy garbage can from West Elm. Unfortunately that means I have to get my garbage bags on Amazon. $8.

Total: $156

Day 7

5 p.m.: Visited a friend and brought a partial bottle of wine. Then I went out and a friend picked up my drink and parking!

Total: $0

Weekly total: $772

(You can tell it was not a Costco or Target shopping week! I tend to do those once per month, and that adds another $500 or so. I’m still very COVID-conscious… before the pandemic, I would have probably $100+ per week in bars, restaurants, concerts, etc.)