Michigan Money Confessions – One Family’s Week of Spending on a $99,000 Salary in Grand Rapids

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Our Michigan Money Confessions series takes an anonymous, personal look at how families around West Michigan spend their money over the course of a week.

This series is 100% volunteer-based and anonymous; if you’re interested in tracking your spending for a week and having it featured, email April at [email protected] We welcome all income levels and family structures.

Expose my Spending Habits with the World? Why Not??

When I was invited to share my weekly spending journal with GRKIDS readers, for some reason I immediately thought, “why not?!”

Is it because I secretly want everyone to know how much money we spend? (Um, no.) Is it because I thought it might be a good reminder to look at our monthly budget? (Maybe.) Is it because I love GRKIDS? (Definitely!)

So here I am, laying my finances bare, for the world to see.

**One thing I do want to note is that aside from my public schools job, I also make money from side gigs like mystery shopping, writing, and crafting.  However, this extra income goes straight into our vacation fund and isn’t part of our daily budget. 

About My Family and I

Industry: Both Public Schools Employees
Position: Full Time Teacher and Part Time Social Worker
Salary: $99,000
Savings: $2,000 in savings account plus about $200,000 in retirement accounts
Age: Both are 42
Children: 2 tweens

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage | $930
Utilities | $315 (gas, electric, trash, cable, internet)
Student Loans | $0 (we JUST finished paying ours off about 2 years ago!)
Car Payment | $380
Car Insurance | $145
Gas | $150
Kids’ sports/activities | $200  (this is an estimate- it changes throughout the year)
Vacation HomeOur small cottage is $900/month  (mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities). We offset these expenses by occasionally renting it out through Airbnb.


Our Top Financial Goals

1 – Bulk up our Retirement Savings

We recently met with our financial advisor to map out our retirement plans. We both hope to retire in less than 10 years (how is that even possible?!) We increased the amount we are socking away each month so we can continue to live comfortably when we make that transition!

2 – Look for Ways to Save on our Monthly Expenses

About once a year I sit down and really look at all of our monthly expenses. It is not a process that I enjoy, but I am always surprised by how much I can save on things like trash, cable, internet, and insurance by comparing prices with other providers, asking about neighborhood discounts, or asking about discounts for paying for a full year of service at a time.

3 – Track/Cut Back on Day-to-Day Spending

This is definitely an area where I need to focus more time and energy. While I would never consider us to be extravagant spenders, I don’t hesitate to spend money on small unnecessary things. (A cute shirt when I am at Target, a $5 coffee while I am out running errands, a new set of dish towels when I am buying groceries…) The little things can quickly add up to big things!


Spending Diary


This was the end of a weekend up north with my friends. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at home, sitting around in my PJs drinking coffee and talking and laughing with a group of amazing ladies. It’s hard to put a price tag on that. For lunch, I snacked on some leftover goodies from the night before. I spent $15.55 on a quick dinner for my daughter and I since we were on the road when it was time to eat. Sometimes convenience beats fiscal responsibility. Tonight I spent $119 on Amazon buying my son’s birthday gifts (about $80 of that was purchased for my mom and will be paid back). Today is allowance day for my kids, so I shelled out another $30 for them. Bye-bye cash, you never last long in my wallet! Overall, today was a low spending day.


I had all three meals at home today- good on the wallet and the waistline! I spent $68 on a bunch of games, but it was a fundraiser for a school group and I will use them as Christmas gifts for family and friends. I spent $50 on BIGGBY gift cards for all of my kids’ teachers (public service announcement- teachers work super hard and deserve gifts at parent-teacher conferences!) I spent $134.96 on groceries today. I have a teenage boy so I buy groceries like it’s my job. Except I already have a job going the store for his groceries and this grocery-buying job doesn’t earn any money. Anyway, I now have to go to the grocery store at least twice a week to keep up with his voracious appetite. My husband took our dog to the vet and that set us back $191.79 (ouch). In the evening, I ordered a new pair of running shoes online. They normally sell for $90 but I snagged them for $43 with some coupon codes.


Today was a typical breakfast at home/ packed lunch for work/ dinner at home day. I spent $8 on a pizza for my daughter and her friend because they were going straight from swim practice to their brothers’ band concert and would otherwise be starving.  We all ran around like crazy people today between school, work, swim practice, and the concert. There was no time for any excessive spending!


I had breakfast at home and had lunch provided for me at a work training (bonus!). I spent $30.05 gassing up my van, something I typically do every week. I travel between several locations for my job and my kids are involved in lots of stuff, so I put a lot of miles on my van! We had dinner at home as a family, so that was all for today’s spending!


I made breakfast at home and packed a lunch for work. I spent $27.70 on take-out for dinner. I have surrendered to the fact that it’s nearly impossible for me to cook dinner at home on Thursday nights – my daughter has gymnastics from 6:00-7:30 on the other side of town and is STARVING when she gets done. Yes, I could pack a cooler and we could eat in the parking lot (fun fact – when I was growing my friend’s mom actually did that), but I have to draw the line somewhere. We laughed about being like the Heck family on “The Middle” tonight, eating take-out in front of the television. Thursday nights are rough, so we enjoyed Chick-Fil-A and watching “The Voice” together.


We have a little tradition in our family called “Friday Feast.” This is something I started when my kids were tiny. I used to have Fridays off, so I would make a special breakfast at home of something like pancakes and eggs. This has now turned into going to the local diner for breakfast on Fridays. Financially, it’s not the most responsible thing to do. But I love the time with my kids and not having to clean up after another meal at home. Plus it costs me less than $20. For anyone who is the parent of pre-teens or teens, you know that $20 for good conversation with your kids is totally worth it! I packed a lunch today and made dinner at home. I spent $101.42 grocery shopping with one of my friends tonight.  Yes, my Friday night out involved the grocery store. Young parents, this is what you have to look forward to in your 40’s!


I spent nothing today! We had breakfast and lunch at home and had dinner at my parents’ house. Today was a rare day at home with no plans and I thoroughly enjoyed staying in my pajamas until way past noon.

Total Spent

Food | $236.38 groceries + $71.25 eating out = $307.63

Gas | $30.05

Shopping | $43

Gifts | $157.00

Allowance | $30



$307.63 seems like a lot to spend on food for 4 people for 1 week… however, that works out to just over $10 per day per person. Is that a lot? I guess I am not sure. In general, I feel like I do a pretty good of planning meals for the week and finding good deals, but I was surprised by that number. This is something I should probably monitor more closely.

$759.47 spent in a week sounds like a lot of money. And that doesn’t include things like our mortgages (we have a home and a cottage), utilities, insurance, cell phone bills… This week was atypical with the vet expense and the gifts. I love our dog, but she is expensive sometimes!

This makes me a little bit curious what other people spend in a week!

Overall, it was a fun experiment and definitely a good way to raise awareness of where your money goes.

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