A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $87,000 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 Creative Director working in Branding who makes $87,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on La Croix.
Occupation: Creative Director
Industry: Branding
Age: 31
Location: Chicago
Salary: $87,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,324
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,375 (I live solo)
Loans: $0 (My parents put myself and my five sisters through college with zero student loan debt. I'm incredibly lucky.)
Cell Phone: $100
Utilities: $200
Daily Burn Membership: $20
Spotify: $10
HSA: $50
401K: 11% of my salary (5% matched by my employer)
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Day One

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I promptly hit snooze three consecutive times. I had ovarian transport surgery two weeks ago (moving my ovaries into my abdomen so I don't go into menopause at 31 during upcoming radiation — the human body is a mind fuck) and am not cleared for heavy workouts until Thursday, so I skip my usual HIIT workout. It's an "off treatment" week for me this week and I relish going through the usual morning routine I've had since before my cancer diagnosis (Side note: I don't know who needs to hear this right now but, GO TO THE DOCTOR. 1 in 5 colorectal cancer patients are 24-50 years old and there are 45+ new cases every day. Colorectal cancer is now the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in young adults in the United States and doctors don't know why. If you have any kind of family history or are experiencing any symptoms whatsoever, please go to your doctor for a screening. When detected in its early stages, 90% of colon cancer cases are preventable, treatable, and beatable. For more information check out the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.) I sit down for a breakfast of plain greek yogurt with strawberries and green tea. I miss coffee, but since I started chemo, it doesn't sit well. I fill out my Two Minute Mornings Journal that helps me get my mind right for my day — something I write about sparks a memory and I text a friend about it. She mentions she'd like to start doing a morning journal herself so I order her one on Amazon while I finish my tea. $14.27
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8:30 a.m. — I take the L to work using my already-filled Ventra card and hope no one notices me sweating buckets in a jam-packed train. My agency has our monthly All-Hands Meeting. A new hire walks into the meeting with the exact oversized jean jacket I've been looking for and I immediately get the details. She's super sweet and lets me try hers on to see how it fits. I surreptitiously order one on my phone during the meeting and it turns out Gap is having a 50% off sale. What's usually a $52 jacket goes into my cart for $26 (plus shipping and tax). Score. I look around to make sure no one notices me online shopping and not paying attention — whoops. $36.11
11:45 a.m. — My coworker best friend gets promoted and I demand we go to lunch to celebrate. I eat a banana at my desk to tide me over until her meeting ends at 1. Chemo has made food a real contentious topic for me. I've lost 17 pounds since starting treatment, and I have to remind myself to eat. I've found small snacks throughout the day are a LOT easier than big meals. My girl is finally done at 1:15 and we head to a taco spot for lunch; I'm actually hungry! It's so nice to feel hungry sometimes. She gets a steak salad bowl and I get a chicken quesadilla. I treat and we eat in the restaurant, enjoying the luxury of not eating at our desks for once. $21.69
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4:30 p.m. — Fatigue is REAL. Since I can't get in my usual workout I walk home from work — it helps with the fatigue immensely. It's about three and a half miles home and it's only 70 degrees outside. I listen to the new Haim jam, "Summer Girl," on repeat a few times until a friend from NYC calls. A cancer bright side (they do exist) is I hear from my people way more than usual. A friend is coming over tonight to watch the second Democratic debate and I offer to pick up empanadas for dinner. I get seven empanadas — my friend tackles four of them and I make it through two. $24.20
7 p.m. — The debates are in full swing and my friend and I spend a lot of time debating between ourselves. Healthcare is obviously a huge issue for me and I can't figure who has the best plan. My friend heads out around 9 and I take some CBD oil and a weed gummy. After washing my face, flossing (where my flossers at?), and brushing my teeth, I get into bed and read debate analysis articles until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $96.27

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Another snoozer. I don't make it out to bed until 7:15 and even though I know I can technically workout, my stomach is saying different. I have a 9 a.m. client call so I race through my routine, chug a homemade green juice (do not recommend chugging those...), and get out the door by 8:15. I watch three jam-packed trains go by before I finally get on the fourth one and I make it in just in time for my call. At my desk, I eat a few strawberries I brought with me.
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11:15 a.m. — It's payday and I remember I've been saving a hospital bill from an appointment I had in May for this paycheck. I could use my HSA account, but I'm trying to save that for my next full deductible payment — when you have cancer you meet deductibles in a snap. I'm annoyed it took my insurance three months to process the claim and call to check it's a legit charge. It is, and there goes $258.78 to my doctor. While it's annoying I remind myself how lucky I am to have built a relationship with my GP who listened to me when I was having seemingly menial issues. Literally my anemia is what tipped her off to find a tumor the size of a walnut in my colon. $258.78
11:45 a.m. — My coworker bestie and I have been really debating getting tickets to see John Mayer at the United Center. True confession: I hate concerts. But I love John Mayer and he's touring without an opener. I've been on the fence worried that people would stand for the whole show and my body can't take standing for that long. I often get sick of being sick and crave normalcy so I say “fuck it” and get two tickets from StubHub. The seats are decent and if I have to sit and look at some dude's butt for a few songs, then fine. Maybe it'll be a cute butt. My friend, very wisely, suggests getting the ticket insurance incase I really don't feel up to it, bringing the total to $317.80 she Venmo's me for half. $158.90
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1:30 p.m. — One of the nurses from my team emails me through MyChart to tell me, after reviewing my latest blood work up, my protein levels are much lower than my oncologist would like. She suggests focusing on meat as much as I can for the next few days and recommends lifting more weights. So I decide I better get some lunch. Some coworkers and I hit up the food trucks outside our building and I get four buffalo chicken wings for a ridiculous $15.33. This is turning into an expensive day. I work my way through 3/4 wings and decide that's good enough. $15.33
6 p.m. — I meet a friend for dinner to celebrate both of our birthdays (almost a month late). We get take out from Goddess and the Grocer and take it to eat on the Riverwalk. I stare at the menu and want absolutely nothing on it. I finally decide on an “Iron Man Scrambler”, which is egg whites with veggies, and I add chicken. I'm trying! With a La Croix it totals $22.27. We have a great time catching up and people watching until it's time to go. Since I didn't workout today I walk home and talk to my dad the whole way.
8:30 p.m. — I get home and realize I've still got a ton of energy. It feels INCREDIBLE to not be dead to the world after 8 and the urge to clean my place in preparation for my friend's surprise mini-bachelorette weekend takes over. She's coming into town tomorrow thinking we're just going to cancer-hang, but I've planned a whole weekend for us and another friend of ours. I clean out my closet, scrub my bathroom, clean my kitchen, and write a thank you note to my aunt for a cozy sweater shirt she got me from Everlane. By 11:30, I get into bed and wonder if protein has been the answer all along. I fall asleep before I can decide.
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Daily Total: $455.28

Day Three

8 a.m. — I slept for shit and finally get out of bed around 8 because I'm STARVING. I eat some cereal and do my morning journal. I'm working from home today since Lollapalooza is this weekend and the Loop is flooded with drunk teenagers wearing no clothes. I head out to walk the 30 minutes to my acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture is something that came highly recommended to me by anyone cancer-related that I talked to, so I go once a week. TBH I'm not 100% sure what I'm getting from it, but it's free since I've met my deductible and I like my doctor a lot. He lost his mother to cancer and now specializes in treating cancer patients. If anything it's a nice 45 minutes to try and clear my head.
4:30 p.m. — I start feeling nauseous and realize I haven't eaten since my cereal this morning. I heat up some left over Trader Joe's butter chicken with basmati rice and make a huge green juice. By the end of the meal, I'm Thanksgiving full. I watch a few episodes of Parks and Rec and text with a friend of mine I made through Instagram, of all places, who was also diagnosed with stage three rectal cancer only three days after I was diagnosed. We usually talk every day just checking in or about something cancer-ridiculous. She just got married a week ago and I sent her a juicer for a wedding present — she's now just as into juicing as I am. It's invaluable to talk to people who have been through treatment, but it's even more amazing to talk to someone who is also actively going through treatment.
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7 p.m. — A friend comes over to help me finish setting up for our bachelorette weekend. The bride-to-be's flight is delayed so we make pizzas and get everything ready. She finally gets to my place at 9 and we stay up until midnight catching up and eating some bomb-ass homemade pizza and a cake from my favorite bakery. I'm exhausted, but so happy my friend is here AND, bonus, I realize I spent $0 today.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

9 a.m. — We super sleep in and I wake up to find my friend eating leftover cake for breakfast. I'm an asshole and realize I have zero breakfast food for guests...I make us some scrambled eggs and veggies to make up for it. We finally start getting ready around to meet up with our other friend.
12:30 p.m. — We walk to the Wicker Park playground and play for awhile with our friend's daughter. She's an angel and is so excited to see me. I never wanted kids, but when I got diagnosed I had to decide if I wanted to take any steps to preserve fertility. I decided against it and I've looked at kids so differently ever since. We walk over to Big Star and get tacos for lunch — I break all the rules and get a margarita. I'm technically allowed to drink, but have stopped during treatment. Alcohol and cancer don't mix and I don't see myself ever really going back to the old days of drinking full out. But the sun's out, I'm with my people, and I throw some caution to the wind. My friend picks up the check for the table.
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2 p.m. — We send the kid home with her dad and head into the Loop to take the Chicago architecture boat tour. I ask my friend if she has our tickets and when she checks her phone, realizes she booked them for the wrong day. Damnit. Since we're already on the L we decide to head to my office to hang on the rooftop. It's a gorgeous day and we can see the Lolla stage in the distance. I keep on my drinking spree and have two beers we swiped from my always-stocked office fridge. I feel so happy and normal. We hang out until we get hungry/sun-tired and make our way through the hoards of drunk teenagers back to Wicker Park.
5 p.m. — We're super hungry, so we decide to head to a bar by my place for some snacks before our 8 p.m. dinner reservation. We sit outside in the shade eating fries and cheese curds, and sip on rosé. I know I'm pushing it too far, but I've got a buzz and am so blissed out to be with two friends I've known since I was 12. We end up staying at the bar snacking and drinking until 8 and end up canceling our dinner res. I pick up the bar tab since my other friend got lunch. $112
8 p.m. — On our way back from the bar, we stop at Target for frozen pizza, ice cream, and some fruit. I've put together spa baskets for each of us and we watch/obnoxiously quote When Harry Met Sally while doing our nails and face masks. We pass out around 2 just like we used to in high school. $23.14
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Daily Total: $135.14

Day Five

9 a.m. — We wake up to some awful news that there was a mass shooting at a bar in Dayton, OH, where we're all from. All three of us used to go to that bar pretty often. We spend a few hours checking in on all of our friend's and family — my friend who came into town still lives in Dayton and it turns out her fiancé was at that bar two hours before the shooting. We need gun control. Once we know our people are okay, we head to breakfast. I get biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs and some coffee. If I'm boozing I might as well get to have a cup of coffee too. We split the check two ways. $17.10
11:30 a.m. — My friend just bought a house in Logan Square so the three of us head over there to see it and hang out with her kid again. We play until we get hungry for lunch and walk to a great bar by my friend's place. She just moved here from Boston, so I'm trying to introduce her to good spots in her new neighborhood. We get burgers and keep talking about the shooting. We split the check three ways. $16.52
5 p.m. — It's time for my friend to go back home. The three of us have a long goodbye at the train. I won't see her again until her wedding in November, if I can make it with my treatment schedule. On my way home the Sunday Scaries start to set in. My fifth chemo treatment is tomorrow and I dread it with everything I've got. The silver lining is my little sister comes into town in a few hours for the week. To distract myself until my sister gets here, I do a few hours of work. It calms me down and makes me feel a little bit better about the week ahead.
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9 p.m. — My sister gets in and she wants dinner. We walk to a sushi spot and it's so packed they've stopped taking people for their wait list so we walk to a different spot. I only have two oncologist-ordered dietary restrictions: 1. No buffets 2. No sushi. Too many germs apparently. Luckily, I hate both sushi and buffets. My sister gets a salmon avocado roll and gyoza, while I get chicken teriyaki with broccoli. We split the check and my half is $21.80. My sister makes me feel way better about chemo just by being in my city. We walk the long way back to my place and watch New Girl until we go to bed at midnight. $21.80
Daily Total: $55.42

Day Six

6:45 a.m. — Today is an infusion day (chemo) for me. I get an infusion every other week and am scheduled for eight total infusions over the course of four months. This one is number five. The infusion itself consists of an hour pre-appointment and bloodwork, followed by a three-hour drip. I'm then hooked up to a pump that will give me a continuous drip for 48 hours straight. I can't shower while I have the pump so I jump in the shower. I drink a protein shake and head out with my sister. She's the best and picks up the tab for a Lyft ride to the hospital.
9 a.m. — My pre-appointment is over, so we stop for a La Croix and a breakfast sandwich from Au Bon Pain before my infusion starts. During infusion weeks eating becomes almost impossible so I always eat right before. $12.16
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10 a.m. — My infusion finally starts and the effects are immediate. I had been feeling really great during my “off week” last week and it sucks to feel that dissipate. I'm always the youngest person in the infusion room and am so glad my sister is with me. I chat with my usual nurses, watch a few episodes of The Office ("The Dinner Party" & "The Deposition"), and finally doze off. When my session is over we Lyft back to my apartment. $8.72
1:30 p.m. — Finally back home. My sister goes into full caregiver mode and makes me an egg with toast. I absolutely do not want to eat it, but mange a few bites before I take a nausea pill and pass out. Chemo, for me, is a lot of sleeping and trying to force myself to eat. When I was diagnosed I didn't realize that there are different types of chemo for different types of cancer. Colorectal cancer chemo has upsides (no hair loss) and downsides (I cannot eat, drink, or touch anything even kind of cold).
4 p.m. — When I wake up from my nap, my sister puts some hot water with lemon in front of my face and I do my best. She also runs out for some fish tacos and guac. Protein is absolutely key with chemo — my cells are being broken down and I need protein to help build them back up and my oncology nutritionist wants me eating at least 100 grams of protein a day. I Venmo her for the food and we watch Drop Dead Gorgeous on Hulu. $19
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8 p.m. — After all the hot water with lemon I can stand, I call it and get into bed. I eat two weed gummies and watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $39.88

Day Seven

10 a.m. — I wake up and feel whatever worse than awful feels like. The movies lie — while going through chemo, throwing up isn't something that happens to me all that often. If I actually puke, I need to call my nurse and most likely go to the ER. It's more-so “just” battling nausea, headaches, constipation, and fatigue. Which is all that lies ahead for me today. My sister makes us some oatmeal and ginger tea for breakfast.
11:45 a.m. — I'm incredibly lucky to have an understanding workplace that doesn't ask me to work during infusion weeks. I've been slowly using up my PTO, but my client has a huge meeting next week. I surprise myself and work a five-hour stretch, while my sister monitors my water intake (I accidentally dehydrated myself during my very first infusion week and I'll never do that again). I work my way through some hummus and crackers and peanut butter toast while I work.
6:30 p.m. — I try my best to get up for a walk around my block, but I just can't do it. So my sister and I watch The West Wing and eat the turkey burgers she made for dinner. I do pretty well, but I know there's no way I'm getting 100 grams of anything in me today. I drink a warm lime La Croix (do not recommend) and the bubbles help my nausea a bit. Around 10:30, I eat a few chips and salsa and drink more hot water with lemon as a snack. I eat two weed gummies for “dessert” and get into bed. My sister hangs out with me and we talk until I fall asleep.
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Daily Total: $0
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