A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $35,000 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 recruiter who makes $35,000 per year. This week, she spends some of her money on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. (You can also read her Keep the Receipts here.)
Occupation: Executive Recruiter
Industry: Healthcare, Digital Media, Finance
Age: 29
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $35,000
Paycheck (2x/month): $1,053.67. I have a commission plan as well and it can be anywhere from an additional $1,000 to $5,000
Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $747.50. My best friend and I moved to Chicago together spur of the moment over the summer after our divorces. We rent a teeny, tiny walk-up apartment together.
Loan Payments: $137. I have about $16,000 left to pay on the original $23,000.
All Other Monthly Expenses
Credit Card Debt: $450. I went through a nasty divorce and was left with half of our marital debt at the end. Most of it was his, but Georgia is an equal opportunity state. I won't make this mistake ever again.
Electric: ~$50. (Gas and water are included.)
Wi-Fi & Basic Cable: $50, which my roommate covers. I pay for electric so we just call it even.
Hulu & Netflix: $9.99. I pay for Hulu and a girlfriend pays for Netflix.
Phone: $89
401(k): 5% of every paycheck, and my company matches.
Medical, Dental, Health & Life Insurance: $101 of each paycheck
Unlimited MetraCard: $141 pre-tax
Investments: ~$200. I use Acorns and have a small monthly amount going into various Bitcoin investments.

Day One

6:40 a.m. — My alarm is going off and I'm mentally exhausted just thinking about everything I have to do today. I was up late editing wedding photos, and mentally planning a breakup text with Dave*, one of the guys I'm seeing. (I make maybe $450/month, but after transportation and car rentals, it kind of evens out to zero after expenses since I moved here. My last gig will be this summer.)
8 a.m. — Out of the shower and rushing to finish getting ready. I recently got curtain/fringe bangs and they've added 10 minutes to my morning routine, where I normally only take five. I feed the ninja cat and my 10-year-old, 100-pound German shepherd and schedule a dog walker on Wag because I'm running hella late. I have credits from referring friends, so it's only $14 today instead of $20. They'll be here in 20 minutes to grab her. $14
8:25 a.m. — Run out the door to grab my Lyft Line because it's raining and I don't feel like wasting my bang-crafting skills on a mile walk to the train in the mist. $3.04
9 a.m. — Get to the office and make my standard cup of coffee (heavy on the sugar with cream). I'm going through emails and texting with Eric, one of the guys I'm dating, while also using EveryDollar to track my spending and budget progress. Dating after divorce is weird AF, but I've met some really awesome guys — and a few not awesome ones.
1 p.m. — I'm starving in an, I didn't notice until I finished making calls way. I'm working on eight open roles and they're all in the final closing stages, so things are hectic. I walk over to Whole Foods to grab a loaf of bread and some kind of snack. I have the taste buds of a five-year-old; I adore PB & Js and love to make those in the office for lunch. I end up with honey wheat bread, a block of cheddar jack cheese, and spoons for the office. I drink a Coke with my lunch, but I brought it from my home stash. $10.22
4:10 p.m. — I get a text from a Bumble guy I haven't met yet but have had great banter with for the past two weeks. He wants me to reserve Thursday for a real date for him. I answer with, "Sure, where are we going?" and he immediately suggests the restaurant where Dave bartends. Naturally. I quickly redirect him and ask to go somewhere less loud (and with fewer exes). He suggests one of my favorite spots, RM Champagne Salon in the West Loop. On the calendar now!
6 p.m. — I'm meeting a friend for dinner in River North close to Eric's place. I let him know, and he tells me to bring my dog over beforehand so she and his dog can have a playdate. Then, I can crash there instead of going back to my neighborhood late at night. Sold. Uber with the dog is $8.55, but I give the driver $5 in cash because of my pup. $13.55
7 p.m. — I meet my friend at a new restaurant in River North and we split an entrée and a small appetizer. We HATE the entrée and finish up to go to a different restaurant because we're both so put off. (Who puts dill and mint in pasta? Gross.) $15 for dessert including tip and $21 including tip for the food we hated. $36
9 p.m. — I leave the restaurant and grab a Lyft to Eric's. During the ride, I send a breakup text to Dave. We've gone round and round trying to make it work, but he pulled a classic move: love bombing in the beginning and cheating later. We backed up and tried to date casually, but even that imploded. Dating after divorce is so damn hard. $3.10
10 p.m. — Eric and I walk the dogs along the river and head up to his place. He lives in a gorgeous high-rise with amazing views. It's my first time staying over at his place so I have no idea what the morning rush will be like.
Daily Total: $79.91

Day Two

7:20 a.m. — My alarm and Eric's are going off and I'm not ready. He takes the dogs out while I pop in the shower and try to get organized. I've got to catch the train, but I also need to get my dog home. Eric offers to let her stay at his place with his dog and I can grab her tonight. I quickly agree and he calls me an Uber so I can head out. Fingers crossed the dog behaves while he's at work!
9:05 a.m. — Settle in at my desk and pull up all my morning websites while the Keurig gets going. No reply from Dave on the breakup text, which is pretty much his MO. He'll pop up at 2 a.m. sometime in the next week, drunk and horny and wanting me to come over. That ship has sailed, mister. I notice in my checking account that Digit, my savings app, has made a few withdrawals for upcoming goals. I'm saving for a vacation as well as a big credit card payoff and it took out $35.67 and $49.98 for both goals. I love this app because it helps me save without making it too easy for me to pull the money back into my account. $85.65
10:45 a.m. — I just received two new roles and some serious validation. A candidate I didn't like (and who I felt was flaky) went around my back and got the job I was hiring for, so we only received 50% of the expected commission after negotiating with the company. They called to apologize because the hire is ruining their relationship with suppliers and they want me to replace this person. Extreme validation, y'all. Calls for a third cup of coffee.
12 p.m. — Bored in between calls and I don't want to eat my lunch too early, so I swipe on Bumble and chat with a few guys. That might sound weird since I'm upset over Dave and I was at Eric's last night, but if my divorce taught me anything, it's don't put all your eggs in one basket. Honestly, until Eric says he's ready, I'm not pushing for anything more than the easygoing time we're having. Plus, being on Bumble keeps me from online shopping.
1 p.m. — I'm wavering between buying soup from a French bakery and eating my PB & J. My throat hurts, and that seems like a solid enough reason to spring for the soup. The girl at the counter comments on my bangs so this soup was totally worth the self-esteem boost. I've needed it after dealing with Dave all week. I take it back upstairs, add some cheese, and call it a sick-day win. I pair it with chocolate milk I brought in last week; I'm a third grader for sure. $4.13
4:30 p.m. — Finish up calls and make a list of quick grabs at Jewel during my walk home. I take the Metra and then walk about a mile to my apartment where there's a Jewel-Osco a block over. I probably need to refill my birth control before Christmas break. I also add dry shampoo and adult Lunchables to the list.
6 p.m. — Kinda forgot my dog was at Eric's. I check in with him to see what his plans are and if my dog ate his apartment. He got home early and my text apparently woke him up from napping with the dogs on the couch. He needs to get a run in, so he volunteers to jog both dogs over to my place. I offer to have food ready so it's a plan. I have two and a half miles to clean and whip something up.
7 p.m. — Eric arrives with the pups and they are that wonderful level of tired where they settle in and start snoring. I made chicken sandwiches with avocado, bacon, arugula, and mayo all on Hawaiian bread. I also made a quick batch of sweet potato fries. Eric hangs out for a bit before setting off with his pup to jog home. I've already seen him once this week so twice is a lot and I don't push it.
8:30 p.m. — In bed with chocolate milk and binge-watching The Mindy Project until it's time to pass out.
Daily Total: $89.78

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — My alarm has been going off since 6 a.m., mostly because I woke up at 3:30 and wasn't able to fall back asleep for another two and a half hours. I am still a bit upset over Dave. He was my first real relationship after my divorce and it ended spectacularly bad. I also started my period a week early because I'm the girl that forgets to take her pill for two days and then tries to catch up. Lovely.
9 a.m. — I'm at my desk with coffee and peanut butter toast in hand. It's our office holiday party today so of course, I'm in leggings and an oversized sweater with three-day-old hair that I curled again in an attempt to look normal. I feel blah. I see that Acorns has initiated a $9.09 withdrawal to invest. On average, I put $75 to $100 into Acorns each month, depending on my spending. I've been rounding everything to the next dollar on checks so that instead of a few cents, it's taking a full dollar each time. Last year, I was able to put about $1,276 into Acorns just from roundups, and I got about $126 back in growth/dividends. I don't hate it. $9.09
9:15 a.m. – A candidate that was supposed to sign an offer letter last night emails to say he's pursuing a better offer in a different city. Wtf? Pissed does not begin to describe my emotions. This is three failed closings due to companies extending the interview process a month and a half or longer.
10 a.m. — Trying to cool my jets with coffee. Wag lets me know that my preferred walker will be walking a neighbor's dog and they can walk mine right after for a 20% discount. I planned on getting her an afternoon walk anyways, so the discount makes me glad I waited. $16
12 p.m. — My boss calls an Uber for us to go to the holiday lunch. There is a mix of dietary needs, so we've got a little bit of a ride to find a vegan and kosher restaurant this afternoon.
3:30 p.m. — Back in the office from lunch. (Our bosses treated.) A glass of wine and a ton of food has me feeling sleepy so I put on a new cup of coffee while going through my holiday bag, which is full of loot. Our bosses are awesome and they know the best gift is cash, so they stocked us up with gift cards and prepaid Visas. I kind of adore them.
4 p.m. – Just got a notification that the pup is home from her walk and a date confirms to meet at 8:30. I never made it to Jewel last night and I'm rocking old hair. I make an alert on my phone to grab dry shampoo, deodorant, and my birth control prescription on the walk home.
5:30 p.m. — Off the train and meeting a friend at Jewel to catch up before my date. I buy four Hillshire Farm small plates (the aforementioned adult Lunchable), a carton of chocolate milk, dry shampoo, deodorant, cough drops, and a four-pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Obviously, I'm a super health conscious adult. $29.79
7 p.m. — My date messages me on Bumble to ask me to send him more photos so he knows what I look like. There are six on Bumble, so WTF? I reply that the ones on there already are from the past two weeks. He never replies and un-matches me so I guess I don't have to go on this date! I wasn't really feeling it anyway so crisis averted. I put on warm gym clothes and meet my friend again to go for a four-mile walk on the 606.
9 p.m. — Chat with Eric a little; he's feeling pretty down and I feel for him. I'm coming to the realization that I can care without laying my own emotions on him because I know they'll get crushed at some point. Being an eternal optimist is not my thing apparently. I pass out and hope my head cold passes.
Daily Total: $54.88

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I feel like complete crap. My head hurts, my throat is sore, and I have no voice. Let the boss know I'm going to the MinuteClinic and I'll be working on the couch. Hoping I pull it together in time for my date tonight, since it's one I'm looking forward to.
9 a.m. — I wake up, make coffee, cut up an avocado on toasted Hawaiian bread, and sprinkle it with garlic salt. Maybe not the best sickbed food but it's working for me.
10:15 a.m. — Settled into working on the couch with all the animals surrounding me. I remember my phone bill is due and push the payment through on that. It's my final installment on my phone, so it should go down $45 next month.
1 p.m. — My friend and her roommate come to pick up my dog and take her on a run. I'm grateful for the chance to hop into the bath and try and steam this cold out.
4:15 p.m. — Run to Express to return a skirt and exchange it for more sweaters. I adore sweaters. The skirt cost more than the sweater, so I get $5.01 back on my debit card!
6:30 p.m. — In the Uber on my way to meet Jason for the first time. We've had awesome banter and I'm freaking nervous. (Plus, it's my first date with bangs.) He shows up and sweet Jesus, he's a normal, handsome human being. What do I do with my hands? My face? What do I talk about? $3.76
8:30 p.m. — We leave the first bar and walk to a quieter one for food and more drinks. We're doing that thing where we walk and kind of bump into each other, and it's making me melt.
11:30 p.m. — The date is wrapping up and it went well — to the point we both acknowledged it. I offer to split the cost of the meal and the wine, but he staunchly refuses. My Uber Pool shows up and we kiss and part ways.
11:40 p.m. – My Uber Pool is stopping at Dave's workplace. We are PICKING SOMEONE UP FROM Dave's workplace. Why?!
11:45 p.m. – It's one of the cooks and he knows me. We chat, he asks how everything is going, and what my and Dave's plans are for the holidays. I slowly turn my head, give him a strange look, and explain that Dave and I aren't together because he essentially ghosted from a six-month relationship. Awkward silence ensues the rest of the way home. My life, y'all. My life. $3.45
Daily Total: $7.21

Day Five

7 a.m. — I'm awake and I feel a little better, so I snooze until about 7:30 and then hop out of bed. I've discovered that second-day bangs are the best so I curl my hair, fluff the bangs, and walk the pup. I pack one of the adult Lunchables and my cough drops into my purse and head out to the train. I'm leaving 10 minutes early because I'd like to walk slowly versus having to hurry while wearing my new over-the-knee boots.
12 p.m. — Starting to feel hungry but also still sick. Haven't heard from Jason yet, and after having a husband and my most recent boyfriend disappear from relationships, I'm a little gun shy. We did text a while after I got home last night, so I definitely don't think I've heard the last of him. I'm also a little anxious because I think I may hear from Dave today after bumping into his friend in the Uber last night.
12:15 p.m. — Committing to putting something in my stomach, I eat the Lunchable and drink the rest of my chocolate milk. Everyone else has left the office by a quarter-to-one so, and I wrap up phone calls and clean my desk.
3 p.m. — My boss texts to let me out early and I run to catch the 3 p.m. train home!
3:15 p.m. – I knew it! I knew I'd hear from Dave — and of course, it was bullshit on top of bullshit. He's mad that I went on dates in the off phases of our relationship, but he can't pinpoint anything specific. Really, he's just mad that I accepted him ghosting and went on a great date instead. We continue to text fight for the next hour.
4:30 p.m. — I make a chicken salad sandwich and tell Dave to mail my things. I deserve a lot better than someone who disappears when he's mad.
6 p.m. — Meet my friend and her roommates for dinner and we chow down on enchiladas and wine. We take turns cooking and this week is hers, so I've successfully avoided buying dinner before going out.
8 p.m. — We play Cards Against Humanity and I notice that even though Dave swears he's done with me, he's aggressively looking through what I'm doing on social media. Someone send help.
10 p.m. – We load into an Uber and head to Old Crow, my favorite country bar in Chicago. One friend gets Uber for free through work, so we enjoy that perk as we head out.
2 a.m. – One friend and I are the last two people standing and we dance to modern country music until our feet hurt. We close our tabs ($22.45 including tip for three ciders) and call an Uber to go home. I'm so grateful for how awesome my friends are here that I don't even miss Dave. I cover the Uber ($4.55). $27
2:30 a.m. – Lay in bed and chat with Eric a little. He's considering coming home with me for Christmas and I hope he does. He worries about me when I'm out and checks to make sure I'm okay when I'm having a bad day. He's secretly the one I've got my hopes riding on.
Daily Total: $27

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — I slept in and enjoyed every blissful second of it. After being out last night and being upset about Dave, I'm ready for a relaxing weekend. I make a breakfast of eggs, bacon, an avocado, and a mushroom, onion, and sweet potato hash with coffee and chocolate milk. I make a triple serving of the hash because I'll eat it with lunch throughout the week.
12 p.m. — I've showered and straightened my hair and fixed my makeup. (I've become extremely proficient at showering without messing up either and using dry shampoo to extend my blowouts.) I meet up with one of my girlfriends to shop the Express sweater sale. Between my coupons and gift cards, I score four sweaters for $40, which I'll take any day! We stop by Starbucks on our walk back and I grab a Grande flat white. I've still got a gift card so it's free for me today! $40.98
3 p.m. — I've got a date tonight with Shawn, my roommate's boyfriend's boss tonight, at a swanky Italian place downtown. I both love and hate dating, and I always seem to be ensnarled with some guy who is broken, meaning I'm super nervous. Eric has a holiday party tonight near his ex-fiancé's apartment and he's stressed out, so we chat to help each other calm down. He knows I'm going on a date and he respects it.
7 p.m. — Hop in a Lyft, which is surging because it's holiday season in Chicago. I refuse to pay $17 to go downtown so I go with Lyft Line, which is still higher than normal. $7.56
11:45 p.m. — We're just leaving the date and we pretty much shut the restaurant down. He was a ton of fun, we had several apps and entrees, and three bottles of wine which he let me pick so overall the meal was amazing. I offered to split the $380 tab, but was politely told not to worry about it. I'm from the South and I love a gentleman, but what's interesting to me is more men in Atlanta took me up on splitting the check than men do in Chicago. I've only had one man let me in my six months here, and I think it's because neither of us was feeling it.
1 a.m. – We head up to a rooftop bar for a nightcap although he has to get up early in the morning. He grabs the check while I'm in the bathroom.
2 a.m. — Eric is texting me and he is drunk and upset. An amazing guy helped me through everything when my life blew up last year, so I feel like I'm restocking karma by being there for Eric. I meet him at a swanky bar ($4.07 on Uber) where he and some coworkers have ordered bottle service. I help them finish it off. Eric grabs the Uber to his place. $4.07
Daily Total: $52.61

Day Seven

8:40 a.m. — Ugh. We're up so early for a Sunday but it's fine... Okay, not really. I put up a decent argument about why we should stay in bed. Eric normally doesn't let me spend the night, which I respect, so this is our second time waking up together — and first on the weekend — so I'm treading lightly. We take his pup out for a walk on the riverfront and then come back to bed. I have no interest in getting going early.
10:30 a.m. — We're up and moving to the couch for a How I Met Your Mother marathon and breakfast. I get a nasty text from Dave because to him, a breakup is never really a breakup and he knows I'm not at my apartment.
11:30 a.m. — We're finishing coffee and Eric is feeling a little overwhelmed. I've got brunch with the girls at Mott St. at 12:45, so I get ready to head out. Eric calls me an Uber and walks me downstairs. We're in a weird place but it's a nice mix of romance and friendship without feeling weighed down by expectations.
12:30 p.m. — I am so ready for brunch. Mott St. is my favorite place, so I settle in with the girls and we catch up on dates, boys, and ridiculous Saturday night shenanigans. We each have our own entrée and a Bloody Mary. My pork belly eggs Benny was amazing and totally hit the spot. $28.77
2 p.m. – I settle in to finish up some work I do on the side for extra cash and binge-watch my newest show, The Mindy Project. The pup is passed out and my cat is purring on my lap, so I immediately fall asleep instead of being productive. I wake up to a text from Shawn saying that he had fun as well on our date. We text for a few minutes before I fall back asleep.
5 p.m. — I'm at that point on a Sunday evening where I have to decide if I'm going to meet a new Bumble boy for a drink or stay in my yoga pants. I commit to my yoga pants and working, and order pizza from Papa John's with a code for free delivery. I tip $4 cash to the driver. $13.67
7:30 p.m. — I shoot out a text to the girls from brunch asking who wants to walk off dinner. One of them lives nearby and says yes but that she needs food, and as luck would have it, I happen to have a pizza! She snags a slice and we meet our other friend at the 606 with our pups to get about three miles of walking and gossiping in. I adore the new friendships I've been able to make in this new, post-divorce life in a big city.
11:30 p.m. — I finally finish my side-hustle work and have a quick FaceTime with Eric before hitting the bed. I'm exhausted and weirdly emotional from my week of juggling men. In the really quiet moments when I'm in bed by myself falling asleep, I miss my ex-husband. Tonight is no exception, and I know I probably won't sleep that well.
Daily Total: $42.44
* Names have been changed for anonymity.
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