A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $30,000 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: an R&D food technician who makes $30,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on apple cider donuts and celebratory Champagne.
Occupation: R&D Food Technician
Industry: Food & Beverage
Age: 23
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: ~$30,000
Paycheck (2x/Month): ~$1,250 after taxes, on average. My paychecks vary depending on the amount of overtime I work.
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $595/month. I split rent with my boyfriend, and he covers the greater half.
Loan Payments: None. Thanks, Mom and Dad for college.
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All Other Monthly Expenses
Utilities & Internet: $150/month
Gym: $79.99/month
Movie Pass: $9.95/month
eTrade: $100/month
Metra Unlimited: $220/month
Netflix: $0. Mooching off my mom.
Spotify: $0. Mooching off my brother since he's still on the student rate.

Day One

5:20 a.m. — My first of two alarms wakes me up. I have a headache, so I get a glass of cucumber-strawberry infused water I made last night. I get ready for the day, brush my teeth, do my makeup, pack my bag, and eat the breakfast my boyfriend made me — fried eggs and avocado toast.
7:45 a.m. — I get to work after my long commute. I live downtown, but my job is in the suburbs so I have a 20-minute walk, 60-minute Metra ride, and a 10-minute shuttle ride. It's a long commute both ways, but worth it because I really love my job, and I don't want to give up living in the excitement of the city.
9:30 a.m. — My manager gives me a new project for the day. I need to focus on creating different juice recipes.
12 p.m. — I eat with coworkers for our daily catch-up lunch. Lunch at my office is pretty casual, and many people take the whole hour to talk and relax. I packed my own lunch and eat a caprese salad and strawberries.
3:30 p.m. — Finish my project, and my coworker IMs me that there is new food on the giveaway table. The giveaway table is where people put food samples or products they no longer need or want for experiments or taste tests. I get a bag of cookies that I've never seen before; they claim to be gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and organic. As someone who is not bound by any of those dietary restrictions, these cookies seem interesting...
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5:45 p.m. — Finally make it to the gym after work. I've already hit my step goal of 12,000, but I'm training for a 10K and I want to win my coworker Fitbit challenge. The gym is more crowded earlier in the week, but I manage to get a run in on the treadmill. I fill up my water bottle before I leave.
7 p.m. — Home and showered. Usually my boyfriend and I cook dinner together, but tonight his football team is playing, and it's Monday night. I decide to cook bulgogi bowls using a recipe from Jet Tila's new cookbook. We always make dinner following recipes intended for four people; that way, we can pack up the leftovers for the next day's lunch.
8:30 p.m. — Dinner was delicious! I'm always happy when my boyfriend likes Asian food, since it's all I can make well (as that's what I grew up with). I leave the dishes for him and finish taking notes for my class. The rest of my night is spent watching lectures online and studying. I try to get through all the notes but I can only take so much. So tired; bed by 10:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — Wake up and go through the routine again. Workday makeup consists of Urban Decay foundation, Benefit brows, and extreme contouring. Nice and simple, but most important, it takes about 10 minutes. It's raining, so my boyfriend offers to drive me to the train instead. Yes please! I get an extra 15 minutes and eat half of a giant Costco chocolate muffin.
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7:45 a.m. — At work and the first thing I do is check for caffeine. No one has made the coffee yet, so I start the pot and make a cup of green tea. It's so gloomy outside.
8:30 a.m. — Today, the shoe mobile is here! At work, we are required to wear steel-toed boots in the plant. Our office nicely pays for one new pair of shoes per calendar year, and luckily, my 14-month work anniversary and the shoe mobile arrival are at the same time. I get a pair of sneakers; they're so much lighter than the boots I had last year — but, ugh, why do women's shoes have to be pink? ($95, expensed)
12 p.m. — Lunch! I eat the leftover bulgogi from yesterday's dinner. My coworkers and I discuss the possible changes that may be made to Obamacare, but we start to feel too stressed. It's hard to avoid politics when the only television in the cafeteria shows CNN 24/7. We attempt to make lighter conversation and talk about Game of Thrones instead.
1 p.m. — Back to work and about to restart the juice project I was working on yesterday, but a coworker needs help. I give him a hand, and I am rewarded with the leftover juice he was taste testing! Sweetened beverages are taxed in Chicago, so it's always great to nab some free stuff from work to avoid the tax.
6 p.m. — Felt like a slow day at work. I read Cork Dork on the train and finally make it home. I planned to workout, but as soon as I get home, all my desire to do so vanishes. I relax on the couch and look at camping locations for our yearly Columbus Day weekend trip. I'm leaning towards a state park closer to the Wisconsin border, and reserve a spot for the long weekend to make sure we won't lose out. $20
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7:30 p.m. — Supposed to go to dinner with a friend, but she calls saying her work event ran long and she will be late. She works for the Bears, so she's constantly busy with events. It's hard to match up timing with her so I don't want to cancel. I reschedule our dinner reservation.
8:30 p.m. — Finally dinnertime! My boyfriend, friend, and I meet at tavern and inn down the street from our apartment. It's so quaint and rustic, and we find out that it's still an operating inn! The only way we can afford to eat here is the $5 burger and fries special. Since we save on food, we each get a glass of wine, too. It's a great combo; burger and Champagne. The three of us split the bill. $15
10 p.m. — Home with a food baby. Play with the cat a little and in bed by 10:30.
Daily Total: $35

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — Waking up is so hard, especially since the sun doesn't rise as early anymore. I drink more infused water and go about my routine. I quickly fry some eggs and sausage and feed the cat.
7:30 a.m. — Get into work a little earlier today since I drove. Traffic in Chicago sucks, but I still beat the train to work. Plus, I get some time to catch up on my favorite podcasts, Gastropod and The Sporkful. Drink a small cup of tea and get back to my juice project.
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12 p.m. — As my coworker and I head down to lunch, we pick up a box of a new, limited edition, flavored taste-test products from the giveaway table. It doesn't taste too bad, but I wonder if it will make the market. Lunch as usual with the coworkers. I eat a caprese salad and strawberries. We made the mistake of trying to eat outside, and it's weirdly warm for this time of the year — about 95-degrees F. We are all sweaty and leave lunch early.
1 p.m. — Calling it a day on my juice experiments. I switch to a different project and focus on taking chemistry readings for new beverage products. Each sample takes about six minutes, and there are 20 of them. Great.
4 p.m. — Done with work! I rush to get gas since it's cheaper in the suburbs, especially since the price increased after the hurricane. From there, I head to my dad's house; my graduate school classes are online and if I took the train, I'd miss the beginning of each lesson. Luckily, my dad lives close to my job so I can mooch off his Wi-Fi. I can do laundry, too; each load is $3 at my apartment. $20.67
4:45 p.m. — Sneak in a quick run before class and reach my step goal!
7 p.m. — Class let out early because no one had any questions. I'm working toward a master's degree in food science and human nutrition, and this class is on food process engineering. I like learning again after having taken a break, but it's not the easiest thing to balance work and school. I try to be productive since class finished early; I schedule a haircut, fold my laundry, shower, and start my homework. I start watching The Great British Baking Show while waiting for my dad to get home.
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7:45 p.m. — My dad gets home and brings the best warm weather dinner! We cook Japanese cha soba, or cold noodles. I love getting to eat with my parents because they feed me all the delicious, traditional Japanese food my boyfriend doesn't like to eat. (A sad side effect of being in an interracial couple.) With dinner over, I hit the road full of food and clean clothes. Traffic is almost nonexistent late at night, so I blast Imagine Dragons and go to bed when I get home.
Daily Total: $20.67

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Same wakeup and morning routine: eggs for breakfast with strawberry water. Listen to the 99% Invisible podcast as I walk to the train.
7:45 a.m. — It's the hottest day — 96F — and I have to work in our plant. This translates to wearing steel-toed shoes, hair nets, and working in 90F and high humidity. Here's to hoping I finish my project so I can get out of here.
12 p.m. — I've never been so grateful for cold water and air conditioning. I eat lunch (delicious Annie's White Cheddar Mac and Cheese and strawberries that I brought from home) with the usual suspects. One of my friends just got back from an offsite trial and brought tacos and granola for everyone! I love the food industry.
1 p.m. — LIFE CHANGED! I hear back from a company I interviewed with almost three months ago. They offer me a full-time food scientist position! This is a huge step up from my contracting position, but I start thinking about how I love the job I'm already in. Oh well — is it appropriate to happy dance in the office?
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6 p.m. — I get home in the mood to celebrate, but my boyfriend is going out to dinner with his friend. So, I cook dinner for myself and a friend. On my walk home from the train, I pick up a fresh baguette and a celebratory bottle of Champagne from Whole Foods. Quickly squeeze in a yoga class; sometimes I free flow, but I'm so excited that I watch one of Morgan Tyler's YouTube videos to keep my mind focused. $21.83
7:30 p.m. — My friend comes over and surprises me with another bottle of Champagne! Champagne (or sparkling wine) is my favorite; I even did my undergrad senior thesis on the chemistry of it. Together, my friend and I cook shakshuka and make a salad. We spend the rest of the night eating and catching up. It's nice to have some girl time with friends at home, something that can be difficult since I live with my boyfriend, and she has roommates.
10:30 p.m. — A little wine tipsy, but we manage to do the dishes before my friend heads home. I'm so excited that it's hard to fall asleep.
Daily Total: $21.83

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — The excitement from yesterday's news has me up without hitting snooze. I get ready as usual and eat some leftover shakshuka for breakfast. My cat also decided to steal the baguette from yesterday, so I spend time running around the apartment with my boyfriend chasing the kitty. The kitty is surprisingly protective of the baguette, so we decide to let him keep the bread because we don't want to wrestle him for it.
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7:45 a.m. — Work is always quiet on Friday mornings. I take this time to put the coffee on for everyone else, and when it's done I make an iced coffee. It's not the best, but it beats having to leave work and pay for Starbucks. It's still quiet, so I check my emails and read theSkimm.
8:30 a.m. — My manager says we don't have enough information from my juice experiments. Back at it again! Hopefully this works because I want this to be completed before the weekend.
12 p.m. — Lunch with the gang again. I bring the last of the shakshuka but it doesn't fill me up, so I make a salad at our cafeteria's salad bar. My coworkers and I share weekend plans, and I invite them to go wine tasting with me and a few friends tonight. $3.11
3 p.m. — Finally finish my juice project — but I can't leave early because I told my coworkers I'd wait for them so we can all take the train together. I keep myself busy reading BBC and checking emails.
6:35 p.m. — The train finally gets into the station. There were signal failures, and we end up nearly an hour late. We speed-walk to meet my boyfriend and our friends for a five-after-5 wine tasting. Since I brought my wine glass from the last time, I save $1 on the tasting! $6.53
7:30 p.m. — Wine tasting is fun and delicious, and it's even better with coworkers since we are all in food science. We're the nerds arguing over processing techniques and which chemical components complement which ingredients best.
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9 p.m. — Somehow, I end up hanging out with my coworkers, even though I was supposed to go to Oktoberfest with my boyfriend and our friends. One of the gang suggests we try a tequila cocktail he invented, so he buys all the ingredients and tequila and we are all back at my apartment. Shots!
10:30 p.m. — I get tricked into an Uber that takes us to Fulton Market. I wanted to get a cheap burger and fries, but my coworker knows the chef and insists that we can get a free meal. Instead of trying Michelin-starred food, the night starts to go horribly wrong. I notice some people have left, two people get sick, and I end up taking care of them.
12 a.m. — My friend and I finally get everyone into Ubers and are satisfied that people will get home safely. She has plans with other friends and heads out, but I realize that I haven't eaten anything since lunch; with a stomach full of drinks, I just need food. I grab a Lyft back to my apartment. $5.37
1 a.m. — I'm starving, but arrive home to a wreck. I must look as frazzled as I feel, because my boyfriend and our friend who came over sit me down and make ramen. They're a little tipsy from Oktoberfest, but they know I've had a night so they let me relax and watch How I Met Your Mother. I don't even know when I fall asleep.
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Daily Total: $15.01

Day Six

8 a.m. — Why can't I ever sleep in after drinking? I feel pretty hungover but my boyfriend and I have plans with friends. I shower, get ready, and start cleaning up yesterday's mess.
10 a.m. — Yes! Our plans get pushed back to 10:30. I run to Dunkin' Donuts to grab a breakfast sandwich. I need something greasy for this headache. After last night, I feel super grateful for my boyfriend, so I grab him one too. Then I run across the street to use my free Starbucks reward to get an iced chai. $7.78
12:30 p.m. — We're going on a trip out of the city to go apple picking! It's one of my favorite fall activities, and even though it's hot outside, we decide that we need to go. We spend the day picking apples; I grab mostly Honeycrisp. For a snack, we buy apple cider donuts and cider slushies. After finally cooling down, we all head to the corn maze and try not to get lost. $32
4 p.m. — Headed home but we pass by an Oberweis and can't pass it without stopping; it's about 95 after all! I grab an ice cream topped with Oreos, and we all work on pictures we want to post on Instagram. $4.28
6 p.m. — Back at home and my body is exhausted! I don't know how, but my boyfriend decides to go to the gym. My friend and I catch up and play How I Met Your Mother in the background. As soon as my boyfriend gets back, we go to Chipotle for much-needed salty food. I get a burrito bowl and chips and guac to share. The three of us settle in for a movie night — Zootopia it is! $12.06
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10 p.m. — Zootopia ends, and we're all asleep on the couch. Who knew that apple picking was so tiring? My friend calls an Uber home, and we head to bed.
Daily Total: $56.12

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I seriously can't sleep in anymore since I have to wake up so early for work. I give up trying to snooze and get up to play with the kitty. He's a bit mad at me for bringing over so many people on Friday night, so I ply him with treats and toys, making sure he doesn't feel neglected.
10 a.m. — My boyfriend is up and showered; we make our meal plan for the week and head to the supermarket. We like to plan our meals ahead of time so we don't waste food, and don't end up running around last minute looking for specific ingredients. At Mariano's, we buy red peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, salmon, mozzarella, gouda, bread, eggs, and milk. I'm always surprised by the total of groceries ($51.57), but we put it on our joint card that we split the bill for. $25.79
12 p.m. — Make it back in time for football kickoff! We fall into our usual routine: my boyfriend watches football, and since I know he can't multitask, I make us a lunch of caprese sausage and avocado toast topped with fried eggs. After, I tidy up the apartment and start on my homework for class next week.
3:30 p.m. — Game's over. Lions lose, but the Bears win — so at least one of us is happy! We head to REI to look at tents for our camping trip. We also want to look at backpacks for a future backpacking trip, but we decide to take baby steps. The one we like the most is more expensive than we budgeted for, so we decided to wait and do more research before purchasing anything.
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6:30 p.m. — I make dinner while my boyfriend watches more football. We eat a zucchini noodle pesto with some mozzarella and tomatoes. I toast ciabatta bread and feed the kitty. I finally convince my boyfriend that he has watched enough football for the day, and we eat while watching an episode of Black Mirror. We pack the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch and then finish the night by making mug cookies.
Daily Total: $25.79
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produced by Brianna Donnelly; edited by Sam Russell.
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