A Week In Chicago On An $80,000 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Edy's.
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.
This week: a management consulting associate who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of it on Edy's Slow Churned Ice Cream.
Occupation: Associate
Industry: Management Consulting
Age: 25
Location: Chicago
Salary: $80,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,249.69 (after insurance and other deductions)
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $633.33 for my share of the rent. I share a three-bedroom apartment with two other girls in Little Italy, which is a STEAL! I will soon be moving to a bigger house where my share will be $850.
Loan Payments: $0. I completed my undergrad in India, where education is definitely not something you have to take out a loan for, and my grad school expenses were covered by my parents. My dad promised to pay for my education as long as I got into a highly-ranked university.
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Netflix: $11.99
Internet & Utilities: $96.94 for my share
Gym Membership: $32.95
Sephora Play!: $10.73
Cell Phone: $0. My firm pays.
Benefits: $122 for health insurance, dental and vision (comes out of my paycheck)
Renter's Insurance: $5
401(k): I haven't enrolled in a 401(k) yet because I'm not sure if I want to settle in the USA or not, and my work visa wasn't approved until after the benefits enrollment date last year passed. I'll enroll this year.
1 of 8
7 a.m. — Wake up and have masala chai (spiced tea with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and pepper) and biscuits for breakfast. Pack boyfriend's (henceforth referred to as A) lunch since he stayed over last night. I'm working from home today and have some downtime before my first call at 8:30, so I read Notorious RBG and catch up on the NPR Politics podcast.

10 a.m. — Finish call, go over feedback, do some G&A work (emails, scheduling meetings) and grab a banana to tide over unhealthy snack cravings.

11 a.m. — Unable to wait until midday, I eat an early lunch of quinoa with dried veggies I bought earlier this week from TJ Maxx (their food section is a hidden delight!) and chicken kadai I made last night.

2:30 p.m. — While taking a break from work, I read an article on R29 about how a beauty editor from Australia changed her beauty routine after moving to NYC. I'm in the market for a new tinted moisturizer, so I order a bareMinerals complexion rescue tinted hydrating gel from Amazon. It's ~ $22, but I pay with points accumulated on my credit card.

4:30 p.m. — I've suddenly come down with a massive cold. (Thank you, Chicago weather.) I get home and make a big cup of masala chai with extra ginger and pepper, but it's not helping. I take an Alka-Seltzer and get back to work.

5:30 p.m. — I head to my gym for a Zumba class, hoping that a little cardio might help the sniffles. I walk there and listen to Dan Ariely's audiobook, Predictably Irrational, on the way.

7 p.m. — Zumba did help! I stop at Whole Foods next door to pick up a protein shake, tangelos, red and yellow onions, and tomatoes since I'm running a little low on grocery staples ($13.84). A and I cook together and split the cost of groceries, so I pay and I'll charge him his half later. The weather's turned and I'm exhausted, so I take a Lyft line back home ($3.03). $16.87

8 p.m. — I work on developing recommendations for a client. I volunteer with a nonprofit as a pro-bono consultant and my clients are entrepreneurs in post-conflict nations. I eat a tangelo, fervently hoping for a vitamin C boost.

10:30 p.m. — I take a long, hot shower to ease my period cramps, and then continue working on my pro-bono work. I'm really sleepy but I hate having to deal with dishes in the morning, so I set the dishwasher, get into bed, and read Notorious RBG until I fall asleep around 12. All of these books are from the Chicago Public Library, and I'll buy the ones I like the most at the end of the year.

Daily Total: $16.87
2 of 8
7:30 a.m. — I wake up a little late today and my sore throat is killing me. I make my cup of masala chai with extra, extra ginger and eat a breakfast of biscuits and a banana. (I just realized that "biscuit" is an Indian-English term, and that I'm actually eating "cookies.") I catch up with a colleague/friend over text and make progress on Notorious RBG. Today's going to have to be a work from home day, too.

10:30 a.m. — I've had back-to-back meetings and I'm H U N G R Y. I make scrambled eggs quickly and eat them with a sweet potato hash I made as part of my meal prep on Sunday.

12:30 p.m. — My period cravings cannot be subdued with fruits anymore, so I walk to the nearest CVS to buy Edy's Slow Churned Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, which was recommended by Eat This, Not That! for being comparatively healthier. While I'm there, I also pick up a protein shake and a pack of scrunchies for thick hair. $16.52

1 p.m. — I have a call with the program manager at the nonprofit where I do pro bono consulting. She really likes the recommendations that I put forward, and she wants me to continue working with the entrepreneurs to implement these suggestions!

3 p.m. — My friend comes over because she's working from home as well, and we chat a little and eat ice cream.

7:30 p.m. — I start on one of the recipes from my Blue Apron box that I received yesterday. (I used the first timer discount of $30) I start prepping for the Ditali Pasta with yellow tomato sauce, and a salad of blood orange and roasted fennel. A comes over after work, and he takes over the cooking from me while I do a Nike Training Club workout at home.

9 p.m. — Dinner's ready and I'm pleasantly sore all over. I gulp down the protein shake I bought earlier today, and I eat a little bit of pasta while we watch "The Office." I have some work pending, so I get back to work.

Daily Total: $16.52
3 of 8
8 a.m. — I wake up a little late today since I'm still feeling wonky, and because I was up late last night. I jump right into my first call of the day, and while listening in, I make a cup of pre-made masala chai and warm up leftovers from last night for breakfast. Most people like brinner — breakfast for dinner — but I love dinner for breakfast (dinkfast?).

9:30 a.m. — I had planned on surprise-visiting my best friend in Cleveland because it's her birthday on Sunday, but when I open up my email to look at my tickets, I can't find them! I check my transactions and Amtrak doesn't show up either. Damn it. I buy tickets again, making sure to complete the transaction this time. Thankfully, ticket prices have risen only by $15 in the interim. $145

11 a.m. — My morning meetings get extended and I have a meeting at the office with a manager on a different team where I'm trying to get projects. I don't want to be late, so I take an Uber instead of the bus; the $6.41 is expensed.

12 p.m. — The meeting went pretty well, and I've staked out a couple of opportunities that I can mention in my follow up email. I go to my floor and I pick up half a donut from the communal stash we have for Donut/Bagel Fridays. I also print out my Amtrak tickets and realize that I've accidentally booked a return journey for Sunday instead of Monday. What is wrong with me? I modify my trip and get a $15 voucher for the difference!

2 p.m. — I meet my coach because she's at the office as well, and she gets coffee from the pantry. (I get a cup of water because coffee tends to get me jittery.) We talk for about half an hour about what I've been working on, how our HR's incompetence can be frustrating, and her upcoming move to Switzerland. Almost no work gets done on Fridays because I use that day to catch up with colleagues.

3 p.m. — I have a call with my partner to discuss my progress at the firm and if I'm on track to be promoted this year. He has been really invested in my career, and I come away from the conversation armed with new insights and satisfied with what I've heard. I pick up another piece of donut to celebrate.

4:30 p.m. — I finish up one final project call for the week and then take the bus home, where I take the trash out, load up the dishwasher and clean my room. Then I go to the salon to get my eyebrows and underarms waxed. With tip, it's $27. $27

6 p.m. — I do a 40-minute Zumba workout at home, courtesy an instructor's awesome YouTube channel.

7:30 p.m. — A gets home and I give him all of my leftovers from the week so that they don't go to waste and he doesn't have to cook over the weekend. I pack my bag for Cleveland, take a shower, and we head to a nearby Italian place for dinner.

8:30 p.m. — Dinner is amazing: smashed garlic smothered with pecorino cheese and olive oil, ALL of the free bread, and a shrimp pasta in marinara sauce. The bill comes to $30 with tip and A treats. We both enjoy free food, so we treat each other to dinner once a week, instead of splitting the bill. I take a Lyft to Union Station to catch my Amtrak and drop A home on the way. $7

10:30 p.m. — I forgot to bring my water bottle, so I buy a bottle from the pantry and then settle down to read, drifting in and out of sleep intermittently on the train. $2.50

Daily Total: $181.50
4 of 8
6:30 a.m. — I have trouble sleeping on the train because I'm constantly anxious that I'll miss my stop, even though the conductor told us that she'll wake everyone up. The train pulls into Cleveland at 6:20, almost an hour behind schedule. There is no Lyft Line here, so I order a Lyft to my friend's place in the suburbs. $22.72

7 a.m. — I reach my friend's house, and one of my other friends, who is temporarily living with her, buzzes me in. I go to her bedroom and yell out her name and she wakes up, sees me and starts screaming. Mischief managed!

9:30 a.m. — We chat for a couple of hours, regressing to our school selves and showing each other an obscene number of memes. I help her fold two weeks' worth of laundry, make myself a mocha from her Keurig, and heat up some frozen parathas for our breakfast.

6 p.m. — Her inner clean-freak is aroused and she announces that she's going to deep clean her apartment. She kindly refuses my offer to help out, so I head to the apartment gym, where I work out on the elliptical for a bit, and then do a no-equipment, mobility workout from the NTC app.

8 p.m. — We order dinner from an Indian restaurant: shahi paneer, navratan korma, paneer tikka and naan. The food is lukewarm, cold, and orange staining mediocrity. But I've skipped lunch, so I gobble it down anyway, making a mental note to leave a review on Yelp. My friend pays.

9:30 p.m. — We go to Target to pick up party supplies for her birthday celebration later on tonight. My friend picks up paper plates, red solo cups, Moscato, chips, and salsa. I buy her a bottle of Riesling, a singing birthday card, air horns (just to be annoying!), and a string of lights that spells "Happy Birthday". We also go to Giant Eagle, where my friend picks up helium balloons for us to inhale later. $25.36

11:30 p.m. — We decorate her house, get the food and drinks out, and her friends stop by. We play Red Flags, drinks ALL of the wine and some mango flavored rum one of the guests brought, eat all of the birthday cake, take lots of drunk selfies, and take turns inhaling helium and singing Spice Girls songs. A+ birthday party!

Daily Total: $48.08
5 of 8
10:30 a.m. — I wake up reaaaaaaally late, and laze in bed for a while, catching up on The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I have two reading goals for this year: to complete the PopSugar reading challenge, and to read as many books by WOC as possible.

12 p.m. — Birthday Girl is heading out to the temple for her annual birthday visit, and my other friend is studying, so I make dosas and okra sambar for lunch for the three of us. It's always a little disconcerting to cook in someone else's kitchen, but everything turns out delicious!

2:30 p.m. — I coordinate with a friend/colleague to buy a 10-class pack to a fitness studio in the South Loop for 10 high-intensity classes, including Triple 20, bootcamp, combo, strength training, and yoga. I haven't seen her in a while and we both used ClassPass until it ceased to be a good value for money. This will be a good chance to catch up! $35

6:30 p.m. — We get ready to head out for my friend's birthday celebration at a bar in downtown Cleveland. I call a Lyft for the three of us. $14.59

7:30 p.m. — We reach Punch Bowl Social; it's a very spacious bar with a private karaoke room, arcade games and a photo booth. My friend's colleagues buy us all a couple of rounds and snacks, and she treats us to a great three hours of karaoke. I'm trying to limit my alcohol and sugar consumption and I remember the copious amounts of wine I imbibed last night, and stick to a single rum punch. The alcohol here is so cheap! With tip, the total comes to $10. $10

11:30 p.m. — We take an Uber back to my friend's home in the suburbs. My friend and her friend split the trip. My friends crash immediately, but I stay up because my train back to Chicago is at 2:45 am. I take an Uber to the Amtrak station. $17.43

Daily Total: $77.02
6 of 8
7:30 a.m. — I wake up after a fitful three hours of sleep and find out that they train will reach Chicago an hour behind schedule. I go to the pantry to get a cup of hot water for the packet of instant coffee I have. There is no Wi-Fi on this train, so I do some work offline, take my first call of the day, and eat a packet of oat cookies I have in my bag.

9:30 a.m. — We reach Union Station and I'm tempted to take a Lyft home, but the bus will only take a minute more, so I choose public transport. I pay with my Ventra card that I loaded up a week ago. I get home and start working again.

10:30 a.m. — I take a break to make some idlis from a pre-made mix that my mom brought the last time she visited. I eat them with tomato and coriander chutneys from my fridge.

1 p.m. — I was going to visit a friend In Pittsburgh next weekend, but she's in grad school and has been having trouble finding a job. I'm apprehensive about visiting her when she's in the midst of a stressful job search, so we discuss it and decide that I'll visit once she has a job locked down. I cancel my Amtrak tickets and get a voucher for $128. Gotta love Amtrak for its flexibility!

5 p.m. — I wrap up work and head out to check out one of the apartments I could potentially move to once my lease expires in May. It's only a mile away, so I walk, and I listen to a podcast called In the Dark. A is meeting me at the house.

6:30 p.m. — We check out the apartment and chat with the landlady who lives above the place. It's a landmark house even closer to downtown than where I currently live, and it's spacious with lots of natural light. The only catch is that the apartment is in a basement! I promise to get back to her, and make a mental note to start searching for a roommate. A and I head to the Target nearby to pick up some supplies.

7:30 p.m. — We bump into one of our friends at Target, and she goofs around in the dollar section where I ultimately end up picking a cute $1 weekly planner; A picks up aviators for $3. We have a ritual of buying each other sh*t we don't need from Target every time we go. In addition to that, I also pick up toilet paper for our apartment (which will be split with my roommates), almond butter, cereal, bananas, a pack of Muscle Milk, eggs, pot-sized spaghetti, crushed tomatoes, and a gallon of milk. Everything but the cereal, almond butter and Muscle Milk will be split with A later. The three of us split a Lyft back home, because we live within walking distance of each other. $19.97

9:30 p.m. — It's my turn to cook today, and I make the Laotian Vegetable Laab that I got in my Blue Apron trial last week. BA recipes are too elaborate for my taste, and seem to be aimed at someone with a much lower tolerance for spice and desire for flavor. I have to season it with plenty of pepper and paprika. Meanwhile, A is on a call with his college friends planning a trip to NYC. They ask if I can join as well, and since my Pittsburgh trip fell through, I decide to go. (I try to make at least one trip to another city once a month.) It's $120 for the round trip, but A buys our tickets as a second anniversary present. (I bought him a secondhand bike earlier this month.)

11 p.m. — We eat dinner while watching The Office on Netflix, and I fall asleep reading.

Daily Total: $19.97
7 of 8
6:45 a.m. — I wake up and get ready for my first call at 7 a.m. We work with a team in India, so twice a week we have calls super early so that they don't have to work too late. After the call, I order Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book Dear Ijeawele, which comes out today on Amazon. It's $10.66 for the hardback, but I pay with points accumulated from my credit card.

11 a.m. — I finish my calls for the morning and eat the remaining Laotian Laab from yesterday as an early lunch.

1 p.m. — I find out that a Yelp Elite event I was previously waitlisted for has a spot open now, so I quickly respond saying that I can make it. The event has free drinks and snacks at a bar uptown, followed by a free Blue Man Group show. I'm relatively new to Chicago and I've been wanting to see the BMG in action for a while.

6:30 p.m. — I take an Uber Pool to the bar where the Yelp Elite event is happening. We're going to snacks and drinks before walking over to the theatre for the Blue Man show. $3.63

7:30 p.m. — The bar is so lively and fun! I have three of the signature drinks for the event ("Blue Man-tini") and nibble on way too much pita and dip. I'm pleasantly tipsy and have a great time making friends with the other buzzed girls at my table. I love Yelp events because I get to meet a great group of people, eat free food, and check out fun things that I otherwise would've been too lazy to do by myself. I write a couple of detailed reviews a week to remain in good standing, and try and attend at least one event a week.

8:30 p.m. — We watch the Blue Man show. It's definitely unique and a lot of people in the audience appear to be enjoying it more than I do. Physical comedy isn't really my thing, I guess. But I'm sitting with the bunch from my table, so I have a fun time.

9:30 p.m. — I take an Uber Pool home since it's quite late. Another girl from the event is in the ride with me, and we make drunken plans that will never materialize. $7.93

10:30 p.m. — I drunk call two girlfriends from college (one in Salt Lake City, and the other in Boston), and we make tentative plans to see each other this summer. I crash into bed with a full face of makeup on. Today's winged liner can be tomorrow's smoky eye, if you really believe in yourself.

Daily Total: $22.22
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