A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $38,000 Salary

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: a receptionist who makes $38,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on tickets to see It.
Occupation: Receptionist
Industry: Retail Customer Service
Age: 27
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $38,000. During the summer, I also work as a hostess for one to three shifts per week at a restaurant. I make about $150 - $250 every two weeks, plus anywhere from $15 - $30 in cash tips, per shift.
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,075
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Monthly Expenses
Housing: My share of the rent is $465/month. I live in a small, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with a roommate. Luckily, her family owns the property, and since I am basically family, I am grateful to be paying a bit under market value.
Student Loans: $398
All Other Monthly Expenses
Transportation: $28/week for unlimited rides on the CTA. (This comes out to $112 a month.)
Utilities: About $80 a month for my share of gas, heat, electric, and internet.
Cell Phone: $77 for my share of an unlimited plan, and paying off my iPhone.
Credit Cards: $100/month across two cards. I always pay more when I can.
Savings: $70. This isn't much, but I figure it is better than nothing.
Health Insurance: Taken out from my paycheck.
401(k): I contribute 4.5% from each paycheck, and it is matched by my company.
Netflix: $13. (I pay Chicago entertainment tax; don't ask.)
Amazon Prime: $10
Spotify Premium: $11 (Also includes Chicago entertainment tax.)
ACLU Donation: $10

Day One

8 a.m. — Paycheck from my part-time job hits my account! $207. In the summers, I do seasonal work as a hostess at a busy patio restaurant. The extra money is nice for summer travels and activities! Since my roommate is out of town, I am watching her dog and my younger sister's dog — both are like children to me. Time to take them on a walk. I return home, feed both dogs, my roommate's two cats, and then myself. I make a poached egg and spread peanut butter on a rice cake.
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8:45 a.m. — Shower and get dressed for work. In an effort to start saving more for a trip to Asia next year, I transfer $25 over to my savings account. $25
9:20 a.m. — My older sister asked me to see Ibeyi with her in November. I purchase tickets, which end up being just under $20 after taxes and fees. $20
9:40 a.m. — Walk the four blocks to my train stop and head to work. I pay for the ride with my unlimited week pass. On the train, I do some online shopping and stock up skincare for the fall: $63 to Glossier (includes $5 off for referring a friend) and $28 to Deciem. This is definitely a splurge, but I hope it will hold me over for a bit. $91
10:30 a.m. — Settle in at work and check my emails. I see that a few sweaters I have had my eye on are back in stock, and buy one in three different colors. (I get 25% off thanks to my employee discount. I work at a corporate customer service office for a major retailer.) I make a vow that this is all the fall/winter shopping I will do. $37
12 p.m. — Even though I had a decent breakfast, hunger strikes. I go to the CVS in my building and grab crackers and cheese for myself and the other receptionists. We always treat each other to snacks. $8
12:15 p.m. — Back at my desk with a free cup of office tea. Time to get to work on few looming projects. The afternoon rush helps work fly by.
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2:30 p.m. — Time for my lunch! My snack from earlier really held me over. I make a kale salad (Aldi pre-bagged salads, for the win) and spread an avocado on a rice cake. I keep lunch supplies in our mini-receptionist fridge and replenish them every two or three days from home to eat better and spend less money on food.
7 p.m. — Out the door and on the way to the train. Back at home, I take the very excited dogs out to meet a coworker-friend. He's nice enough to bring me a quesadilla from Taco Bell since I mentioned I haven't eaten dinner yet. I QuickPay him $4. We take the dogs on a long walk around the neighborhood. $4
8:45 p.m. — Back to my condo. It's dinnertime for all the pets, and beer time for me and my coworker-friend. Luckily, another friend brought over a bunch of beer earlier in this week, and I still have lots left over. Coworker and I get to talking about upcoming concerts. We both end up buying tickets to see Noname at the end of November. I also buy a ticket for my roommate, who will pay me back later. $44
10 p.m. — Coworker-friend heads out. I start my night time skincare routine and throw some food together for tomorrow's lunch.
Daily Total: $229

Day Two

6 a.m. — My roommate gets home from her trip. Bless her soul for managing a red-eye flight after a few days in Las Vegas! I take out the dogs to give her break after her travels; when I come back from our walk, I see she has gone to bed but left food out for all the pets.
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6:30 a.m. — Once I am ready for work, I make two rice cakes (I love rice cakes!) with peanut butter and honey. I take my daily roundup of medications and vitamins and chug a glass of water.
7:20 a.m. — Hop on the train. Time to zone out listening to my new favorite podcast My Favorite Murder during my commute. I get to work a few minutes before 8 a.m.
8:45 a.m. — Finish opening the office and settle into my desk with a large glass of water (I try to drink at least eight each day) and a cup of office tea. Time to tackle my to-do list.
9:45 a.m. — Another cup of tea. I am Pakistani, so chai pretty much runs through my veins.
10:30 a.m. — Hunger strikes: I shove a handful of crackers and cheese into my face from yesterday's snack run.
11:30 a.m. — I break for lunch with the same friend from last night; he is also stuck at the office this weekend. Lunch includes another kale salad, carrots, a cheese wedge, and hummus on a rice cake. Coworker and I discuss our weekend plans. I was able to get my shift covered at my restaurant job, so I'll be able to attend a friend's housewarming party; both dogs are also invited.
1:30 p.m. — Friend drags me away from my desk to take a walk. During our break, my roommate texts me the damage for the month's utilities. I QuickPay her my half right away.
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4:30 p.m. — Close the office and run out the door to the train. During the ride, I get an email that my auto-payment for Netflix has gone through.
5:15 p.m. — Home! My roommate and I take out all the trash that has piled on the back porch, and then walk the dogs and feed all the pets.
5:45 p.m. — I don't have the energy to cook anything real so I make instant brown rice in the microwave and throw in some spices and feta cheese. I unwind with a beer from the fridge and the new season of BoJack Horseman until it is time to head to the party.
8 p.m. — Walk to the party with the dogs and a bottle of wine from my stash to contribute to the booze selection.
12:30 a.m. — I had a great time! There were several dogs in attendance, so my goal of socializing the pets was achieved. Time for my nightly skincare routine and bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — I oversleep big time! Luckily, my roommate already promised to take care of the dogs this morning. I take a very quick shower and run out the door. No time for breakfast today.
7:25 a.m. — Hop on the train and get an email notification that my Spotify payment has gone through. $11
9:15 a.m. — Finally settle into my desk after opening the office. Cup of office tea, a large glass of water, and whatever is left of the crackers for breakfast.
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9:45 a.m. — My old boss emails me about attending a free barre class in a couple weeks, and I RSVP. I have never taken a barre class, so this is guaranteed to be entertaining.
11:50 a.m. — I take a break with a coworker and walk with her to 7-Eleven. I purposely leave my wallet behind to avoid the temptation to buy snacks.
1:05 p.m. — I break for lunch with my coworker. I am HUNGRY. I eat food from home: a Caesar salad, a rice cake with Swiss cheese, and carrots dipped in hummus. My coworker shares her chips and salsa with me, as well as a slice of amazing pumpkin bread.
4:30 p.m. — Out the door and on the train to meet my roommate at her job.
5:30 p.m. — My roommate and I walk home. I've been craving a cheeseburger and cheese fries for days and finally cave at a hole-in-the-wall spot by our condo that is cash only. I tip $1. $8
6:30 p.m. — Take my sister's dog on walk.
8 p.m. — Take a "nap," which surprise, turns into me falling asleep for the night.
Daily Total: $8

Day Four

5:30 a.m. — Walk my sister's dog, feed my sister's dog, and then my sister's dog and I go back to sleep. I have the day off today, and I am exhausted.
10 a.m. — Wake up for the day. My period is due any day now and PMS wipes me out. I ask my roommate if she wants an omelet for breakfast. I go to the kitchen to start cooking.
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11 a.m. — Since my roommate and I are both home, we decide to deep clean the apartment. We start by making some of our own natural cleaning supplies; it's better for the pets and saves us money! After, I give my sister's dog a much-needed bath.
2:15 p.m. — It's time for a break. Make another instant-rice concoction and watch more BoJack Horseman.
6:15 p.m. — My old boss-turned-friend picks me up for a Zumba class. This is my first time going! Our friend leads the class, which is at a small, inexpensive studio near my neighborhood. $5
9:30 p.m. — The class was great! After, I meet a friend who's in town for $1 beers at our favorite spot. A shot and two beers later, I leave with a $4 tab, I tip $3. $7
11:30 p.m. — Home. Walk dogs. Eat garlic bread.
11:55 p.m. — A FWB I ran into at the bar texts and asks me to come over. I decide to skip sleep and head over in an Uber for some fun. $8
Daily Total: $20

Day Five

6 a.m. — Being awake is actually painful. The bus isn't due to arrive for 12 minutes but I need to go now and get ready for work. I decide to call an Uber home from FWB's apartment. $7
7:20 a.m. — Half awake and on the train to work.
9:15 a.m. — It has been an extremely hectic morning at my office, and to top it off, I get my period. I am starving and decide to treat myself to a sausage, egg, and cheddar sandwich from the Potbelly in my building. $4
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10 a.m. — I buy five candy grams for my coworkers. The proceeds are being donated to natural disaster relief. $5
12:45 p.m. — I spent the last couple of hours steaming a rack of mannequin clothes. I have the most random tasks at work sometimes. I break for lunch and eat another Caesar salad with half an avocado from home.
2 p.m. — The lack of sleep is catching up to me. Drink my third cup of office tea.
3:30 p.m. — Hungry again. Grab half a cup of pistachios and some gummy bears from our snack drawer.
4:45 p.m. — Head home, and grab a cheeseburger combo to-go from the hole-in-the-wall spot. I take it home, and walk and feed the pets before stuffing my face. $8
8 p.m. — After a wildly unsuccessful attempt at a nap, I decide to make a cup of tea while unloading my dishwasher and folding laundry. We have quite the tea selection in my apartment; my roommate is half Indian, so her love for tea is just as great as my own. I make sure to pick one with a lot of caffeine.
9:45 p.m. — Walk to meet my best guy friend at a local movie theater. We are seeing It. Tickets are really affordable here, and I pay for his ticket since I owe him. $17
12:30 a.m. — My friend drives me home after the movie. My roommate took care of the dogs, so I head straight to bed, skipping my skincare routine.
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Daily Total: $41

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — Caught up on some much-needed sleep. Thankfully, my roommate is taking care of the dogs.
8:20 a.m. — Head to work on the train, where I start the day running with my coworker for the office, a.k.a. getting paid to shop. Since we are right by Magnolia Bakery, we get banana bread pudding. I order a medium, eat half on the go, and save half for later. YUM. $7
12 p.m. — Busy morning! I haven't even checked my email yet. Grab some tea, a cup of pistachios, and log into my computer.
2:30 p.m. — Time for a late lunch. My work wife and I head to Panda Express, my weakness. I pretty much toss all healthy eating out the door when I am on my period. My salad can wait 'til tomorrow. $7
4 p.m. — Four separate people have come up to my desk to have in-depth discussions with me about Fenty Beauty. I place an order on Sephora, and justify this second beauty splurge with the fact that I am making $200 dog sitting. It's like I haven't spent any money. Right? $74
7 p.m. — Work wife drives us to another coworker's house in Pilsen. We do a T25 cardio routine together.
9 p.m. — Girls night continues with tacos and margaritas. At a restaurant, we split the check three ways. My share is $26, plus tip. $32
11 p.m. — Work wife gives me a ride home. My roommate already walked the pups, so I do my skincare routine and head to bed.
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Daily Total: $120

Day Seven

6:45 a.m. — Wake up — no time for breakfast since I overslept. Roommate is on dog duty. On the train by 7:25.
8:30 a.m. — Water, tea, and the rest of my banana bread pudding from yesterday. Breakfast of champions!
9 a.m. — A manager offers me a piece of delicious looking baklava. "Never turn down free food or a free shot" has always been my life motto.
11 a.m. — More tea and a handful of pistachios.
12:40 p.m. — I realize that I forgot to take my medication this morning, and I do not feel good about it. My roommate offers to take the train downtown and drop it off at my office. As a thank you, I give her $10 so she can grab lunch. $10
1:30 p.m. — Still not feeling great, or very hungry, but I force myself to eat a Caesar salad.
3 p.m. — My anxiety is through the roof. Work wife offers me the pita bread that came with her shawarma. I eat it with hummus I keep in our fridge. I find a Sprite in the fridge, too, and drink a few sips for the carbonation, wishing it was a Topo Chico.
4 p.m. — To calm my nerves, I talk a walk with my coworker-friend around the building. Then head back to my desk to wrap up things for the day.
4:40 p.m. — On the train. My weekly pass is going to expire later tonight, but I put off reloading for the morning.
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5:15 p.m. — Meet my roommate at our restaurant job. (Yup, we're also coworkers!) We drink one cocktail each, which is only $4 with my discount. I tip $2. $6
6 p.m. — Head with a group to a friend's band. My roommate's new dude pays for the Uber.
6:30 p.m. — Arrive at the show. The tickets were free, as are the beers, and we get VIP passes! We watch our friend play and stick around for the headliner. I spend $5 tipping the bartenders. $5
11 p.m. — The night was fun and comes to an end. I get upset about some personal problems and ride home in a Lyft with my BFF and her boyfriend to their apartment, where I cry about all the things that are bothering me. Nothing like a drunk therapy session with your friends.
11:45 p.m. — I start to feel better, so I call myself an Uber home since I am on dog duty. I walk the pups and crawl into bed. $7
Daily Total: $28
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