How We Make it Work: Raising a Family on $65K in Pittsburgh

How one family in Pittsburgh makes it work.

How It’s a question that’s often on the minds of anyone who’s ever looked at the high cost of raising kids today: how do parents make it work? Well, we wondered too. Which is why we’re asking parents around the country for a peek into their financial lives: what they earn, spend, save, and invest as well as what financial headaches they face, what tricks they’ve learned along the way, and what, if anything, they have figured out. Will the answers we receive get the okay from financial advisors? Not always. Are they honest looks into families trying to provide for their kids? Absolutely. Here, Patrick, a 39-year-old married father who just moved into a house in Pittsburgh, discusses what a month of spending looks like in his world. 

I’m a lab tech. I make about $65K per year. Hold on, I can tell you exactly what that makes my bi-weekly take-home. Comes to $1,894.34. Now that we have a baby — he’s almost a year — my wife stays at home. Previously, she worked as an account rep for an advertising company.

We just moved into our first home out here. Moved in at the beginning of the month. Nice moment for us. It wasn’t that big of a decision, honestly, as when we looked at the numbers, the mortgage payments are equal to or lower to rent. We got a nice three-bedroom place. Our monthly mortgage is $435 per month.

Of course, because it’s a starter home, that comes with costs. The furnace needed replacing. That was a big one. Cost us $1200 to buy it and then $2500 to replace it. Why is installation more than twice the cost of the thing? I don’t know. And it’s so cliché that furnace needed to be replaced immediately. But we’d anticipated such things.


We just moved in, but our first month’s utility bill came to $180. Probably because the furnace was busted and the house was cold. Our phone/internet/cable bills come to $160.

Other stuff about the house? Well, in February, I spent $565 at Home Depot. That accounted for random fixtures, shelving, and equipment needed to get various jobs done in the new place. I fully expect to pay that or more for the next six months or so going forward. I also expect to spend most of my waking hours fixing the place up [laughs].

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We’re big Prime people. Diapers, baby food, cat food, formula, deodorant, cleaning supplies, and things like that. It all comes on a once-a-month schedule. My wife yells out “resupply!” when they show up, as though we’re soldiers on the frontline in an old war movie. We spent $200 this month on that stuff. Our grocery store budget came to $350 this month. We’re trying to cut that down and be better at using coupons. But I’m sure to bring my lunch every day, which is a big save.

As far as Pittsburgh itself? I don’t really find it an expensive place. Falls below national average in terms of rent and cost-of-living. Beer is a couple bucks; pack of smokes — I know, I know — is eight bucks. Not like I have either one of those things very often these days, but I find that to be a pretty immediate indicator of the city. Lots of spots for decent dinners. But I think it’s a good place to raise a family. Schools are solid; people are nice.

Public transportation here is pretty reliable. We have a car, and it’s paid off. It’s a Subaru wagon because of course it is. Kidding, It’s a safe car. Insurance runs about $75 per month but I pay it twice a year in lump payments. I spent a bunch on gas this month because I moved all our stuff with the wagon. I don’t have an exact figure but I must have spent more than 250 on gas.

My wife took Owen, our son, for a checkup this month. We have good insurance, but that cost us $95 out of pocket, too. Knock on wood, he’s a healthy kid. When you have a baby you want boring, boring is best. He’s been very routine.

As far as our savings is concerned, we were able to save quite a bit when we were dual income. We’re pragmatic people, so we knew we wanted to have a kid so we waited a few years and just saved, saved, saved as much as we could. My wife had a good job for a number of years so basically we put her paychecks directly into our savings account. I don’t want to go into what we saved, but it’s pretty cozy. It’s a nice runway.

We have some investments, college accounts, things like that. We also have a nice annuity in Owen’s name from a relative, which is incredible and takes the stress off the paused deposits into the non-annuity accounts recently because we have this housework. But I’m confident he’ll be okay financially when he’s older. Also, I plan on renting out the third bedroom in our house once renovations are done. AirBnB’s gonna be my best friend.

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