A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $52,000 Salary

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Today: an Engagement Coordinator working in recruiting who makes $52,000 per year and spends some of her money on an impossible burger.
Occupation: Engagement Coordinator
Industry: Recruiting
Age: 30
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $52,000 + additional income from freelance acting and makeup jobs is anywhere from $100-$500/month.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,415.98 after tax/insurance
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $900 for a large studio
Student Loans: $324 (I have approximately $20,000 left)
Utilities (Electric, Gas, Internet): $105
Netflix & Hulu: $26
Credit Cards: $500+, depending on how much extra income I make (I have approximately $17,000 in debt over 5 cards. Yes, I was a stupid 22 year old and am still paying for those mistakes.)
iPhone payment: $46
Unlimited CTA Train Pass: $105
Savings: $200 (more if I make more income)
Health and Dental Insurance: $110.94 (pre-tax)
Renters Insurance: $170/year
FabFitFun: $192/year
Calm App: $60/year

Day One

7 a.m. — I can feel myself gently waking up as my boyfriend, P., pulls me in closer to cuddle in bed. I know my alarm has to be going off soon, but I am grateful for these few minutes. Before last night, we hadn't seen each other for 10 days due to being out of town on opposing weeks, and I am so happy to be back in the same city. My alarm chimes five minutes later, but I snooze once so I can snuggle and smooch him a bit more before getting started on my day. I'm going to work out on my lunch break today, so I keep my makeup simple, kiss P. once more, and head out the door.
7:45 a.m. — P. just got back from vacation yesterday, so his kitchen is very short on groceries. I pop in the AmazonGo near my office to grab some breakfast. This place is very Big Brother, and monitors what you grab for yourself without needing to have anyone ring you up for your purchases. It's kinda freaky if you think about it too much, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't love the convenience. I pick up a Luna bar, Califa coffee drink, and a package of raspberries and head out the door. My app chimes a minute later to tell me that my trip took one minute and 57 seconds and cost me $6.83. $6.83
8:35 a.m. — Somehow, I am the only one from my team who has made it into the office so far this morning. I'm pretty caught up on my work, so I decide to take advantage of the lull and browse for some apartments. P. and I plan to move in together in about two months, so even though it's a little early to be looking, I still like to check. The Chicago housing market moves very fast for well-priced places, and I don't want to lose out on something great should it get posted!
12:30 p.m. — I spent the morning bouncing around from project to project. I feel really lucky that there is a lot of variety in my job and that my manager trusts me to get things done on my schedule. I heat up my lunch, which consists of tofu, roasted broccoli, and a mix of cauliflower and brown rice, and try to finish up a few more things so I can get down to the gym.
1:05 p.m. — Finally at a stopping point, I grab my bag and head downstairs. I'm pretty lucky to have an employee gym in this building, because quality gyms in Chicago can be really expensive. I do a quick strength session today, and then take a fast body shower, put on some actual makeup, and fix my hair.
2:10 p.m. — Post-workout snack is two protein balls and some of the raspberries I bought earlier. The gym kicked my butt today. I have only done cardio since I got back from vacation last week, but it felt great to lift heavy shit and feel strong!
3:25 p.m. — Texting back and forth with P. because we found an apartment we both like, and I email the company asking to set up a showing. Of course they pick a time I am unavailable, but P. is free and will check it out. Wouldn't it be lovely if this place was just perfect and we didn't have to apartment hunt anymore? Fingers crossed!
4:45 p.m. — Wrapping up at working and trying to get out the door quickly. Tonight I have a callback for a show I auditioned for last week. I've been very out of the audition game since I became an ensemble member at a theater company, so this is my first time out in a while. It feels good to be auditioning for new people again, and I'm hoping tonight goes well.
8 p.m. — They kept me longer at my callback than intended to have me read multiple roles, which is a good sign, but I am wiped by the end of it. Once I'm done, I'm starving and toying with the idea of a “treat yo' self” dinner, but I give myself the “you have food at home” talk and decide against it. After the short walk back to my apartment, I heat up some TJ's arrabbiata pasta, mix in a generous handful of arugula, and top it off with a touch of truffle salt. I throw on last week's Barry to catch up on while I eat.
9:40 p.m. — After washing the dishes, I realize I'm too sleepy to do much of anything else, so I do my face wash routine and climb into bed. Before turning off the lights, I throw a nice fuzzy blanket on top of me in addition to my covers. It's still freezing in Chicago despite being well into May. I burrow down deep, and hit the lights.
Daily Total: $6.83

Day Two

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I'm strangely thankful. I was having terrible stressful dreams all night long, and don't feel very well rested. I climb out of bed, and change into workout clothes. I throw on a kettlebell YouTube video that I haven't tried before, and honestly find it kind of boring. I get about two-thirds of the way through it, and I'm over it. I shake up some protein powder, coffee concentrate, and water, and stretch for a bit before getting in the shower. I just wash my body, so hair gets re-straightened, simple makeup, and I pack my lunch before heading out the door.
9 a.m. — As I patiently wait for the IT department to finish making updates on my computer, I dig into some chia pudding I made this morning. I browse through more apartments on my phone, but nothing new catches my eye. They wrap up and I go deep into some reports that I need to accomplish sooner rather than later.
11:45 a.m. — After a meeting with my boss, I decide to eat the first half of my lunch. Arugula with tomatoes, hemp seeds, and pesto won't fill me up for long, but I want a little something in my belly before I go down to the gym.
1 p.m. — Time to take a little break. When I don't have a real workout to do on my lunch break, I often will still go down and walk on the treadmill while reading a book. Since so much of my day involves sitting, I try to be as active as I can each day. Plus, it's great to have some dedicated reading time.
2:15 p.m. — Lunchtime part two! I make some miso soup and munch on teriyaki tofu from Trader Joe's. You may think I am a weirdo for just eating tofu by itself, but I love it. Afterwards, I put my head down and finish a few other boring tasks so I can get them out of the way.
4 p.m. — I get an email from FabFitFun that customization for summer boxes is now open, and I scroll through and make my selections. If anyone is on the fence about subscribing, just do it! I pay for a yearly subscription and I find that I made the money back with the first months box, and it lets me try things I might not otherwise know about.
5 p.m. — After work, I meet up with my friend N. so we can take the train north to a local college theater showcase. We are both a part of the same theater company, and I head up the casting department. Since N. is directing one of our shows next season, I figured we can go and see if anyone seems like a good fit.
7:30 p.m. — Overall a good showcase! We identify a few people we would like to invite to our season generals that start this weekend, and make good conversation with a potential tech designer. While there, I indulge in the free bar and appetizers laid out.
8 p.m. — I get a message from P. saying he loved the apartment he saw tonight while I was at this event. Apparently others are interested too, and applications are first-come, first-considered, so he suggests we apply right away. I am nervous to apply for a place without seeing it, but P. and I have had lots of conversations about what we are looking for, so I trust his judgement. I hop in a Lyft home and apply from the backseat. I use $12.33 off a Lyft credit.
8:20 p.m. — I get dropped off, and as I am leaving the car, I realize I don't have my backpack. I have a flashback of putting it down at the college to start working on the apartment application while waiting for the Lyft. I curse myself for my stupidity and call another car to take me back up there and hope that it's still where I left it. I use up $11.52 of my credit on the trip back.
8:40 p.m. — Hallelujah, it's still there. I give my bag the middle finger and once again call a car. I'm out of credit, so this ride costs me $11. $11
9 p.m. — I'm grumpy and hungry, so I decide to Postmates myself some dinner. Thankfully it comes quickly, so 20 minutes and $22.65 later, I have dinner and put a stupid movie on to try to peak my spirits. $22.65
10:30 p.m. — I get a notification that our application for the apartment is being moved to the next step, so that lifts my mood a bit. I wash my face, text P. the good news, and climb into bed.
Daily Total: $33.65

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off after a restless night. I woke up around 2:45 a.m. and struggled to get back to sleep. I curse my choice to eat so late last night. I skipped my workout to get more sleep, but I still need to wash my hair, so I hop in the shower and get ready for work.
7:30 a.m. — Leave my apartment and also curse myself for not pre-planning a breakfast or lunch for today. I swing by Starbucks for a Venti iced coffee, bagel, and avocado spread. I use $7.90 of my preloaded app. Gotta get those stars!
12:45 p.m. — I have been trying to keep myself busy all morning, since I am feeling very anxious regarding our apartment application. They said we *should* hear today whether or not we have been accepted, and of course I can't help but refresh my email continuously. I need to get out of the office to clear my head, so I decide to get some Noodles and Company for lunch ($11.48) and then take a little walk outside. Even though it's gloomy, the weather is warm today, so I try to relax and enjoy having a break from the computer. $11.48
2:20 p.m. — Well, it's official: we got approved for the apartment. I'm happy, but also kinda mind blown how quickly this has all gone! This time yesterday neither of us had even seen the place, and now it's ours. I'm still trying to make sure I get to see the apartment before we officially sign, but the landlord said they'll only hold the space till tomorrow night, since they've gotten so much interest in the unit. I'm hoping the current tenants are flexible and let me come by to see the place tonight so we can sign on the dotted line.
5 p.m. — I still haven't heard from the landlord if I can see the apartment, and I'm starting to get nervous. P. is still at work, so I head towards his place and stop at the bar right by the train to get a happy hour summer shandy ($4 with tip). I message the landlord once more, and he responds saying that the tenants just let him know that I can see the place at 6:15! I message P. and tell him to meet me up there if he can. $4
6:30 p.m. — So happy I got to view the apartment, and I am ready to take the leap! It's bright and spacious, and has tons of upgraded features. I'm still in awe of how quickly this happened, but I'm grateful we were able to find a place with such ease. The landlord tells us that first month's rent and a one month security deposit will be due when we sign the lease. Oh boy. I have been saving the last few months in anticipation of this very moment, but I shed a mental tear as this will take a huge chunk out of my savings. We thank the landlord, and head towards P.'s apartment, so I can drop off my work bag.
7:15 p.m. — Back on the train with P., and we head into the Loop to go to a friend's graduate art program showing. They have some snacks and beer as part of the reception. The food doesn't look appetizing to me, but I do have a pineapple lager and browse around the different showcases.
8:40 p.m. — The time snuck up on us, and neither of us had dinner. We wrangle three friends of ours who were also at the showing to go grab some food. I order us a Lyft XL ($19.90) and head back up towards P.'s neighborhood. The place we initially wanted to go to is closing shortly, so we go to a pub around the corner instead. I get some crispy cauliflower tacos and an IPA. It's not enough food, but I also ate too late last night, and I don't want to overdo it again. I give $20 in cash towards the bill. $39.90
10:20 p.m. — P. and I walk to his place and are completely pooped. We did not intend for this art showing to turn into an all-night affair, so we decide to just climb into bed. I wash my face and doze off on his chest while he calls his mom quickly before turning off the light.
Daily Total: $55.38

Day Four

5 a.m. — I can't believe my body is playing me so dirty this week. I wake up hellishly early yet again for no reason. I feel P. pull me in close, and I go in and out of sleep till my alarm goes off two hours later. I wonder if I'll ever wake up feeling well rested.
7:30 a.m. — After quickly getting ready and kissing P. goodbye, I head out to the train. I get off one stop early so I can swing by a fancy donut shop. One of my teammates' birthday is over the weekend, so I pick up a dozen assorted donuts for everyone to share, and then walk the 15 minutes to my office. ($37.46 expensed)
10:30 a.m. — Fridays are a busy day for me typically, but I can't stop daydreaming about furniture and apartment layouts. I'm already distracted, so I take 15 minutes to pay some bills online since today is payday. I also take a look at Wayfair and bookmark a few things I like and then go on Amazon to purchase the cart I've had sitting there for a few days that includes a Switch game for my nephew's birthday next week, face serum, witch hazel, and cacao nibs. $111.77
11:30 a.m. — The donut I had this morning did not sustain me, and unfortunately I didn't bring anything for lunch. I paid for lunch and dinner yesterday, and am going out with friends tonight, so I decide to suck it up and scrounge around for desk snacks so I don't need to buy anything. I make some teriyaki noodles, and my coworker reminds me about the belated Cinco de Mayo happy hour we are having later, so I know I'll have chips and guac in a few hours too.
12:55 p.m. — As I head out of the office to go on a lunchtime walk, I get an email that I have been offered a role in the show I had a callback for earlier in the week. It's a smaller part, but it should be really fun to play. I send an email to accept and head out into the sunshine with a smile on my face.
3 p.m. — Guacamole, salsa, and a cerveza makes ending this Friday slightly more tolerable. I power through the last of my to-do list, and even though I get a last minute request, I still am able to finish everything. I take a few minutes at the end of the day to print out everything we will need for our theater auditions tomorrow and then head out.
5:35 p.m. — I get a solo seat on the Metra and begin the trek out to the suburbs. Having girl time tonight with two of my best friends, and they both live outside the city. It's easier for me to take the train to them rather than have them battle Friday traffic into the city. It's annoying, but worth it to hang out with them. This train is not covered under my unlimited pass, however, so I pay $8.50 to cover my trip there and back. $8.50
7:25 p.m. — Dinner was so fun, albeit a little quick. The place we picked was very loud, but the food was great. I had two ciders and an impossible burger with fries. Since we were celebrating my friend's birthday, I split the bill with our other friend ($43 with tip). I get back on the train and begin the long journey home. $43
9:10 p.m. — Finally all the way home. I change into comfy clothes and catch up on Jane the Virgin while I soak off my gel manicure.
10:30 p.m. — I decide to take some Zzzquil to help me sleep tonight since I haven't gotten much rest the previous few nights. I climb into bed and fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $163.27

Day Five

8:05 a.m. — I wake up 25 minutes before my alarm, and scroll through my phone for a few minutes before hopping in the shower. I want to look presentable for our auditions taking place today, so I put on a nice sweater and do a full face of makeup. I pack my backpack with clothes as well since I'll be staying at P.'s the rest of the weekend.
9:45 a.m. — I swing by Starbucks to get a big coffee and a sandwich to eat later while at auditions. My app is running low, so I top it off with another $20. I hop on the train and get to the theater with enough time to get everything ready before auditions start. $20
5:55 p.m. — Seven hours and 80 actors seen. It's been an exhausting day. I wanted to go straight to P.'s, but I realized I forgot my medicine at home, so I take the train and the bus to my place to pick it up before heading out again. I also grab some cash I have tucked away so I can go to the bank and pay for the first month's rent on the new apartment that is due this weekend.
7:45 p.m. — As I'm on the train to P.'s, I pay for the rent online ($2,075). I am taking care of this, and P. will send in the one month security deposit. All of a sudden, the move feels real. I spend the rest of the train ride dreaming of furniture and decor. $2,075
8:15 p.m. — P. sweetly got Thai food delivered for us, since he knew I had a long day. I change into some comfy clothes and snuggle right up next to him as we eat on the couch. Afterwards, P. convinces me to start 24. He loves it and has been wanting to do a rewatch. I oblige and spend the first three episodes thoroughly stressed out. It definitely hooks us both! I start to get too sleepy and don't think I could power through another episode, so we climb into bed and turn off the lights.
Daily Total: $2,095

Day Six

8:10 a.m. — I wake up a few minutes before my alarm, and go through the customer list for the food tour today that I will lead. It's always tough to work over the weekend, but I'm lucky to have some side hustles that are really enjoyable. P. wakes up with his alarm, and we spend 30 minutes in bed cuddling and being silly before getting ready for our days.
10:15 a.m. — P. is kind enough to get me a coffee before we head different directions. I get on the bus and head down to where I will meet my tour group. I stop in Walgreens quickly to buy a protein bar to get me through all the walking over the next few hours. $2.34
2 p.m. — The day is cold and blustery, but we have a great tour. It's always fun to be able to share good food and teach people things about the city that I love so much. I get $60 in tips, which will be a great addition to the base pay I make for these tours. I check my phone and see a text from my mom thanking me for the bouquet I sent to her house today for Mother's Day. I'm bummed I can't see her, but I'm happy I could do a little something to make her day brighter. One of the new guides from my company shadowed my tour today, so I suggest we grab a snack and catch up on how she thinks it went. We go by a great taco place, and get queso and two margaritas to share, and I get a single taco for myself. I put everything on my card, but she gives me cash for her portion. $19.77
3:30 p.m. — After leaving, I catch the bus back towards P.'s place. It's his turn for a long day, so I decide to make him his favorite meal for dinner. I go to the grocery store and get red peppers, noodles, garlic, shallots, almond milk, nutritional yeast, bread, and asparagus. I also get some dark chocolate for dessert and a few granola bars to keep in my desk at work. I breeze through the checkout ($27.29), and walk the 10 minutes back to P.'s apartment. $27.29
4:00 p.m. — I decide to be an extra good girlfriend and do some laundry as well while P. is out before I start cooking dinner. While that is going, I play some Spyro on P.'s Playstation. I loved this game as a kid, and it's so fun to revisit this world again. I start getting frustrated on my quest for more orbs after a couple hours, so I throw on some trashy reality TV and start cooking.
8:15 p.m. — P. finally gets home and is so excited that I surprised him with his favorite meal. We sit down to eat right away, and even though we both have full bellies, we drift to the bedroom and have adult time. Afterwards, it's time for Game of Thrones. I feel like so much has been leading up to this penultimate episode, I am so curious as to how it is going to go.
11:30 p.m. — Well, that is not what I was expecting. No spoilers, but I don't know how to feel! I am shocked, but not completely surprised. The final episode next week will be interesting for sure. P. and I both get ready, and climb into bed.
Daily Total: $49.40

Day Seven

7:05 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I am so not ready for Monday to be here. The downfall of being so busy on the weekends is that Monday seems to hit me even harder. I snooze my alarm twice, not wanting to leave my little love cocoon, but eventually climb out of bed to get ready. I re-straighten my hair, throw on mascara and brow gel, kiss P. once more, and head out the door. Once I'm at work I put a K-cup in our Keurig machine, eat one of the granola bars I bought yesterday, and dive into my to do list.
11:45 a.m. — I've spent all morning either in meetings or working on getting reports put together and I am super hungry. I heat up some of the pasta leftovers from last night, but wish I had a whole lot more. I am not going to take a real lunch break today, so I can leave work a little early.
1:35 p.m. — Even though I'm not taking an actual lunch break, I need to step away from the computer a bit and get some fresh air. I'm also still really hungry, so I decide to take a walk to AmazonGo and get myself a snack. I pick up a bag of BBQ kettle chips and a lemon San Pellegrino, and walk out. My app dings to tell me I spent $2.58. $2.58
4:35 p.m. — As I pack up to leave work, I order some dinner to pick up on the way to the train. I get some tofu poké with lots of veggies and pay $12.88 via my Ritual app. I have to make the journey all the way north again for another night of auditions, so I hop on the train and luckily get there nice and early. $12.88
11:05 p.m. — It was great to see so many auditions tonight, but I am beyond wiped. I forgo the long train ride for the convenience of a Lyft ($13). The car ride makes me kind of nauseous, so I am so thankful to get home. I immediately wash my face and climb into bed, and am out within seconds. $13
Daily Total: $28.46
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