A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $55,000 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 full-time front-end web developer who also works as a part-time restaurant hostess; she makes $55,000 per year and spends some of it on tickets to a Lolla aftershow.

Occupation — Full-Time: Front-End Web Developer | Part-Time: Restaurant Hostess
Industry — Full-Time: Web Development | Part-Time: Food & Hospitality
Age: 26
Location: Chicago, IL
Full-Time: $55,000 (before taxes) | Part-Time: Hourly minimum wage for Chicago
Full-Time Paycheck (2x/month): $1,746.78 after taxes
Part-Time Paycheck (2x/month): ~$259.86 after taxes

Monthly Expenses
Housing: $1,280 a month to rent a one bedroom in Logan Square by myself. The only utility that is included is water.
Federal Student Loan: $192
Personal Student Loan: $460
Medical Bill Payment Plan: $40 for the next five months

All Other Monthly Expenses
Ventra Unlimited CTA Pass: $100
ComEd Electric Bill: ~$75 - $117
Comcast Internet & Cable Bundle: $82
Peoples Gas Bill: ~$50 - $75
Renters Insurance: $15
Vision Insurance: $30 — not covered by FT employer
Health Insurance: $0 — covered by FT employer
Medical Prescriptions: $0 — covered by FT employer
Dental Insurance: $0 — covered by FT employer
Savings: ~$60
Roth IRA: $330
Netflix: $15
Spotify: $10
Cell Phone: $0 — thankfully on my parents' plan
Sierra Club Donation: $15
Chase Freedom: $65 minimum
Amazon: $120 minimum
Capital One: $252 minimum, but I pay an extra $127 on top of that. The extra money comes from a lawsuit for damages that I received when I was a child. There is a maximum amount of money that I can withdraw each month. Although I really dislike using the award toward my credit card payments, the fact is that I'm in debt and do not really have a choice right now.

8:30 a.m. — I wake up at my usual time since I have to be at my day job by 10 - 10:30 a.m. most mornings. I live pretty far from the office, so I end up taking two buses, which amounts to a roughly hour-long commute one way. I am not feeling so hot today. My lupus symptoms are acting up and my hair is being fussy — a plain white t-shirt and ponytail it is!

9:25 a.m. — Crap: the first out of the two buses I have to take is “experiencing delays,” so I need to take a ride-share to work this morning. I spend some time debating on whether to wait forever for the bus or waste money on a Lyft. I decide to take a Lyft, which is steep — but I don't have time to risk a pooled ride. $11.37

10 a.m. — I arrive at work on time and check my email and Facebook. I posted a ton of photos from last weekend's shenanigans, and take some time to read through all the funny comments friends have left. I also respond to any online and phone app dating messages I've received between last night and this morning. After sifting through a couple of pretty strange messages, I remind myself that being single is probably better than this nonsense. Actually, yes — yes it absolutely is.

10:15 a.m. — Didn't have time yesterday to make breakfast (or today's lunch for that matter), so I grab a handful of sinfully good chocolate covered cashews from the office kitchen. It's not a healthy breakfast, but junk food is all that we stock. I also grab a Red Bull from the office fridge since I don't want to spend money at the coffee shop down the block, and I definitely need to wake up.

10:20 a.m. — Realize that my work earbuds are broken. I buy the cheap $10 ones on Amazon once a year but I can't spend that much cash at the moment. Guess I'm without music until l get paid on Friday. Ugh.

12 p.m. — Starting to get a little bit hungry so it's time to raid the office kitchen again. I find peanut butter pretzels and fill a mug with those. My coworker must've put on another pot of coffee, so I decide to fill up another mug with that as well. As I carry this pitiful lunch back to my desk, I vow to meal prep tonight and get my life together a bit.

12:35 p.m. — Round two of peanut butter pretzels. They're addictive!

12:45 p.m. — I broke my hand a few months ago and have let the $218 medical bill collect dust. Call up the billing agency and create a payment plan to pay $40 a month until the balance is gone. Creditors off my back — cue happy dance. $40

2:10 p.m. — Not having earbuds is really annoying. I can't focus on programming to save my life. Can't a girl just listen to Benjamin Clementine and code?

6 p.m. — Leave work feeling grumpy and ready to get out of the office.

7:15 p.m. — Finally get home and immediately throw on music while I meal prep for the rest of the week. Since I don't have any extra money for groceries until I get paid, I need to make do with whatever is in my cupboard and freezer. I end up putting together a strangely creative dish: shrimp and broccoli tikka masala. Each week, I typically spend about 20 bucks on groceries. Luckily, the Aldi by me is very well-stocked, so my weekly grocery budget is never insanely expensive. I try to not spend more than $80 - $100 a month on groceries.

8 p.m. — Do a much-needed deep cleaning of my apartment. Since I'm working two jobs right now and I live alone, I find it way more difficult to keep up with things like dishes and general tidying. I start looking through some of my old junk after being inspired by a KonMari Method article I read earlier.

8:25 p.m. — Start a free HIIT workout on YouTube. Realize that I probably shouldn't work out so hard since I've barely eaten today, and dance around to Röyksopp for an hour or so instead. I canceled my gym membership a while back, and am trying to work out from home since the only gym in my neighborhood is pretty pricey.

9:30 p.m. — I'm in the middle of recording an LP, so I spend some time writing and practicing vocals. I practice at this hour instead of earlier in the day to avoid disturbing my neighbors who work nights. I don't want to be THAT neighbor.

12 a.m. — Fall asleep to a weird YouTube documentary.

Daily Total: $51.37
8 a.m. — Wake up and vow to eat better today, and take my two buses to work.

10 a.m. — Arrive at work with brand new earbuds. (I found a new pair at the bottom of my junk drawer while I was cleaning the house last night.) I eat my typical breakfast of oatmeal with chia seeds, flax seeds, and raspberries that I make at home. I also chug a Red Bull from the office stash.

11:50 a.m. — A friend hits me up to ask if I want to go to the Tegan and Sara Lolla after-party show next month. I've never seen them live and I try to spend as much free time with friends as I can since I work so much right now. I bite the bullet and say yes to the ticket price, even though it has to come out of my savings. She says that we probably "out-gayed" ourselves buying these. I'm 100% ok with that. $35

12:28 p.m. — Eat my broccoli and shrimp tikka masala for lunch; it isn't half bad! The smell of it is making the office dog my best friend right now.

3:15 p.m. — Peanut butter pretzel time. Peanut butter pretzel time.

4 p.m. — A friend invites me to grab drinks tonight but I decline. I have less than 20 bucks in my checking account and I know I'll see her in the coming weeks.

6:15 p.m. — Halfway through my commute home, I remember that I ran out of Q-Tips yesterday and stop at Walgreens to buy a pack. Make a mental note to look up reusable ones. Does that even exist? $3.74

8:30 p.m. — The weather is actually kind of okay out, so I decide to take a two-hour walk around my neighborhood since it's supposed to be really rainy in Chicago over the next few days. I log nearly 8,000 steps! When I get home, I shower and watch The Breakup on Netflix. It's not half bad.

10 p.m. — My full-length mirror crashes to the ground. I'm not much of a handyman, and I definitely don't have the money right now to replace it, so I'll have to wait to buy another one. Major bummer.

11 p.m. — Do a little bit of music production, but nothing too insane since I'm pretty tired.

12:30 a.m. — I fall asleep after watching a bunch of Investopedia videos on how stocks work. If that doesn't put me to sleep, I don't know what will.

Daily Total: $38.74
9:30 a.m. — On my way to the office, I realize that I forgot a pad of paper and a pencil for the figure drawing class I am going to tonight. Debate on stopping at Walgreens to pick up an overpriced version, or wait until I get to the office to "borrow" some supplies. I decide on the latter.

10:35 a.m. — I get to work a bit late. Public transit is all screwed up because there's a flood warning. I eat my usual oatmeal breakfast with a can of Red Bull. I spend the first half hour of work replying to Tinder messages and looking up new music to listen to, all while making it look like I'm doing my job.

3:30 p.m. — A friend of mine sends me a text about going to an upcoming concert. I say no because it's on a Friday night and I don't finish my hostessing gig until midnight or so. I hate having to work on weekends — I feel like I'm missing out on so much — but paying off my credit cards is one of my goals for this year.

6 p.m. — Attend a figure drawing class at a cool, old printers' building in the West Loop. I haven't drawn since I was in school, so I'm a bit rusty. The class is pay-what-you-can; I drop $5 into the collection jar on my way in. $5

9:30 p.m. — Walk home because it's magically not raining. I factor in the hour and a half commute as exercise for today.

11 p.m. — Lights out, pass out — with a bit of a sore throat.

Daily Total: $5
9:30 a.m. — While waiting for bus No.2, I get a notification that service is suspended. I think about taking an Uber to my office but decide to take the L, followed by another bus. I get to work about a half an hour later than usual — not good — and eat breakfast there.

11:45 a.m. — Get invited to a disco dance event tonight at a venue where there's no cover charge. Baller!

2 p.m. — Head out of the office and walk quickly to an interview for a new gig at a social club on Restaurant Row. It goes really well and they offer me the job! Still, I need time to weigh the pros and cons of working and leaving the restaurant I'm currently hostessing at. The interview was kind of draining. Talking to multiple people and having to stay peppy gets tiring.

3:30 p.m. — I get back to the office and heat up my tikka masala-broccoli-corn combo. It's not that good — adding in the corn was definitely a mistake — but I ran out of shrimp. At least I'm not spending money.

5:45 p.m. — Get to my second job with a few minutes to spare before my shift starts. I laugh and talk about the woes of Tinder with my fellow hostess before we set up the dining room together.

9:30 p.m. — The restaurant is slow so I get cut early. I make my way over to the disco party I was invited to earlier. It's at a bar in the same neighborhood as the restaurant, so I just walk. There isn't a cover, but I end up spending 7 bucks on a pretty bad tequila ginger after a flurry of dancing. Whatever. I get paid tomorrow. $9, including tip

1:15 a.m. — Walk home instead of grabbing an Uber since it's nice out and I'm not drunk. Kind of dangerous? Yes — but also free.

1:45 a.m. — Happily see that I've logged over 16,000 steps today on my Fitbit. I get everything I'll need for tomorrow ready and pick out an outfit. Then, I fall into bed.

Daily Total: $9
7:45 a.m. — Wow, I'm tired. I make a mental note to stop going out like this on weekdays. Since I got diagnosed with lupus only a year ago, I've found it hard to reign myself in. It's something I'm working toward, slowly but surely. Everything has been a learning process, with a lot of success mixed with backsliding.

9:30 a.m. — Drag myself to work a bit early so that I can leave for my second job on time today. Eat my typical oatmeal breakfast, drink black coffee from the kitchen, and find out during the morning meeting that I'll be spending the next month on one giant project all by myself. Sweet!

10:45 a.m. — Text with a friend about hitting up a queer femme event next week called Peach for her birthday. The event has a '90s theme, which is right up my alley. I got paid today and have money in my entertainment budget, so I have no problem saying yes. I purchase my ticket even though it has an annoying service fee. I don't always drink at these events, and I know I'll take public transit there and back, so I don't feel too bad about paying a cover. Now to find the perfect '90s outfit... $22.09

12 p.m. — Man, there are a ton of people with birthdays in July. One of my good friends is celebrating hers at the Jazzin' at the Shedd Aquarium night; tickets are $20. I wish I didn't have to pay a ticket price on top of food for the evening, but I buy it anyway since she's moving back to Switzerland at the end of the summer. My entertainment budget is getting smaller and smaller, however, so I'll have to say no to any other plans that involve tickets with large cover fees. $20

12:30 p.m. — I'm not hungry enough yet to eat lunch, so I grab a mug-full of peanut butter pretzels and start paying the second half of my monthly bills. I split my monthly bills into two payment cycles, based on my full-time job's paycheck schedule. I get paid on the 1st and the 15th of every month. I pay all my bills with the money from my full-time job, and try to spend the money from my part-time paychecks on credit card debt. Today, I put money toward my personal student loan, the Comcast cable and internet package (I'm currently trying to find a cheaper provider), my federal student loan, the gas bill, my Roth IRA contribution, and more. I also send $35 back into savings since I took that out to buy the Tegan and Sara tickets.

1 p.m. — Finally hungry enough to eat the last bit of the lunch I made this week. I'm still not digging the corn, but at least today is the last day of it.

5:45 p.m. — Make it to my second job and sneak some leftovers from the family meal since I have a long night ahead of me.

10:30 p.m. — Get off a little bit later than usual for a Friday night. I'll have to book it home and change clothes before taking the CTA out to the West Loop. Luckily, the rooftop queer event I'm going to is essentially a straight shot via the Blue Line, so I don't need to spend money on a ride-share.

11:45 p.m. — Watch a group of performers (just okay) and then my friend and I dance for a bit. I end up seeing a bunch of people I know, which is really nice, plus this new hotel's rooftop is quite pretty. I order two glasses of white wine at the bar. $18

1 a.m. — After the rooftop party ends, my friend and I walk to a late-night bar where I spend too much money on a tequila ginger. We chat, catch up, and order a round of shots that my friend pays for. $11

4 a.m. — My friend and I are HUNGRY but neither of us knows of any 24-hour places in the West Loop where we can eat. We stumble all the way to Griddle 24 up in River North. I order a barbecue chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. The food isn't that good and it's expensive, but it's a fun way to end the night. $15.87

6:30 a.m. — Take the Blue Line back home and fall into bed while the sun comes up.

Daily Total: $86.96
9:30 a.m. — I somehow manage to wake up early-ish and gather myself to walk into the kitchen and make oatmeal. I grab an avocado and eat that as well. Spend a half hour eating in bed, trying to keep my eyes open.

10:45 a.m. — Earlier this week, I put a bunch of old clothes in a bag to take to Crossroads. I get ready and take the bus over to the Wicker Park location. After they sort through my goods, they offer me $83, which is pretty good.

12 p.m. — Face mask and chill.

5 p.m. — Walk on over to the restaurant for my Saturday night shift. A bunch of my friends made reservations throughout the evening, so it'll be a fun change of pace. I'm wearing my go-to, knock-'em-dead dress, so I know tonight is going places!

10:30 p.m. — A coworker from the restaurant and I get cut early, so we make our way over to my favorite cocktail bar in Logan Square. We order a few rounds to try an array of cocktails. The bartender ends up offering us comped nightcaps since we're in the industry; what an awesome dude! My coworker grabs the tab since I played therapist for her tonight.

1:30 a.m. — Walk home and stay up a bit longer listening to Morgan Delt and doing another face mask.

Daily Total: $0
8 a.m. — I have a running goal to spending nothing on Sundays, which means I have to walk anywhere I want to go, or take advantage of public transit. I can't spend excess cash on meals either. I used to spend every Sunday getting brunch, but I've been trying to cut down since that's a great way to drink and eat up an entire paycheck. I wake up super early for a Sunday and shower. After, I make myself some oatmeal with raspberries and take B12 to wake up a bit. I make a giant glass of chia water and sip it while I check my text messages.

10 a.m. — Make it to my therapy appointment in Lakeview. I can take the CTA to his office, so I usually spend that commute listening to podcasts. Today's choice is Bad with Money with Gaby Dunn because clearly I have a lot to learn in that department. My full-time job provides excellent health insurance coverage, so I don't have a copay and won't have a bill for this appointment.

11:30 a.m. — I'm in severe need of some caffeine and want to take advantage of a free coffee token I can use at Intelligentsia. I walk over and then spend awhile sipping and reading by the monument in Logan Square. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

4 p.m. — Get back to my apartment and knock out a free HIIT workout on YouTube. I'm starting to get sick of working out in my bedroom, but I remind myself of the savings as I do squats.

5:30 p.m. — Shower and walk to a friend's place. She just got a new puppy, and we spend the rest of the night playing fetch in the backyard and grilling hot dogs she bought for dinner.

8:30 p.m. — Back at home, I meal prep for the first half of next week. I heat up frozen salmon fillets and pair them with frozen carrots and corn left over from last week. I make enough for three meals and pack up everything in my fridge with the remaining avocados from my last grocery haul.

9:30 p.m. — Spend the rest of the evening working on music. I get a bit frustrated with my recording set up since it is very DIY and doesn't quite do the job I'd like it to. I'm currently stashing away cash to buy new equipment further down the line.

12:45 a.m. — Fall asleep watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. I don't really wear makeup but I find the videos oddly satisfying.

Daily Total: $0
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