A Week in Albuquerque on a $100,000 Joint Income

Welcome to Spending Notes, where we do a weekly deep dive into how our readers spend their cash.

Today: a nurse and a schoolteacher who each make $100,000 a year

Occupation: nurse; teacher

Age: 41; 46

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Salary: $100,000 (approx. $3,846 per pay period)

Day One

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My husband, H., and I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico with our daughter, A., and our dog, P. I work as an RN, and H. is a writing teacher at a local school. A. is a junior at another high school, and H. works just outside of the district we live in. Today, we’re each at our particular place of work. I spent my day at the hospital while H. and A. were in classes (and P. waited patiently at home). H. and A. got home before me and found that our heating system had gone off. Fortunately, they caught it early enough that it wasn’t too cold for poor P.! H. texted me that he found a great company that does furnace repair in Albuquerque, and he ordered pizza and breadsticks for some stress relief. I got home just in time to grab a few slices!

Total: $41

Day Two

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The furnace is still on the fritz. The technician will be coming by this afternoon when H. is home from work, so I take P. to my mom’s house before work, just in case. I‘ve lived in and around Albuquerque for a lifetime and know it doesn’t get that cold, but you never know! Then, I stop by a nearby gas station, fill up my tank, and grab a coffee to go. I have a busy shift, bouncing between patients, so I don’t see A.’s text until I’m preparing to head home this evening. She’s starting to stress out a bit about her academic goals. She’s always been a great student, so I have no doubt she’ll get any internship or college admission letter she could dream of. Still, I’d rather her feel just as confident in her abilities as H. and I do. When I get home, I give her a hug and tell her we’ll look into potential college counselors this weekend. Otherwise, I heat up a plate of leftovers from the dinner H. made, then head to bed. At least the house is warm again, and P.’s thrilled to be home!

Total: $27.50

Day Three

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This afternoon, I have a phone appointment with my own counselor—mental health is just as important for medical professionals as it is in any other career field! Fortunately, we have enough staff at the hospital that we can work my schedule around counseling appointments, and my counselor and his office are understanding of my work priorities and have virtual visits even after COVID-19. He’s confident I’m on the right track when it comes to working through some personal issues I’ve been struggling with, so I head to the grocery store to pick up a celebratory slice of cake from their bakery.

Total: $3.50

Day Four

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Back to work today, but I’m not feeling very enthusiastic. H., A., and I stayed up late last night watching a new Netflix series, and I’m definitely feeling the lack of sleep! On my way to the hospital, I grab an extra-large latte, then say a silent prayer for the coffee machine waiting for me come break time.

Total: $8.50

Day Five

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Like RNs across the country, I have to complete a certain number of continuing education hours to maintain my credentials. I’m doing just that today, working on some CE in a class focused on COVID-19, before my shift starts, grabbing a coffee on the way.

Total: $20

Day Six

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I’m lucky enough to have today off, on the same day both H. and A. are out of school. Things don’t always line up that way, so I’m grateful when they do! I sit down with A. and browse a few counseling services online and in our area and make a list of the advisors who might best prepare her for the college admissions process. Then, the three of us head to a local park with P. and grab a bite to eat on the way back home.

Total: $62

Day Seven

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Today, I got up a bit early and decided to do some holiday shopping. With years of experience, it’s no wonder I’ve got the gift-giving process down to a science! I grab a snack and a soda at the mall, then sneak the shopping bags into the house, careful not to give away any surprises.

Total: $112

Total for the week: $274.50

Ways to Prepare for Your Freshman Year of College

Your freshman year of college is one that ushers in major change. While your academics will still be a major focus, you’re going to have to learn how to navigate life on your own moving forward. As with any new chapter in adulthood, planning ahead is crucial to getting the most out of your freshman year of college and beyond. Here are a few ways to prepare for your first year of college that will support you in your educational career.

Look for all the necessary tools for organization and your education.

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Organization is one of the most important aspects of your education. After all, you will have to balance your college classes on top of any extracurriculars, social events, and work (if applicable). You can start by purchasing essential items like custom folders for important documents like syllabi from your classes, forms you need to fill out for classes or events, and even study guides for upcoming tests.

Of course, folders can be customized to include your school logo, designs that indicate what your pocket folder is designed to hold, or even be made from more durable materials so that you can carry it around with you on your way to class. Some other organizational tools you will likely need include planners, calendars, and notebooks for class notes and beyond.

Speaking to educational tools, one of the staples to have in your career is a great laptop. The best laptops for college will provide you with ample storage for your assignments and any necessary programs, plenty of speed so that you can easily open and run multiple programs at a time, and stay charged for hours at a time so you can rely on it to take notes when you’re sitting in a lecture hall. Whether you want a tablet/laptop combination or a plain laptop, getting all of your tech together is another major way to prepare for the path ahead.

Make your path to college easier with the right support.

Figuring out how to receive financial aid and scholarships, support your mental health as you navigate your packed schedule, and finding internships and jobs so you can get through college successfully is a lot to deal with. As such, you should look for an organization that can help you through the process of transferring from high school to college like the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). This organization is a legitimate community (no NSHSS scam here) comprised of bright young scholars fully invested in their futures. Packed with resources to help you excel, joining the NSHSS is one way to make your transition to freshman year of college easier.

Master all of the adult skills you will rely on in college.

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A lot of parents only think of college in terms of academics, but this isn’t the only focus you should have. Once you reach college, your life becomes your own. Taking the time now to learn the adult skills that you will rely on in college and beyond is critical to your success as an undergraduate. One such area that you should focus on now is your financial skills. Creating a budget based on how much student aid you have, what expenses you have, and how long you need to make this money stress will ensure you don’t run out of money too quickly.

If you don’t have much external support, you will also need to consider how you’re going to generate income for your college career. All of these adult tasks may be overwhelming, so it’s important to ask for help when you need it.

There’s a lot more to your first year of college than meets the eye. To stay on track and get the most of the college experience, use some of the tips above to prepare yourself in advance.

How to Choose the Right HVAC system

For homeowners across the U.S., there are may be different needs for household air systems. Taking into account geographical area, climate, and budget, various types of HVAC systems and heaters are available for every homeowner need. With that in mind, it’s important that, when shopping around for the right air conditioning unit, you know your options.

Here, we will take a look at the most popular HVAC systems on the market, along with the pros and cons of each technology. No matter your personal needs, these are the most important factors when choosing the right HVAC unit for your home.

Knowing Your HVAC Needs

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When making a good choice of air conditioner units, first consider your family’s specific needs. If you have an older home, you may be looking to upgrade to more modern technology. Likewise, if you live in a geographical area with very pronounced seasonal changes, you should consider a unit that provides both cooling system and heating system capabilities.

In recent years, those requirements have been met with a modernized ductless HVAC system, known as a ductless mini split system, or heat pump. One of the major benefits of adding a ductless system in your home is that the innovative technology replaces both the HVAC and heater in a single unit. Ductless systems, as the term describes, even do away with the need for traditional ductwork. Without the same cleaning and upkeep needs, heat pumps have quickly become popular.

It’s important to know the basics of the ductless system’s construction. A heat pump uses an outdoor unit, known as a compressor, and an indoor air handler. The ductless heat pump takes the fresh air from outside the home and either heats it or cools it according to your thermostat. With that conditioned air pumped into the entire home, the heat pump then uses the same vents as a traditional HVAC system in order to circulate the warm or cool air throughout the individual rooms. Aside from eliminating the need for two separate air systems, the outdoor compressor and indoor unit work together using less energy than either a central HVAC system or a traditional heating system. If energy efficiency is a concern to your family, as well as choosing a new system that can increase your property value, then a ductless HVAC system is a great option.

HVAC Systems and Indoor Air Quality

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There are instances, however, when a more traditional system can prove economical for homeowners not looking to replace their home’s ductwork and ventilation system. Although window air conditioners and space heaters remain popular alternatives for providing seasonal comfort to individual rooms, a more likely option for the entire home could be a central HVAC system. If you already have an air conditioning unit in your older home, a new central system could be a great option in order to utilize some of the pre-installed operating systems and ductwork.

What remains important for homeowners purchasing a new system that uses ductwork and vents, is that they still keep an eye on the air filters. Although swapping out dirty filters for clean ones may seem like a minor task, the home’s indoor air quality depends upon clean filtration. For example, as your filters catch dust, debris, and other allergens within the mesh, those contaminants are safely removed from your home’s air circulation. However, dirty filtration can quickly clog the airflow, running your system to full capacity and failing to block hazardous allergens and outdoor air pollution. No matter which HVAC system you choose, keep in mind that regular maintenance is the key to keeping your units functioning properly. With both safety and energy efficiency in mind, performing the most important maintenance is as important as choosing the best HVAC system.

How To Find the Right Therapist for Your Needs

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. Whether you experience depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition that makes life feel more difficult, help is always available. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to contact a therapist who can help you manage your specific needs. Everyone has a different journey toward betterment and a trained therapist can help you determine the right path for what you want to achieve. Numerous resources are available to help you find the right therapist, so it’s important to know exactly what you need before you begin your search.

Determine What You Need

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The first step toward finding the right treatment for your mental health is to determine exactly what you need. Do you want to engage in talk therapy or are you looking for a treatment group where you’re healing alongside others? Would you benefit from speaking with a psychiatrist or a psychologist? There’s a big difference between these two types of medical professionals, so it’s good to know in advance what each does and what they offer you as a patient. A psychiatrist prescribes medication and typically centers their assessment and treatment plan around the use and distribution of the medication to treat your symptoms. A psychologist treats both emotional and mental distress through various methods, including psychotherapy.

If you’re unsure of which option is right for you, start by utilizing an online resource such as With Therapy to determine what type of therapist is best suited to what you’re experiencing. With Therapy is an online database that helps match you with the best therapist available. To start the process, you’ll use the interactive With Therapy website to discuss your concerns, your health background, and any preferences you have for the type of care you want to receive. From there, the site provides you with a list of therapists who are suitable for your concerns and background. You have the ability to see which professional you feel most comfortable with by contacting them directly and trying an initial session.

Always Ask Questions

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When you’re vetting a potential therapist, it’s important to ask specific questions to ensure you’re finding the right fit. Start by asking the therapist how much experience they have working with the issue you’re seeking help for and how they commonly approach a treatment plan for this type of concern. Will you undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy or does the therapist believe a prescription drug will help you manage your symptoms more effectively? Oftentimes, a combination of talk therapy and prescription medication is recommended to help you live a more fulfilling and manageable life.

Another question to ask is what type of insurance plan each therapist accepts, as this often differs from one professional to the next. Speak with your health insurance provider directly if you’d like an initial list of mental health professionals to contact who accept your current plan, or simply ask With Therapy what type of insurance is accepted before you begin your first session. This is especially important if you receive prescription medication, as the cost of these drugs is much higher if you’re paying out of pocket.

Get Started

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Once you vet potential therapists and determine what type of treatment plan works best for you, it’s time to get started. This can be the hardest step as it’s difficult to admit when you need help. After you take the first step by setting up an appointment with your new therapist, everything becomes easier from there. You’ll work directly with your chosen therapist to discuss your concerns and you’ll continually make adjustments along the way to ensure you’re receiving the proper level of care.

If you need prescriptions to help manage symptoms, work with your health insurance provider to see if there are any prescription discount options available to stay within your target budget. Generic prescriptions typically cost less, but your insurance plan may allow you to receive the lowest price for the exact medication you need.

From there, you’ll find a nearby pharmacy like CVS pharmacy where you can easily fill and retrieve your prescriptions whenever you need them. Combined with therapy and other treatments, you’ll start to feel better.

Why It’s Important to Focus on Your Personal Well-Being

You’ve heard it said so often it may be starting to lose all meaning, but we are living in unprecedented times. With that in mind, it is easy to focus on physical health, but mental health is just as important. Until we can conquer the COVID-19 pandemic and everything that comes with it, then you need to find ways to work on focusing on your personal well-being.

Whether that means working on your finances, finding a new hobby, or spending more time outside, there are many ways you can do that. Learn about some ways to focus on you and why it’s so important to do so.

Financial stress can have adverse effects on you.

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Many people across the United States lost their jobs or experienced a significant drop in income in 2020, meaning bills went unpaid and credit scores dropped. If you have a car loan, you could be stressing about paying that so that your car does not face repossession. The average auto loan interest rate is around 5.6 percent but could be much higher depending on the type of car you buy or your credit.

To alleviate some of your pandemic-related stress, consider speaking with your auto loan provider. They may be able to lower your monthly payment or get you a lower interest rate. In some cases, they may even be able to work with you to postpone a payment or two so that your credit report is not adversely affected, leaving you with bad credit.

Eliminating this source of stress could help, as continuing to stress can lead to adverse health problems. Work through ways to minimize financial stress and figure out potential ways to generate extra income. Right now, every extra dollar helps.

Keep your personal relationships a top priority.

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We aren’t able to connect with friends and family as much right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still work on strengthening personal relationships with important people in your life. Hopefully, you are staying safe at home with your family. Take the time to set up a date night with your significant other so that you can spend some meaningful time together.

Sure, you are home together more often now, but you still need to care for that relationship and keep yourself and them as happy as possible right now. All the stress of the pandemic may be affecting you or your partner in certain ways, but your doctor can prescribe medicine that you can pick up at the local pharmacy to help with that. Ask them about discount Sildenafil if you are concerned about the money.

Boost your personal appearance.

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Sure, we are working remotely and staying home as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean you should just live in sweatpants and never do anything with hair or makeup. In fact, right now may be a great time to experiment with a new look. Instead of your generic eyeliner, consider upgrading to a magnetic liner and magnetic lashes that follow your natural lash line much easier than traditional falsies or lash extensions. These false eyelashes can amplify the appearance of your eyes and really help them stand out—especially on those Zoom meetings you have for work or a virtual happy hour with friends.

Along with magnetic lashes, you can also clip coupons and shop the clearance rack for some new clothes that can help boost your self-esteem if you’re feeling down about the limitations of the pandemic. Try to do a little something different so that you are not stuck feeling depressed all the time. Focusing on you and your well-being may be just exactly what helps you get through these times until life is back to normal again.

Love Your Pooch, But Hate the Poop? 4 Ways to Deal With Pet Waste

As a dog owner, you know the ins and outs of owning your pup. You love your dog more than anything, but there are definitely somethings that you could live without. One of these things is your pet’s waste.

If we’re being honest, the clean up of your dog no matter the bodily fluid isn’t exactly one of the perks to owning your pet. Luckily, there are services and ideas to consider that can help. Keep reading to explore four different ways to deal with pet waste.

1. Hire scoopers.

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Arguably the best way to deal with pet waste is by hiring a pet waste removal service. This way, your arent even subjected to having to clean up after your pup. The last thing you want to do on your weekend off from work is to pick up your dog’s poop outside.

Instead of having to do this dirty work, you can hire professionals to remove the fecal matter for you. If you’re near the area, do a quick Google search for pet waste removal North Aurora Illinois. You’ll likely see services from Scoop Troop. They ensure your front and backyard is free of any dog poop so you can spend time over the weekends bonding with your pup instead of picking up their messes.

2. Consider other disposal options.

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If you’re not partial to picking up your dog’s poop or having someone do it for you, you have other options. One of these less commonly known options is flushing your dog’s waste. Yes, you read that right.

Many owners put their pet’s waste in a water-soluble, flushable bag and put it down their own toilet. However, you need to make sure this coincides with local laws and that your septic tank can handle it to prevent sewage backup.

Another alternative is to bury your dog’s poop. With this option, you have to be mindful of nearby water sources as to not contaminate them. No matter which pet waste pickup option you chose, pet waste needs to be disposed of properly because it can spread harmful bacterias that cause illnesses.

3. Keep the interior clean.

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You might be surprised to hear that animal waste is considered a biohazard. For example, if you move into a home with possible animal waste contaminants in the basement, you need to hire professional biohazard cleanup crews. To get safe protection from harmful residues, pathogenic substances, and biological contaminants, you’ll need to hire a cleanup company for biological cleanup in your home.

Qualified trained professionals will remove the hazardous materials and contaminants so that you can feel safe under protocols as a property owner. This animal waste could be from the previous owner’s pets, or it could be from rodents or other animals whose fecal matter is full of harmful viruses and microorganisms.

The same cleanup principle applies if your dog is the one who is causing excessive in-home waste or contamination. Along with pet waste, they also offer cleanup services for the basement like mold cleanup from water and possible chemical contaminants. Overall, it’s critically important to hire professionals for this sort of biohazard cleanup in the home so that you can have peace of mind that your cleanup process aligns with health regulations too.

4. Purchase eco-friendly cleanup tools.

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When cleaning up after your pet becomes a chore, you can at the least, change the choices you make during your pickup. One thing to consider is how disposing of dog feces is not environmentally friendly. That’s exactly why you need to purchase these biodegradable dog waste bags. They’re much better than traditional plastic bags because they’re convenient and eco-conscious. However, you have to be careful with which brand of a doggie bag that you choose. Many of these bags tout being biodegradable, but there are some that outperform others.

All in all, your pet means the world to you. So when it comes time to clean up their messes, you’ll do what you have to. And, there’s an option out there for everyone. Whether you want to hire trained professionals for dog poop pick up, hire a biohazard company for the inside of your home, try out different waste cleanup ideas, you can get peace of mind as you care for your pet in whatever way works best for you.