Money Diaries

A Week In The Chicago Suburbs, IL, On A $42,000 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a promotions coordinator who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Lou Malnati's Pizza.


Occupation: Promotions Coordinator
Industry: Health & Wellness
Age: 27
Location: Chicago Suburbs, IL
Salary: $42,000
Net Worth: -$8,000 (Emergency Savings: $4,000 (This was higher but I recently used a large chunk to put down money on a car for my city-to-suburbs move, money towards the deposit on my new apartment, and then a large chunk to pay off nasty credit card debt accrued from stupidity in my early-mid 20s. I know my savings are VERY small but I'm working hard to budget and aggressively save where I can.), 401(k): $5,000, Car Equity: $7,000, minus $24,000 in debt).
Debt: I have about $13,000 left in student loans and $11,000 for my car.
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,290 (after taxes, health insurance, and 401(k) deducted)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,200 (This past month, I moved from the city to the suburbs to be closer to work. I've only lived in the city in my adult life so this is a big change of pace and my first solo living experience!)
Car Payment: $306
Student Loans: On hold at the moment
Internet: $60
Electricity: $30
Gas: $30
401(k): I contribute 5% and my company matches at 2%.
Health Insurance: Automatically deducted from paycheck
Phone: The one thing my parents cover (hooray for family plans)
Disney+: $6.99
Netflix: $15.99
Hulu and Prime: Mooch status! $0

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I would say there was an expectation to attend college. Fortunately, my parents never pushed any career paths or specific schools on me, and really allowed me to choose what I wanted to study (I became an English major so that tells you enough), but college was a definite "must" in my household.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
While my parents both make very modest wages and often were strapped for money, we never had too little. My dad is a budgeting extraordinaire and for that reason, I was never worried about money growing up (looking back, I'm SURE my parents were at times). In high school and college, I remember being irritated when my dad would try to give me tips for saving, budgeting, and investing. Now, I go to him with every question and savor his money advice and frugality.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was a summer job at 15 years old. It was at the local park district and I was less than thrilled, but it allowed me to have spending money because my parents halted allowance-giving in high school.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I knew we were by no means rich, but I never worried about money as a kid. My parents always provided and now, as an adult, I am so grateful for their hard work!


Do you worry about money now?
Sometimes. I spent my early 20s wracking up credit card debt and over-spending on fun with friends in the city. I wish I had saved better but I am now credit-card debt-free, able to pay all my bills, and able to put some money towards an emergency fund.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
From the moment I graduated college! Right after that I moved out and became financially independent... hence my money mistakes in my early twenties. :)

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — Up and at'em with Sir Kitty. I have my alarm set but my cat has a knack for meowing just a few minutes before I need to wake. I suppose I never have to worry about sleeping through my alarm...I work for a very small health company and just started going back into the office. I've been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic in March but recently moved closer to work since my lease in the city was up and a change was needed. I absolutely LOVED my time in the city but would be paying a gazillion dollars to live alone in a one-bedroom in my old neighborhood. Also, I'd be driving a crazy distance for work, so this move has been a great choice for now. I immediately turn on my coffee maker and let myself sit on the couch for 10 minutes to enjoy beautiful, beautiful, beautiful caffeine. I put on the sitcom Girlfriends and then get to making scrambled eggs with spinach, chicken sausage, and cheese, topped with avocado and Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel seasoning.


7:45 a.m. — I'm a night showerer so after breakfast, I quickly get dressed, grab my lunch, and am out the door!

8:30 a.m. — Work is picking up! Hooray! I was furloughed for two months during the summer because there was literally nothing for me to do, so I am SUPER grateful that things are starting to ramp up for my team. Even with only a handful of people in our building, I am happy to say I've felt safe while being back at work. I don't interact with anyone, stay in my enclosed office, and wear my mask. Even though I'm still essentially isolated at work, I really enjoy actually *going* to a space to be productive... and then getting excited to go home!!!

12 p.m. — Dig into a salad made from Trader Joe's salad mix and Trader Joe's grilled chicken. No shame in that TJ's game. I pair it with an apple and veggie straws. Divine.

3 p.m. — Per usual, it's the afternoon slump. I am famished. Snack on a blueberry crisp Clif Bar and try to remain focused. I read a Money Diary in between tasks.

5 p.m. — Already in my PJ's at home! Bliss. I whip up some pasta with autumn harvest sauce, light an Anthropologie volcano candle, and hunker down to finish the last season of Schitt's Creek. I cannot handle that this show will be ending... how will I get through my day-to-day without Moira-isms and David's iconic quips? I spend the rest of the night binge-watching the last season and maybe, potentially, very actually shed a tear. What a heartfelt ending.


10:30 p.m. — We're skipping all the way to bedtime because literally all I did was bask in the glory of Schitt's Creek. I am nearly falling asleep on the couch so I transfer to bed and pass out.

Daily Total: $0

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — Are you kidding me, cat? Today The Beast has decided to scratch at the door for an early breakfast. I contemplate ignoring him, which I try to do when he is a bad kitty, but give in. Ugh! I'm an enabling, bad cat mom. I know. I give him a tiny bit of food and then go back to sleep until 7.

8 a.m. — Start my workday with Starbucks in hand. I indulge and order a turkey bacon breakfast sandwich and a grande black iced coffee. Yes, I drink it totally black. There's no other way to consume coffee... fight me. $8


10 a.m. — Take a mini-break to text the new guy that I am seeing. Upon my move, I reactivated my Hinge account (more out of boredom than wanting to put in actual effort to find anyone) and didn't actually expect things to go anywhere because COVID. Oddly enough, I connected with someone and we spent a couple of weeks messaging before finally meeting in person. Our first two dates were socially distanced, but now that we are "seeing" each other, we spend time at his place. Fortunately, we are both very open and honest about our COVID bubble and as he works from home and I work in an isolated cave, we aren't seeing too many other people. Sidenote — I am the actual worst at dating and get very overwhelmed and anxious when meeting someone new. Is this normal for introverts? So far, though, there are no red flags with this new boo, so I am trying to give him a chance and not revert to my comfortable hermit lifestyle. We make plans to have a movie night and then I get back to work.

12:30 p.m. — Leftover veggie pizza for lunch. Another Trader Joe's staple in my opinion.

5:15 p.m. — I trek to the city for movie night (yes, ironically, the boo lives in the city) and thank my lucky stars that, since the pandemic, traffic is pretty manageable. It takes me about 35 minutes to get to his place and we immediately order Thai takeout. Yum! He orders a pad thai dish and I order drunken noodles. We share and watch a James Bond movie since I've never seen one before. I Venmo him for half of dinner. $21

11 p.m. — Not sure I'm in the James Bond fan club but it wasn't the worst thing I've seen... Is this what men aspire to be? A wealthy secret agent who does ridiculous stunts and has a myriad of girlfriends and fancy cars? Enlightening. We chat for a while after the movie and then I head home.

11:40 p.m. — Lay in bed and overthink my entire existence before finally falling asleep.


Daily Total: $29

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — It's a work-from-home day so I sleep in! Feed kitty, start coffee, and turn on my favorite Spotify playlist called Wild + Free (you're welcome). Make my scrambled egg breakfast again and go to the couch to work because I am bad and do this, despite it being a no-no. In my defense, I don't have a desk in my new place, so unless I sit at the kitchen counter, this is really all a girl can do...

9:30 a.m. — Feeling productive so I do some work things then take a little break to clean my apartment. It's amazing how even 15 minutes of tidying up can make things 10x cozier and more relaxing! I open the windows to get some fresh air and get back to my tasks for the day.

12 p.m. — Today's gourmet lunch is meat, cheese, pretzels, and hummus. I also snack on some raspberries and blackberries.


4 p.m. — Wrap up work on time. Woohoo! I browse Netflix to try and find a new show but — similar to my dating life — have commitment issues. I know there is a show out there for me, but picking a new one is JUST so much pressure! I land on Fleabag, per the recommendation of a friend, and watch the first episode. Yes. I am pleased with this choice.

5:00 p.m. — Feed The King who demands his Fancy Feast wet food at 5 p.m. ON THE DOT. Smh.

6:30 p.m. — My best friend (who is also in my teeny, tiny COVID circle) comes over and we order Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza. We catch up about life and watch Charlie's Angels. For readers who are not from Chicago, once the world opens up again, book your flight and try Lou's ASAP. $14

10:30 p.m. — Bestie leaves and I shower, read a chapter from a delightfully beach-read-y book called Beach Read, and go to bed.

Daily Total: $14


Day Four

6:30 a.m. — Kitty wakes me just in the knick of time for my alarm. I must've had a good sleep last night because I feel refreshed and ready to start my day! I turn on the coffee maker and give myself 20 minutes to check my Animal Crossing island. My nerdiest and best quarantine purchase ever was the Switch and I do not regret it. Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Zelda: Breath of the Wild are totally worth the purchase of the console. The game's latest update has added some new cute Halloween decor. I harvest some pumpkins and buy a spooky arch for my island before returning to real life.

7:30 a.m. — Take more coffee to go and am off to work! When I lived in the city, I didn't have a car so I couldn't appreciate the sheer magic that is blasting Taylor Swift's Folklore album at top volume during a drive. I stop for gas on the way to the office. $30

1 p.m. — Man, the man is non-stop! Work is insane but it's making the day fly. I heat up a TJ's chicken burrito bowl for lunch with a side of carrots.

5:30 p.m. — Stay at work an extra hour (which is SO not late considering we end our business day at 4) and then head home. These days, it's not the norm for me to have two social engagements in a row so I don't mind the alone time. I do chicken and a salad for dinner, a spoonful of cookie butter for dessert, and watch a couple more episodes of Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge for president.


9:30 p.m. — Grab my yoga mat for a 30-minute online class. I used to go to a studio before COVID and have now become waaaaaaaay too lazy in the workout department. Once the class ends, I do a few more mat exercises and am reminded how good it feels to actually be active. I vow to try and get into the habit of doing this on the regular again.

10:30 p.m. — Text with Hinge Man a bit and call it a night.

Daily Total: $30

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — Wake up to my cat having a hairball. This doesn't happen often but when it does, he always manages to do it on my rug. Lovely! Well, at least I'm up and at 'em and it's FRI-YAY!!! I start up my coffee, clean the rug, and feel inspired to also clean my countertops. I do a bit of tidying, get ready for work, and head out the door with some homemade iced coffee in hand.


12 p.m. — Today's TJ's lunch is their veggie biryani. Yum yum. It's a pretty slow day today so I catch up on some Money Diaries in between projects and also do a little Etsy browsing for wall decor.

4 p.m. — I leave the office promptly today and head to Trader Joe's. For a Friday, there isn't too much of a line! (Perk of being done with work slightly earlier than the 5 p.m. rush.) I grab a few meals from the fridge/frozen section for work lunches, snag my beloved vegetable pizza, and load up on fruits, veggies, eggs, yogurt, tea, coffee, chips, meat and cheese, wine, and a few other things. I also throw in a candle and pumpkin cinnamon rolls for a weekend breakfast treat! $93.46

7 p.m. — My bestie comes over again for a spooky season sleepover. We both hate scary movies so we settle on Hocus Pocus, which is the absolute best thing about Halloween IMO. This night calls for treating ourselves so we open a bottle of wine and order sushi. $21

10 p.m. — We end the night with Halloweentown thanks to Disney+ and fall asleep before it's over. True friendship.

Daily Total: $114.46


Day Six

7:30 a.m. — An extra hour of sleep on the weekend! My cat has decided to be gracious, but I'm still wide awake before 8. I start some coffee and scroll through my phone while my friend sleeps.

9 a.m. — Even though I had my cup of coffee, BFF and I decide to go pick up an order of coffee at a nearby shop. She's been there and highly recommends. Since I'm new to the neighborhood, I haven't had a chance to try many local places, so I'm down and could use the walk. It's beautifully FALL outside right now! Have the trees always looked this nice during October? Or am I just adulting hardcore?

9:30 a.m. — Grab coffee and walk through the cute little downtown center (we are masked up!). $3.75

11 a.m. — My friend heads home and I make the quick drive to Target to grab a few household items — TP, paper towels, garbage bags, and cat food. Somehow, two delightfully massive sweaters work their way into my cart! $63.42


4:30 p.m. — My pumpkin candle is lit and I'm way too cozy under a blanket on my couch. I debate if I still want to head to the city for a movie night with the boy, but he has some work he needs to get done and won't be free until late. I opt out this time around to enjoy a Saturday night with me. A face mask and popcorn will be required.

5:30 p.m. — Throw a frozen pizza into the oven and call my mom. Due to COVID, my dad's job was eliminated but his company was able to transfer him to the Arizona branch. Fortunately for my parents (who were also in Chicago), they were hoping to retire somewhere warm in the next couple of years so they took the leap! Unfortunately for me, I miss them. It's crazy to not know when I'll see them next due to travel restrictions.

6:30 p.m. — Remember when I said I didn't like scary movies? Somehow I managed to thoroughly enjoy The Haunting of Hill House so I decide to start season two, The Haunting of Bly Manor. I'm hooked after watching the first two episodes and NEED to know what's going to happen, but I'm also too scared to keep going. I literally run to turn on each lightswitch in my apartment and put on Schitt's Creek to cleanse my soul and ward off spirits.

11:15 p.m. — After hours of TV watching and catching up with some friends via text, I call it a night!

Daily Total: $67.17


Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — Wake up and stew over how creepy that show was last night but how I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. Decide it's safe to put on another episode in the light of day. Turn on my coffee maker and immediately dive into two more Bly Manor episodes.

8 a.m. — Since it's Sunday, I deem my morning worthy of pumpkin cinnamon rolls. I'm not usually a sweet breakfast person but they are PERFECTLY SPLENDID.

10:30 a.m. — Hop in the shower after a lazy, spooky morning and throw on one of my new Target sweaters since I'm meeting Hinge Man for coffee. He drives to my neck of the woods and we take a long walk and order coffee from a local joint — yay for supporting small businesses! $3.50

12:30 p.m. — We make lunch at my place and put on the first Harry Potter movie. He's never taken the Sorting Hat quiz (HOW?!) and we find that we are both Hufflepuffs.


4:30 p.m. — Once he leaves, I decide to embark on a deep clean of the apartment. Extra free time these days has really sparked an appreciation for keeping things clean and organized. The home is a sacred space, people! Throw on some Maggie Rogers tunes, grab my Swiffer, and go to town!

6 p.m. — Oooh, I wanna order food so bad! This has long been my vice. While I still order food with friends, I'm trying to be more mindful about not ordering meals alone now, especially when I have a fridge full of groceries. I stay strong this time and cook up some lemon pesto ravioli with shredded chicken. With a glass of red wine on the side. :)

9:30 p.m. — Do a floor workout, shower, and then spend the rest of the night taking in the genius-ness that is Fleabag.

Daily Total: $3.50

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